Ouverture du procès de Hissène Habré

Dakar — Poursuivi pour crimes contre l’humanité, crimes de guerre et torture, le procès de Hissène Habré, l’ex-dictateur du Tchad, s’est ouvert aujourd’hui dans la capitale sénégalaise.

Lire le Rapport de Human Rights Watch
La Plaine des Morts. Le Tchad de Hissène Habré, 1982–1990
Version PDF téléchargeable, 742 pages

Le président tchadien déchu Hissène Habré a été amené lundi de force au tribunal spécial de Dakar, à l’ouverture de son procès pour crimes contre l’humanité, qui doit servir d’exemple pour la justice en Afrique.

Ce procès, ouvert peu après 10H00 (locales et GMT) devant les Chambres africaines extraordinaires (CAE), tribunal spécial créé par l’Union africaine en vertu d’un accord avec le Sénégal, a été ajourné en milieu d’après-midi à mardi matin.

M. Habré, 72 ans, en détention depuis deux ans au Sénégal, où il avait trouvé refuge après avoir été renversé par l’actuel président Idriss Deby Itno, est poursuivi pour “crimes contre l’humanité, crimes de guerre et crimes de torture”. La répression sous son régime (1982-1990) a fait 40.000 morts, selon les estimations d’une commission d’enquête tchadienne.

Le prévenu, qui refusait de comparaître, a été conduit de force dans le box des accusés par des gardes pénitentiaires, lors d’un incident déclenché juste avant l’ouverture de l’audience par ses partisans, qui ont scandé des slogans hostiles à la Cour et ont été évacués.

En boubou et turban blancs, chapelet de prière à la main, il a levé le poing, fustigeant “l’impérialisme”, et crié “Allah akbar” (Dieu est le plus grand).

A l’extérieur du palais de justice, des manifestants ont défilé derrière une banderole libellée “Justice pour les victimes de Hissène Habré”.

Après une interruption de séance, l’accusé a refusé de revenir devant la Cour, qui l’a sommé par voie d’huissier de comparaître devant elle.

Nouveau refus, selon sa réponse écrite lue par le président de la Cour, le Burkinabè Gberdao Gustave Kam: le tribunal est “illégitime et illégal”, ses juges sont à ses yeux “de simples fonctionnaires”, Hissène Habré estime qu’il n’a “pas à répondre” devant eux.

La Cour a en conséquence ordonné “que l’accusé soit conduit par la force publique” mardi à 09H00.

“Avec lui ou sans lui, le procès aura lieu”, a déclaré à l’AFP Souleymane Guengueng, fondateur de l’Association des victimes de crimes du régime de Hissène Habré.

“Je ne sais pas s’il va parler ou non. Mais je vais le regarder dans les yeux pour voir ce qu’il va nous répondre”, a dit Abdourahmane Guèye, une victime sénégalaise.

“Combat contre l’impunité”

Pour Reed Brody, conseiller juridique de Human Rights Watch, ONG de défense des droits humains, la décision de contraindre M. Habré à comparaître mardi “est un soulagement pour les victimes”, qui pourront enfin “lui demander pourquoi elles ont été maltraitées et pourquoi leurs proches ont été tués”.

La défense n’était pas représentée à l’audience, ouverte en présence d’environ un millier de personnes. L’accusé, selon ses avocats, leur avait donné instruction de ne pas assister au procès.

Le procureur général, le Sénégalais Mbacké Fall, a rendu hommage aux survivants pour leur “combat contre l’impunité”, assurant que les poursuites n’étaient pas motivées par “un acharnement” contre M. Habré.

Ce procès est “fait pour notre population, pour notre avenir et l’avenir de l’Afrique”, a indiqué à l’AFP le ministre tchadien de la Justice, Mahamat Issa Halikimi.

Une partisane de M. Habré a estimé en revanche qu’il avait déjà été “jugé et condamné”, dénonçant “un complot de l’Occident”.

Ce procès inédit doit aussi permettre à l’Afrique, où la Cour pénale internationale est fréquemment accusée de ne poursuivre que des dirigeants africains, de montrer l’exemple.

