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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 14:39 GMT
Chad euphoric at Habre's arrest
By Stephanie Hancock
BBC News, N'Djamena

News of this week's arrest in Senegal of Chad's former President Hissene Habre, has been greeted with joy in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.

Chadians march through the capital on Saturday 12 November, urging Senegalese authorities to hand over Hissene Habre for trial.
News of Habre's arrest was greeted by a mixture of joy and disbelief

Mr Habre is wanted by a Belgian court for crimes committed during his eight-year rule.

Although the former leader fled Chad to Senegal 15 years ago, the legacy of fear he left behind is still tangible.

His alleged victims, although euphoric, were a little shocked by the move.

After years of waiting for justice, the idea that Mr Habre was finally being taken into custody was difficult to believe.

"I was very, very surprised. I didn't think all the small efforts we've been making would be successful," says Aleina Ngoussi Jackson, who says he spent four years imprisoned under Mr Habre's regime.

"At first I thought it was a lie, but then I put the radio on and it all became real. I couldn't contain myself."

Countless disappearances

Other victims were equally pleased.

I'm full of joy. I was shouting so much my friends asked me what's wrong
Ginette Ngarbaye

Ginette Ngarbaye says she was arrested aged just 20, when she was five months pregnant and claims she was regularly tortured with electric shocks. She gave birth to her first child in a prison cell.

"I'm full of joy. I was shouting so much my friends asked me what's wrong. I was jumping up and down. I'm very happy."

Mr Habre stands accused of some 40,000 political murders and countless more disappearances.

As a consequence it's practically impossible to find a single Chadian who hasn't lost a friend, relative or neighbour, or knows someone who has.

Dilemma

Ismael Hachim, president of a support group for Habre victims, says this attempt to extradite Mr Habre to Belgium is not only a victory for the victims but all Africans.

Hissene Habre being escorted from a Senegalese court by guards.
Hissene Habre was arrested on Monday in Senegal

"Now, we think it's necessary that Africa should have an international court of its own, so that Africa can try its own people and to support international justice as they do in the European Union and elsewhere," he said.

Mr Habre's arrest also throws up an interesting dilemma for the Chadian government.

Many senior government figures - President Idriss Deby included - have historical links with him.

One of Chad's most prominent human rights lawyers, Delphine Djiraibe, says many people in the government will now be worried.

They are fearful of what Mr Habre might reveal when he comes to give evidence at his eventual trial, she said.

If the extradition is successful and trial does go ahead, there may be implications for the rest of Africa too, as under Belgian law judges are able to prosecute human rights offences anywhere in the world.


SEE ALSO:
Amnesty urges Habre extradition
07 Dec 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Chad
04 May 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Chad
16 Apr 05 |  Country profiles


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