Habré, Hissène (Chad)

Reference work entry


Hissène Habré served as president from 1982–90 after a brief period as prime minister from Aug. 1978–March 1979. His time inoffice was defined by violence and human rights abuses, and in May 2016 he was convicted of crimes against humanity by a court in Senegal and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Early Life

Born in 1942 in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad,into a family of shepherds, Habré secured a post in the French colonial administration and later won a scholarship to study at the prestigious Sciences-Po in Paris (an international research university).

On his return to Chad, Habré joined opposition forces and led a rebellion against the prevailing government from the desert region of Tibesti. He was named prime minister in Aug. 1978 in a power-sharing government established in a bid to bring about peace. However, the administration quickly broke down and Habré left office in March 1979.

Career Peak

After seizing power in a coup in 1982, Habré created a one-party regime in which power rested with his National Union for Independence and Revolution (UNIR). He also established a secret police force that propped up his rule while generating widespread fear. Despite accusations that his regime authorized the use of torture, extrajudicial killings and ethnic cleansing, Habré won Western (especially French and US) support. This was in part because he was regarded as a counterweight to the Libyan leader Col. Gaddafi, who led several interventions in Chad’s civil conflict in the1970s and 1980s.

Habré remained in poweruntil 1990 when his purge of domestic opponents prompted his former chief ofstate, Idriss Déby, to break away and lead his own rebellion against theregime. After France withdrew its support of Habré’sincreasingly oppressive rule, Déby seized power and Habré fled to Senegal in Dec. 1990.

Later Life

Habré then lived in Senegal for 22 years despite numerous attempts to extradite him. In 2012, with intervention from the UN andthe African Union, he was put on trial in Senegal. In 30 May 2016 he was convicted of rape, sexual slavery, ordering the killing of 40,000 people andthe torture of some 200,000 more. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation to each of his victims or their surviving relatives.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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