Hissène Habré, ex-Chadian president from 1982 to 1990

Reports emerged that Hissene Habre, Chad’s former president, died while serving a life sentence in Senegal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the Senegalese judicial ministry.

Mr Habré was 79 years old at the time of his death, and his death was confirmed by Lt. Mame Balla Faye, the superintendent of the Cap Manuel prison in Senegal, where he was being imprisoned after being convicted.

Bunnaj gathered that he was not in prison at the time of his death, spending ten days in a local facility seeking treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure issues. However, many media outlets reported his death was caused by coronavirus affliction.

In April 2020, Mr Habré was released from prison for 60 days after a judge determined that he was particularly susceptible to the coronavirus. Even before the outbreak, his wife had been pleading with Senegalese authorities to release him on medical grounds.


Who is Hissene Habre?

Hissène Habré was a Chadian politician and “convicted war criminal” who served as the country’s fifth president from 1982 to 1990. He was said to have come to power with the help of France and the United States, which gave him training, arms, and funding.

Habré was born in 1942 to a shepherd family in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad, then a French colony. He was a member of the Daza Gourane ethnic group’s Anakaza branch, which is a branch of the Toubou ethnic group. He obtained a post in the French colonial administration after finishing primary school, where he pleased his superiors and was awarded a scholarship to study in France at the Institute of Overseas Higher Studies in Paris. He also received numerous more degrees from the Institute, including a Doctorate.

He visited Tripoli and joined the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT), where he became a commander in the Second Liberation Army of FROLINAT with Goukouni Oueddei after a short period of government duty as a deputy prefect.

After Abba Siddick took over as FROLINAT’s leader, “the Second Liberation Army, first under Oueddei’s command and then under Habré’s, split from FROLINAT and became the Command Council of the Armed Forces of the North (CCFAN).”

In 1976, Oueddei and Habré had a falling out, and Habré split his newly formed Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armées du Nord or FAN) “from Goukouni’s followers who adopted the name of People’s Armed Forces (Forces Armées Populaires or FAP).”


Why many echoes after Habré’s death?

Mr Habré became the first former head of state to be found guilty of crimes against humanity by a court in another country.

He was a former defense minister who came to power in a coup supported by the US in 1982, and while in power, he got weaponry and support from France, Israel, and the US to keep Libya, Chad’s northern neighbor, at bay.

Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, pictured in 2015. He died in Senegal on Tuesday. File photo: EPA

From the beginning, it was alleged that his rule was brutal. Political opponents and prisoners of war under his regime were severely dealt with. This is a record that has shaken many governments— showing his administration as a “pitiless one” even against his people.

Before Idris Deby’s coup was “entertained” against his regime, he had a dispute with Libya over a disputed piece of land, and in fact, he was widely assumed to be backed by the CIA as a counterweight to Libya’s then-leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

This is down on history lane, that his victims of circumstances will never forget his era. However, there is no need to go farther as this is the effect of “handwashing” with foreign governments for arm-deals and exchange of interests.



Habré was found guilty of rape, sexual enslavement, and directing the massacre of 40,000 people during his stint as Chadian president by the Extraordinary African Chambers on 30 May 2016 and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Prison du Cap Manuel in Senegal.

The decision was the first time an African Union-backed court convicted a previous ruler of human-rights violations, as well as the first time a former ruler of another country was prosecuted for crimes against humanity by the courts of one country.

On his D-day for prosecution, Mr Habré was “dragged” into the courtroom on the first day of his trial, kicking and shouting insults at the judge. Exclaiming – “Down with colonialism!”

But after being found guilty and convicted, the victims celebrated in the courtroom, punching the air, crying, and ululating. This is because for decades, they had struggled for justice.

Habré’s initial trials, absentia death sentence, remarks of human rights groups, stereotypes of his era, and many other occurrences would forever be making Habré’s name ring a bell, even after his death.


Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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