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Hissène Habré, also spelled Hissen Habré, was a Chadian politician and convicted war criminal who served as the 5th president of Chad from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990. A Muslim from northern Chad, Habré joined FROLINAT rebels in the first Chadian Civil War against the southern-dominated Chadian government.
Hissène Habré, born on August 13, 1942, in Faya-Largeau, northern Chad, was a Chadian politician and the fifth president of Chad. He belonged to the Anakaza branch of the Daza Gourane ethnic group. After completing primary schooling, Habré worked in the French colonial administration, impressing superiors and earning a scholarship to study in France. He obtained a degree in political science in Paris, returning to Chad in 1971.
Habré's political career gained prominence when he joined the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT) and became a commander in the Second Liberation Army. He later split from FROLINAT and formed the Armed Forces of the North (FAN). His international attention grew after a hostage-taking incident in 1974 known as the "Claustre affair," leading to a rift with rebel commander Goukouni Oueddei.
In 1978, Habré briefly held the posts of Prime Minister and Vice President in an alliance with Gen. Félix Malloum. However, the alliance dissolved, and Habré's forces fought against Malloum in 1979. Habré later assumed the position of Minister of Defense in Chad's new transitional government. In 1982, he overthrew Oueddei, becoming the president and establishing a one-party dictatorship.
Habré's rule was characterized by widespread human rights abuses, supported by France and the United States due to his opposition to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He led Chad during the Libyan-Chadian conflict, achieving victory in the Toyota War from 1986 to 1987 with French support. Habré was overthrown in the 1990 Chadian coup d'état by Idriss Déby, fleeing into exile in Senegal.
In May 2016, an international tribunal in Senegal found Habré guilty of human rights abuses, including rape, sexual slavery, and ordering the killing of 40,000 people. He was sentenced to life in prison, marking the first conviction of a former head of state for human rights abuses in the court of another nation. Hissène Habré died on August 24, 2021, after testing positive for COVID-19 while in Senegal.