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Chadians View U.S., China More Favorably Than France

Chadians View U.S., China More Favorably Than France

by Magali Rheault

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Armed rebellions, bloody coups, and ambiguous borders have troubled Chad since it broke free from French colonial rule almost a half century ago. Earlier this month, Sudan-backed rebel groups attempted to take control of N'Djamena, the Chadian capital, to topple President Idriss Déby's government. The rebels also timed their attack to precede the arrival of a European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR), which was scheduled to deploy 3,700 troops to eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic in mid-February to protect Darfurian refugees and displaced Chadians. Many in Chad consider the EUFOR to be a French initiative (more than half of the total force are French troops). And while Déby is eager to see the full deployment of the EUFOR, Chadians may view this heavy French presence differently.

Views of Other Nations

A Gallup Poll conducted in November 2006 reveals that a small majority of Chadians view France negatively. When asked to express the extent of their favorability toward other nations using a five-point scale where "1" is "very unfavorable" and "5" is "very favorable," 54% of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of France; 28% of Chadians say they have a favorable opinion. However, Chadians' opinions about China and the United States, two other important players in Chad in terms of commercial natural resources exploitation and aid, are nearly the reverse of those expressed toward France. About one in five Chadians have an unfavorable opinion of China, while a slight majority (52%) express a favorable opinion. Similarly, 28% of Chadians rate the United States unfavorably, and 50% of respondents rate it favorably.

Views of Other People

Furthermore, Chadians' attitudes toward the people of France, China, and the United States parallel the opinions they have of these three nations. Using the same five-point favorability scale where "1" is very unfavorable and "5" is very favorable, 53% of Chadians have an unfavorable opinion of the French; one-quarter of respondents say they have a favorable opinion of them. Consistent with their positive perceptions of China and the U.S., Chadians express favorable opinions of people from these two nations. About one-half of Chadians view Chinese (51%) and Americans (48%) positively, while less than one in three respondents hold negative views of the Chinese (24%) and the Americans (29%).

In light of France's deep involvement in Chad's political life since independence in 1960, Chadians' negative views are perhaps not surprising. For example, France has maintained more than 1,000 troops on Chadian soil continuously since 1986 under a bilateral agreement with the government in N'Djamena. However, the poll results also show that Chadians hold similar negative views of French people, suggesting that respondents don't differentiate between France's policies and its nationals. Alex de Waal, a senior fellow at Harvard University's Global Equity Initiative and program director at the Social Science Research Council, says that because of the French military presence "the French people that Chadians encounter may be associated with the government," perhaps making it difficult for them to dissociate the two.

As a point of comparison, in Niger, which also experienced French rule until 1960, public opinions about France and the French people are more positive than in neighboring Chad. Fifty percent of Nigeriens express favorable opinions of France and the French compared with about one-third who express unfavorable opinions of both. But according to de Waal, France is not seen as propping up the government in Niger. Overall, Gallup Poll data suggest that the "EUFOR will not necessarily be popular among the Chadian people," observes de Waal.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Chad, aged 15 and older, in November 2006. Results from Niger are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in June 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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