Monday, 20 July 2015

Senegal prosecuting Hissane Habre ex Chadian leader for war crimes

Chad and its neighbors Niger, Nigeria, the powerhouse of Africa, Centrafrique and Cameroon and Sudan, and North: Libya and Algeria (Dzayer). Lake Chad is a lifesaver to the region in the same way the Niger and Nile rivers give life to dry and thirsty lands. 

A Haphazard history of Chad

Chad doesn't get much attention in the international media. When it is mentioned, its either for the disappearing Lake Chad or migration of the Chadian and neighboring people who have been going back and forth through the country for years. Chad is one of the larger desert countries: the majority of the people live in the capital Ndjamena and the second large cities of Moundou, Abeche, ad Timan. Chadians are mostly nomadic people traveling for access to water, grazing lands for their livestock and cattle or migrating to the city or capital when rural life becomes impossible to sustain oneself. The languages spoke are Chadian Arabic, French and local Chadian languages. Like neighboring Sudan, Chad is often divided by Western observers as North and South, Arab vs African even though these simple definitions tend to blare across the country. Chad historically was on the route of the Trans Saharan Trade during the Middle Ages. France colonized Chad in the 19th century as part of its larger French West Africa or French Soudan not to be confused with the country of Sudan. When Chad gained independence from France in 1960, the new Chadian leaders had to scramble to create a new pan Chadian national identity among the people. Chad became well known not for its unique culture or language diversity but its border war with Libya over the Aozou Strip. It has had the misfortune of pulled in a tug of war style direction into the wars and conflicts of its neighbors. For the past decades, Chad itself has experienced a low intensity insurgency across the Chadian country side. Since the 1960s, Lake Chad has been disappearing. It has shrunk greatly from farming, irrigation and pumping by Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger to develop and live.

Enter Hissane Habre

L'Accuse: Hissane Habre after a day at court in Dakar, Senegal 2015. Photo from AfricaReview

It was in the 1980s that the now ex Chadian leader Hissane Habre took power in a coup against the then President Tombalbye. Tombalbye was not a Democrat and imposed his authoritarian rule over Chadians that favored Southern regions of Chad over the North and Central Chad. If the political situation sounds familiar that's due to Nigeria's similar grievance that the South was being favored over the North. The grievance led to Nigeria's Civil War or the Biafra war in 1960s. Habre entered office at the beginning of the Chadian civil war . It was Habre's iron fisted rule that led to the deaths of thousands of Chadians through torture, disappearance, murders, rape and overall fear across the nation. Habre's rule lasted from 1982-1990. It was during Habre's rule that Chad and Libya's Aozou Strip war grew the most tense. The current Chadian President Idriss Derby took over from Habre in 1990. However, Derby continued some of the heavy handed tactics of using force to keep ordinary Chadians and oppositions under control. Derby is equally accused of turning a blind eye and some cases supporting the Sudanese government in its war against the people of Darfur in Western Sudan.

Leuk Senegal: L'Affair Hissane Habre, "La Traque du Un Dictateur"

The victims of Habre, human rights organizations in Chad and Human Rights Watch in United States continued to demand Habre be tried for war crimes against the Chadian people. For over 22 years Habre had lived in exile in Dakar, Senegal despite the protests and demands for his arrest and his overdue trial. After decades of delaying and mediating on Habre's verdict, the Senegalese government convicted and took Hissane Habre to trial for his crimes in the 1980s. What makes Habre's trial unique is that he is the first African leader to be tried for crimes on the continent. Most the African leaders convicted of human rights violations and war crimes have been sent to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands. Charles Taylor, the butcher of Liberia, a few Rwandan low level leaders involved in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide are currently in the ICC on an unending trial for their crimes. A war crimes tribunal court has also been established in Sierra Leone and Rwanda to serve as an alternative to the ICC. There has long been calls and demands by African leaders, jurists and citizens to have an independent and self sufficient Pan African Criminal Court persecuted on home soil. There is also calls for stronger African courts, judiciary and jurists as well as reforming African laws to meet the need of the people rather than protecting leaders. Hissane Habre's trial which was also approved by the African Union could serve as a stepping stone towards a future continent wide criminal court that will eventual persecute various African presidents and prime minister not only for crimes but corruption as well. Habre's conviction shows that no leader no matter if they are military or civilian can defy the law and not face consequences.

Press TV Will Bush and Blair be charged for War Crimes?

PS: African leaders have been disproportionately singled out by the West (read international Community), the UN and without hesitation, found automatically guilty without trial and sent to the ICC unlike the equally if not more guilty Western leaders ie George Bush, Tony Blair, Bibi Netanyahu, some would say the current President Obama, they have purposely bombed hundreds of thousands of civilians "to bring democracy" or "fight terrorism until its eradicated." Added to the list of the accused war criminals would be the elusive Burmese Military Junta leaders who have turned their backs on their own citizens the Rohingya Muslims facing ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, statelessness and becoming the scapegoat of Myanmar and neighboring countries. The hundreds of thousands of death and thousands injured since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada in Occupied Palestine, includes children and women in Iraq, Gaza and West Bank/East Jerusalem, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt (by ISIS, its affiliates and its proxies), Afghanistan, Mali, Sudan, Myanmar etc. Remember that some of the prime ministers and presidents in the above countries are also being charged with crimes against humanity and against their people ie Bashir Assad and Omar Bashir. The only leaders not being dragged to court are the royals of Saudi Arabia. The ICC will have plenty of backlog to sieve through by the time everyone is arranged for their respective court dates. 

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