“L’Afrique doit donner la preuve qu’elle est capable de juger ses propres enfants pour que d’autres ne le fassent pas à sa place”, a souligné dimanche le porte-parole des CAE, Marcel Mendy.

Ce procès montre que “les dirigeants accusés de crimes graves ne devraient pas supposer qu’ils pourront indéfiniment échapper à la justice”, s’est félicité le Haut-Commissaire de l’ONU aux droits de l’Homme Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

La France, représentée par deux diplomates, a salué l’ouverture du procès, rappelant avoir “soutenu l’établissement” des CAE, ainsi que “son attachement à la lutte contre l’impunité”.

Les Etats-Unis, qui avaient dépêché leur ambassadeur au Sénégal et leur ambassadeur itinérant pour les crimes de guerre, ont salué “un autre avertissement” pour “les auteurs d’atrocités”.

Jusqu’à sa chute, Hissène Habré a bénéficié du soutien américain et français contre la Libye du colonel Kadhafi, considéré comme un “parrain du terrorisme”.

Plus de 4.000 victimes “directes ou indirectes” se sont constituées parties civiles. Le tribunal spécial a prévu d’entendre 100 témoins.

En cas de condamnation, l’accusé, qui encourt entre 30 ans de prison ferme et les travaux forcés à perpétuité, pourra purger sa peine au Sénégal ou dans un autre pays de l’Union africaine.

AFP

What lessons can Buhari learn from Obama?

When it comes to managing a tough economy, what lessons can Buhari  learn from Obama  ?
Presidents Muhammadu Buhari, François Hollande and Barack Obama at the G7 meeting in Germany, June 2015. During his visit to Washington beginning today, Monday July 20, Muhammadu Buhari should soak up as much as he can about how to manage difficult economic conditions.
Presidents Muhammadu Buhari, François Hollande and Barack Obama at the G7 meeting in Germany, June 2015. During his visit to Washington beginning today, Monday July 20, Muhammadu Buhari should soak up as much as he can about how to manage difficult economic conditions.

It is atypical for an American president to invite a nascent African head of state to the White House, especially less than one month after the latter’s inauguration.

Stephen Onyeiwu
Stephen Onyeiwu

To some observers, therefore, US President Barack Obama’s invitation of his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, for a White House parley scheduled for July 20 would seem to be an aberration and a surprise. But an analysis of both leaders’ circumstances suggests that such a meeting is a no-brainer.

Economic and war legacies

Buhari and Obama were elected during a period of economic turmoil and distress. When Obama was elected in 2008 the US economy was in dire straits and reminiscent of contemporary Nigerian economy. With unemployment rate hovering around 10%, the US economy was losing 800,000 jobs monthly. Budget deficits were spiraling, pushing the country’s debt stock to unsustainable levels.

Like Buhari, Obama not only met an empty treasury but was also saddled with a whopping debt burden of about US$10 trillion — or 72% of GDP.

Both presidents also inherited expensive and drawn-out wars which they pledged to end. Ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was a major mantra in Obama’s election campaigns in 2008. In Buhari’s campaign a major platform was the promise to end the scourge of Boko Haram.

Just as Nigerians clamoured for change during the last elections, Americans desperately wanted change in 2008. When people clamour for change, they’re taking a big risk.

But, looking back, many Americans would say that the risk they took in 2008 was well-calculated. The US economy has rebounded. Unemployment has fallen from 10% in 2009 to the current level of about 5%. The US budget deficit is now less than half of what it was when Obama first took office.

Obama has also significantly reduced the presence of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a sense, he has virtually fulfilled all his election promises well ahead of the end of his presidential tenure.

Stimulus versus austerity

Given the striking similarities in both leaders’ circumstances, Buhari would do well to borrow Obama’s economic “magic wand”. If he does, he’ll be surprised to learn that Obama turned the US economy around not through austerity measures, but by spending more.

A few days after his election, Obama appointed Harvard economist and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers as his chief economic adviser. At the same time he announced his intention to launch an economic stimulus programme at a scale never seen before in the country.

