In September 2005, the Belgian judge charged Habré with crimes against humanity and requested his extradition. Senegal turned to the African Union, which in 2006 instead called on Senegal to prosecute Habré "on behalf of Africa," and President Abdoulaye Wade declared that his country would. But Senegal has stalled for years, refusing to act until it receives a whopping $40 million from the international community, its estimate of the cost of the trial. While investigating and proving the alleged crimes committed by Habré's regime 20 years ago will certainly be complex and costly, there is no need, as Senegal has requested, to rebuild a courthouse or bring 500 witnesses. And in the meantime, survivors of Habré's regime are slowing passing away. Guengueng himself was forced to take exile in New York in 2005 after receiving threats from Habré's henchmen.
Senegal's foot-dragging has been such that Belgium took the unprecedented step last year of filing a case against Senegal with the International Court of Justice. Either put Habré on trial or extradite him, the suit argues. Now, with the help of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, there is another push to get the trial under way. U.S. War Crimes Ambassador Stephen Rapp met recently with African Union officials to work on resolving the roadblocks, including Senegal's budget request. A joint European Union-African Union team is scheduled to present a revised budget proposal and funding plan to Senegal soon, and Senegal has suggested that it will accept its plan.
Habré's trial would be a wake-up call to dictators in Africa and elsewhere that if they commit similar atrocities they could also be brought to justice one day. And for the detainee whose oath has driven his every move from 1990 until today, it would finally be a measure of justice.