Chadian nationalist and politician, prime minister in 1978 and president 1982–90. Formerly a leader of the Chadian National Liberation Front (Frolinat), he joined the Armed Forces of the North (FAN) in the early 1970s, but made peace with President Félix Malloum and was appointed prime minister in 1978. After Malloum was overthrown by the Frolinat leader Goukouni Oueddi in 1979, Habré became defence minister, and in 1982 he seized control, aided by the CIA. With French military assistance and support from African heads of state, he forced Libya to withdraw from northern Chad but was ousted in a coup led by his military commander Idriss Deby in 1990. He fled to Senegal where he lived in exile. In 2005, Belgium indicted him for crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes, and human rights violations during his eight-year rule, and in 2008 a Chadian court sentenced him to death in absentia. However, Senegal refused extradition requests and instead made plans to hold its own trial, but progress was slow.
Throughout his presidency Habré maintained an uneasy control. In 1984 he dissolved the military arm of Frolinat and formed a new party, the National Union for Independence and Revolution (UNIR), but opposition to his regime grew. He was endorsed as president in 1989 for a further seven-year term under a revised constitution introduced in July 1990, but in December 1990 the government fell. Initially reported killed, and replaced by Deby, he exiled himself to Senegal.
Habré was the son of a desert shepherd, and worked as a clerk for the French army before becoming an administrator.