Video: The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Habré, an inconvenient ally

In May, former Chadian president Hissène Habré, who ruled his country with an iron fist between 1982 and 1990, was sentenced to life in prison for "crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes and rape". FRANCE 24 looks back at the story of this dictator – once dubbed "Africa’s Pinochet” – who for a long time was a key ally of the West.


On May 30, 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese courts, a special court in Dakar, sentenced Chad's former dictator Hissène Habré to life in prison.

Hissène Habré refused to testify during his eight-month trial. He had not a single word to say to the hundreds of victims who day after day testified against him. The former dictator denied the legitimacy of the court and rejected his lawyers.

How did Habré become such a bloody dictator? In the absence of an explanation from the man himself, FRANCE 24 focused on the past to shed some light on the subject.

Chad is a former French colony, twice the size of France itself, mostly desert and surrounded by six other countries. Back in 1975, a 33-year-old political science graduate named Hissène Habré led a rebellion against the French. In the desert region of Tibesti, people supported his nationalist rhetoric.

Shortly after seizing power, the young head of state faced a threat from neighbouring Libya.

In Chad and around the world, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi threatened the interests of Western governments, supported revolutionary movements and financed international terrorism. All this made Habré a man the West would support at any price.

>>On Hissene Habre's elusive trial, an African 'legal soap opera'

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