Africa’s Pinochet: Former Chad Leader Hissène Habré Dies at 79

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Hissène Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, died on Aug. 24 after contracting Covid-19.

He was 79.

Habré, who was serving a life sentence in a Senegalese prison for crimes against humanity, was nicknamed “Africa’s Pinochet.” The reference, a nod to Chilean leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

His guilty verdict in 2016 marked the first time an African Union-backed court had tried a former ruler for human rights abuses. Habré rose to power in a 1982 coup.

“This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end,” Reed Brody of the Human Rights Watch said at the time. “Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

It’s estimated that Habré’s administration carried out as many as 40,000 politically motivated murders and 200,000 cases of torture during his brutal reign. The regime was also accused of forcing women into sexual slavery for Chadian troops.

Habré was born in Faya-Largeau in 1942. He served in the French colonial military before studying in Paris. He then returned to Chad, where he began working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before signing up for the National Liberation Front.

Throughout Habré’s rule, the U.S. government was accused of enabling his bloody regime.

The country’s tune changed the moment he was indicted.

“Habré was a remarkably able man with a brilliant sense of how to play the outside world,” an unnamed U.S. official told The Post in 2000, after Mr. Habré’s indictment. “He was also a bloodthirsty tyrant and torturer. It is fair to say we knew who and what he was and chose to turn a blind eye.”

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