We take our hats off to the African Union for its recent decision to try former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre for causing untold suffering to the nationals of Chad. That miscreant and a group of blood-thirsty henchmen stand accused of about 40 000 political killings while brutally torturing about 200 000 victims during a misrule stretching from 1982 to 1990 that was only halted when troops who had seen enough decided to oust him. African Union leaders agreed at a recent summit in Gambia that Habre, whose hands are literally still dripping with the blood of thousands of his victims, should stand trial in Senegal rather than be extradited to Belgium where he has already been indicted. At the time the OAU was transformed into the AU critics had a field day claiming the new continental body will just be yet another hollow talk-shop that would simply vacillate, waver and obfuscate over a myriad of issues that still face the great African continent. At the time he imposed himself on that quite unfortunate but remarkably resolute populace Habre, like many others of his myopic kind, behaved as if he were a god. Instead of serving his people he acted as if they were indebted to him and that his regime could rape, maim, kidnap and murder those he perceived to have divergent views. But this continent’s populace are now slowly awakening to the fact that those serving them are their servants and not the other way around and that they will one day account for the crimes they perpetuate while in office once their immunities are revoked. It is a pity that some people elected into public office never seem to draw lessons from the unpopular regimes of yester-year like the ones led by the Sani Abachas, the Kamuzu Bandas, the Mobuto Sese Sekos, the Idi Amins and many others who gained notoriety through kryptocracy, mismanagement or holding hostage entire nations through unparalleled acts of brutality. This new generation of leaders should be commended for jobs well done and for sending out a message that those who commit crime with impunity while they are in office should be prepared to dance to the music of their own making. If Senegal keeps its commitment and prosecutes him, Habre will join Charles Taylor, another sycophant standing accused of causing large-scale misery including masterminding the hacking of the limbs of thousands of innocent women and children. Through his evil machinations thousands of children in Africa not only lost their parents and their innocence but they also became merciless killing machines after being forcefully drafted in as child-soldiers into rebellious armies bereft of any worthy causes. Indeed, Taylor’s crimes could be equated to the late Sani Abacha’s who looted billions of US dollars from the Nigerian treasury squandering this ill-gotten fortune on a sinfully extravagant but hollow lifestyle while on the other hand brutalizing his subjects. Even the Bible tells us that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword and leaders who feel they are above the law and that they can ride rough-shod and like spoilt brats could have their way with the seemingly defenceless masses, who put them in office in the first place, should not say they are victims of a “political witch-hunt” when the time comes to parade them before the world to face charges on the despicable crimes committed and they should indeed not expect us to lend them a sympathetic ear. They should however be consoled by the fact that under AU tribunals, unlike the tens of thousands of the people they murdered on impulse, they will receive a just trial from competent courts of law that are not vengeful but that will regard them as innocent until they will of course be proven guilty by the numerous skeletons in their ugly closets. They should also draw consolation from the fact they will not be hanged but will of course, as surely as day follows night, face lengthy jail terms once they are convicted.
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