In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan was searching for a "man in Africa" who would keep Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi in check -- and he decided on Hissène Habré, a rebel leader who was as ambitious as he was ruthless. His rebels were armed with heavy weapons by Washington, counseled by US intelligence operatives and supported by French army units. In October 1982, Habré seized power for himself with the logistical support of the CIA. Until his toppling in 1990, he waged a proxy war against Gadhafi's troops; 10,000 Libyan soldiers are thought to have been killed in the conflict. In June 1987, Habré was received by Reagan in Washington.
Nobody wanted to hear about the fact that he rampaged through his country and had tens of thousands of people killed. In 1984, three years before his state visit to the US, entire villages were erased in southern Chad during an incident that came to be known as "Black September." "Habré was one of the most brutal dictators ever to have been funded by the United States," says Brody*. He had finally found the "African Pinochet" -- and was convinced that the pursuit of this villain would bring about a breakthrough in his mission.