The verdict in the trial of Chad’s ex-president Hissene Habre has demonstrated that former African leaders who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity will find it extremely difficult to find a place in Africa where their colleagues can shelter them from justice.

Hissene Habre has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison at a landmark trial in Senegal, were he took refuge. The judge convicted him of rape, sexual slavery and ordering the killing of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

The trial was an African Union project to try a former African head of state for human rights abuses. The precedent has been set and in fact efforts are underway to establish a permanent African court of justice to try suspects in Africa for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Current African leaders should bear in mind that if they insist in pursuing impunity and soak their hands with blood they are likely to end up like Hessen Habre with no shelter in Africa to protect them. Expanding the democratic space and leaving power gracefully is the only way to avoid an ignoble exit.

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