The hypocrisy of one of Europe's leading Islamophobes, French President Emmanuel Macron, appears to be without limits with his call for all mercenaries to quit Libya in a bid to help the fledgling Government of National Unity (GNU). Many of the mercenaries were sent there by France in the first place; now they are likely to head for Chad to shore up the new military government and protect French interests in Libya's southern neighbour.
Macron's interference in oil-rich Libya was intended to topple the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). His support for the renegade Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar demonstrates that the French leader is prepared to sit down with any number of rogues and despots in order to pursue France's colonial ambitions in Africa. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that he has damaged whatever credibility France might have had as far as Libya is concerned.
Those same reckless French ambitions received a major setback a few days ago when Chad's President Idriss Déby was killed in a front line firefight with a rebel convoy sweeping south from Libya. Macron attended his state funeral today after eulogising him as "a courageous friend" of France. In the meantime, the Chad army — from whence Déby came as a senior officer — has dissolved parliament and instituted an 18-month transitional military government with 37-year-old General Mahamat Idriss Déby, the dead man's son, now interim leader.
As I write, Macron is probably already cutting a deal with Haftar to send his mercenaries from Libya to the former French colony where for years France has chosen to overlook the brutal repression and corruption. The Paris-backed war in Chad has always been sold to the largely secular French people as a noble battle against Muslim extremism, and for three decades their man, President Déby, ruled with an iron fist. Macron is simply the latest French president to ignore Déby's corrupt and inhumane rule since he seized power in 1990.
Landlocked Chad is bordered in the north by Libya, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the south-west and Niger to the west. Uprisings have been quashed with the help, support and backing of France. Two years ago, Paris sent fighter jets to destroy a rebel convoy heading for the capital N'Djamena and French soldiers have previously been dispatched to Chad to crush numerous insurrections.
Déby manoeuvred himself strategically into the centre of African politics and security while plundering his oil-rich country to line his own pockets, leaving Chad one of the poorest nations in the world. He was very much Macron's man, making himself indispensable. His untimely death has left Chad, and to a certain extent France's ongoing plans for the Sahel, in a state of political, security and social uncertainty. France insists that it needs to give its support to the so-called G5 Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in the struggle against Islamist militants. In reality, it is access to mineral wealth in the region that is important.
The timing of Déby's demise is bad news for Macron, who seems to have an uncanny knack for picking the "wrong" man to protect his nation's interests in Africa. Haftar has been sidelined in Libya, where the Government of National Unity will lead the country during a challenging run-up to a national election later this year. UN Security Council Resolution 2570, meanwhile, calls for the rapid withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from the country. A small UN team has been mandated to monitor the ceasefire agreement.
Macron will now want to make sure that Chad's army, fighting alongside 5,000 French troops in Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, remains the dominant force in the decade-long fight against the extremist jihadists of Boko Haram, picking up the slack for Nigeria's poorly equipped army. There are also major threats from the Libya-based rebels who form the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). Many of the rebels are former Chadian army officers.
FACT has accused France of providing aerial surveillance for aircraft which bombed a command post on Wednesday night in an attempt to kill the Front's leader, Mahamat Mahadi Ali. "Our command post was bombed on the orders of the military junta with the complicity of foreign agencies present in our country," said the group, which is not linked to Islamists.
On Friday a ceasefire was called to allow the state funeral to take place. Déby's coffin, draped in the national flag, arrived in the capital's main square as a 21-gun salute boomed across N'Djamena. Macron was the first dignitary to approach the coffin, where he bowed his head.
No doubt Macron will defend the unconstitutional takeover of power by Déby's son. With growing opposition from groups like FACT, though, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the French president has made yet another serious miscalculation.
One of the unintended results of Macron's complex meddling is that Chadian rebels have already developed indirect ties to Haftar in Libya, who recently "worked" with FACT to secure an air base. While receiving the backing of the French President, the rogue field marshal has also accepted help from the UAE and Russia, both of which are rivals of France in the ongoing battle for influence in the Central African Republic.
Macron is inviting more trouble and hostility towards France with the blowback from his disastrous meddling in Libya, Chad and the wider region resulting in another potential proxy war. Not only does he appear to be very adept at giving unconditional support to tyrants, but he is also very good at making enemies rather than friends. During a war of words with the Muslim world last year, Macron said that, "Liberty can only exist by ending hatred and violence and promoting respect for others." He needs to follow his own advice.
President Emmanuel Macron has failed as a statesman on so many levels when it comes to diplomacy, human rights and the Muslim citizens of his own country, let alone those who live elsewhere. When it comes to hypocrisy, though, he is in a league of his own. Africa is a tough neighbourhood; his double standards will come back to haunt him.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.