Obama justified the stimulus programme by referring to the severity of the economic challenges he inherited. Despite push-backs from Republicans in Congress, he managed to implement a stimulus programme worth almost US$1 trillion. His strategy was predicated on the premise that the way to resuscitate the economy is not through belt-tightening, but via expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.

Obama’s stimulus strategy focused on “shovel-ready” projects that created jobs almost instantaneously, as well as on programs that delivered immediate cash to Americans. The projects and programs include infrastructure, education, health, renewable energy, tax incentives, unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions.

Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, Americans began to receive stimulus cheques in their mailboxes or get temporary tax relief. As an unapologetic proponent of “Middle Class Economics” — the notion that a virile middle class is a sine qua non for a robust economy — much of Obama’s stimulus money went to middle-class Americans.

Buhari should resist belt-tightening

Though Buhari has yet to formally unveil his economic blueprint, he should resist the temptation of embarking on belt-tightening as an end in itself. His administration appears to be drumming-up the need to reduce the cost of governance. While this is an unassailable proposition, he should be circumspect about what he intends to cut.

In the process of cutting costs care should be taken not to jettison investments and projects needed to enhance the country’s productive capacity. Buhari should consider increasing spending in sectors, projects and programmes that boost the economy, generate employment and promote inclusive growth. These sectors include infrastructure, labour-intensive manufacturing, agro-processing, health and education.

Nigeria is arguably a country where a massive economic stimulus programme is urgently needed. It has a large stock of human and natural resources that are grossly underutilized. The informal sector is bloated, with millions of underemployed youths. Most of Nigeria’s graduates are unemployed or engaged in menial jobs.

Meanwhile, there is a huge infrastructural deficit that can be partly filled through public works projects executed with direct labour. These projects would provide temporary employment to unskilled workers, enabling them to gain experience needed for permanent jobs.

Domestic borrowing can fund stimulus in Nigeria

Buhari has the pedigree to shepherd a massive stimulus program. He’s known to abhor profligacy, which means that stimulus money will be spent prudently. He detests graft and corruption, which implies that stimulus funds won’t disappear.

This depends on whether Buhari will be able to prevent those around him from corruptly enriching themselves — something his predecessor failed to do. Like Obama, he cares deeply for the downtrodden, which suggests he’ll focus stimulus spending on job creation and economic empowerment.

Some may wonder how the Buhari administration could possibly finance stimulus spending. After all, he has inherited an empty treasury and faces dwindling oil revenues and a volatile global oil market.

But Nigeria could follow the example of Asian countries that financed their stimulus programmes through domestic borrowing (mainly by issuing government bonds). Borrowing money domestically in one’s own currency is not nearly as problematic as external borrowing.

Financing stimulus spending via domestic borrowing comes with a price. It may crowd-out domestic private investment by raising interest rates. But this would be temporary. The increase in aggregate demand generated by stimulus spending would subsequently crowd-in investment in the production of goods and services. This ultimately will generate employment opportunities.

One of the usual concerns about stimulus spending is the risk of inflation. But unemployment, economic disempowerment and youth restiveness are bigger threats to stability than inflation in the short to medium term.

Also, given the huge slack resources in Nigeria, it is doubtful that stimulus spending would precipitate hyperinflation in the short to medium term. In any case, the Central Bank of Nigeria has the necessary monetary instruments for reigning in inflation should it become a challenge.

Obama stuck to his convictions

One other lesson Buhari should learn from Obama is that it is better for a leader to stick with his or her convictions rather than let opinion polls or emotional sentiments drive their economic policies.

Some pundits were dismissive and derisive of Obama’s stimulus strategy when it was launched. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obama stuck with his stimulus strategy and eventually prevailed. At a recent rally in Minnesota organised to showcase the good news about the US economy, Obama proudly proclaimed that: “Middle Class Economics does work!”

It remains to be seen how history will judge the Buhari presidency, and whether he will be the quintessential Obama.

Stephen Onyeiwu
Professor of Economics at Allegheny College
Pennsylvania, USA
The Conversation