Days before Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in Chad for Christmas, his scandal-plagued former aide Alexandre Benalla traveled to the African country to meet a top official. And the Elysée palace had some explaining to do.
Benalla, who lost his job after his beating of a protester prompted the French president’s ‘Watergate’ scandal, went to Chad in style. He traveled on a private jet with half a dozen people and stayed in a luxury Hilton hotel in the capital N’Djamena. But it was his reported meeting with the brother of the Chadian president Oumar Déby, who is also in charge of country’s Directorate-General of Strategic Reserves, that raised the questions.
When Macron came to Chad on December 22, he had to clarify to Idriss Déby, the Chadian president, that Benalla was in “no way an unofficial or official intermediary.”
“Only the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the diplomatic adviser to the President, Philippe Etienne, and Franck Paris, the president’s Africa adviser, are representing the head of state,” he told Deby, according to his office’s response to Le Monde.
The Benalla affair has arguably been one of the top scandals marring Macron’s presidency in 2018. The former assistant chief of staff and bodyguard assaulted seemingly peaceful demonstrators during the May 1st protests in Paris.
The rogue aide was filmed violently beating a male protester and dragging a woman, all while wearing a police-issue riot helmet. Macron’s office seemingly tried to sweep the incident under the rug, prompting public anger. Several months after being sacked Benalla continued to create embarrassment for his former boss, but also seems to have tried to capitalize on his connections.
During the Chad trip, the Elysée said that “an internal investigation is under way” to establish whether Benalla was able to “take advantage of his position” for his own interests, according to Le Monde.
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