Hissène Habré, president of Chad from 1982 to 1990, the so-called “African Pinochet” for the brutality with which he crushed dissent, has been sentenced to life in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and sexual slavery. It is the first judgment of a special court, the Chambres Africaines Extraordinaires (CAE), created in 2013 by an agreement between the African Union and Senegal precisely to bring Habré to justice. He can appeal within 15 days.
This appears to be the first big turning point in an incident that has dragged on since 1990, when Habré fled to Senegal after the coup that brought the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby, to power in N’Djamena, the capital. During a history in which Muammar Gaddafi played a key role as Habré’s enemy No. 1, France and the United States provided Habreé their blessing throughout his eight-year regime. The seat once occupied by Habré in the active support of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar is now filled by Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Gaddafi would have gladly unified Libya and Chad under one banner: his own. The war between them saw prevail first the transitional government ousted by Habré and supported by Libya. But in 1987, the French intervention and Washington’s help overturned his fortunes. Haftar became the “rebellious” leader the CIA trusted to eliminate Gaddafi and Habré the southern bastion of the war on the Libyan leader declared by the Western powers.