Haiti in Flames, 1/3/07, by Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague.
The entire article at http://guerrillanews.com/articles/2955/Haiti_in_Flames
The poor residents in the capital describe
a state of siege.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 28 (IPS) – Nearly two months since U.N. troops began launching heavy
attacks that they say are aimed against gang members in poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks and barbed
wire remain in place and the atmosphere is grim.
Mercius Lubin of the Boston district of Cité Soleil told IPS that an assault earlier this month left his only
two children dead. “It is the noise of MINUSTAH’s (the U.N. peacekeeping force) fire that awoke us.”
It was about 11 p.m. on Feb. 1, he said, and the family was sleeping on the floor because U.N. soldiers
had advised everyone in the area to do so. “Then they started shooting… I saw that I was wounded in one of my
arms, my wife in one of her feet and my two young girls were bathed in their own blood.”
He said it was MINUSTAH bullets that had sprayed across his home killing his daughters. IPS viewed the corpses of
Stephanie, 7, and Alexandra Lubin, 4. A top MINUSTAH military commander acknowledges the U.N. fired shots that day. Residents
also state that U.N. vehicles fired heavily down the road which the Lubin home sits along.
Officials of MINUSTAH, whose military contingent is headed by Brazil, have admitted to “collateral
damage” but say they are there to fight gangsters at the request of the René Préval government.
Speaking at a press conference at U.N. headquarters Wednesday, Joel Boutroue, deputy special representative of the
secretary-general for Haiti, referred to the allegation that MINUSTAH soldiers had shot
“two little girls,” but said that gang members were responsible for the killings.
”[The U.N. soldiers] are taking extra care in minimising the number of civilian casualties,” he said.
“The rules of engagement are very clear – they only shoot when shot at…The number of casualties has been
However, Boutroue acknowledged that while the U.N. does investigate some specific cases and attempts to tally casualties
in local clinics after large operations, they do not determine whether people have been hit by MINUSTAH or other weapons.
“That’s impossible to know,” he said.
U.N. and government officials have pointed to one gang leader in particular named Evans. In recent weeks they have
arrested a number of men from his group.
But many residents and local human rights activists say that scores of people who have no involvement with gangs have
been killed, wounded and arrested in the raids and fighting. A climate of fear persists in much of Cite Soleil.
IPS observed that buildings throughout Cité Soleil were pockmarked by bullets; many showing huge holes made by heavy
calibre U.N. weapons, as residents attest. Often pipes that brought in water to the slum community now lay shattered.
A recently declassified document from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince revealed that during an
operation carried out in July 2005, MINUSTAH expended 22,000 bullets over several hours. In the report, an official from MINUSTAH
acknowledged that “given the flimsy construction of homes in Cité Soleil and the large quantity of ammunition expended,
it is likely that rounds penetrated many buildings, striking unintended targets.”
A group of religious and human rights groups active within Cité Soleil, the Haitian Nonviolent, Nonpartisan Coalition
(HNVNPC), is attempting to revive a peace process. A spokesman for the group, Evel Fanfan, declared we were “forged
out of the desperation of victims and leaders in the battlefields of Cité Soleil” and call “immediately for a
The group is attempting to work with the Préval government’s National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation
and Reinsertion, headed up by Alix Fils Aimé, to renew the possibility for a peace process. Already one armed group has offered
to turn in their weapons for amnesty and government investment in the community.
A hardened U.N. strategy became apparent just days before Christmas, when U.N. officials stated they were entering
Cité Soleil to capture or kill gangsters and kidnappers in the Bois Neuf zone.
According to some residents, the Dec. 22 assault became known as Operation “Without Pity for Cité Soleil”
as the noise of the 50-mm MINUSTAH machine guns could be heard echoing for miles.
Five days later, the people of Bois Neuf buried 11 young people that they say were among those killed by MINUSTAH.
A huge crowd gathered in front of the caskets.
Ronald Saint-Jean of the Group for the Defence of the Rights of the Political prisoners (GDP) was one of the few representatives
of a human rights group to attend the funeral.
The GDP is part of a newly founded grassroots human rights coalition called the National Coordination of Organisations
Defending Human Rights (CONODDH).
Following the overthrow of Haiti’s elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide government,
hundreds, possibly up to a thousand, Fanmi Lavalas political activists were imprisoned under the U.S. backed interim government,
according to a Miami University Human rights study.
Another study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet,
estimated that 8,000 had been killed and 35,000 sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area during the time of
the interim government (2004-2006). In the second half of the study presented in January at the American Public Health Association
conference in Boston, the study identified 57 percent of the victims as Lavalas and 30 percent as belonging to Lespwa – the parties
of Aristide and Preval.
The Aristide administration (2001-2004), financially embargoed by international financial institutions, had refused
to privatise state enterprises. The embargo lost the government much needed aid, contributing to economic decline and destabilisation.
Following Aristide’s ouster, after members of Haiti’s former military invaded from the
Dominican Republic, an interim framework was set into motion under International Monetary Fund advisement.
According to some Haitian labour leaders, it laid off between eight and ten thousand civil sector workers, many from
the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince.
Other programmes under the Aristide government, such as subsidised rice for the poor, literacy centres and water supply
projects, came to a halt following the 2004 coup d’etat. A medical university, a first of its kind for Haiti, constructed by the Aristide
government was taken over by MINUSTAH forces.
Frantz Michel Guerrier, a young man who is the spokesman of the Committee of Notables for the Development of Cité
Soleil and based in the Bois Neuf zone, said “It is very difficult for me to explain to you what the people of Bois
Neuf went through on Dec. 22, 2006—almost unexplainable. It was a true massacre. We counted more
than sixty wounded and more than 25 dead among [them] infants, children and young people.”
“We saw helicopters shoot at us, our houses broken by the tanks,” Guerrier told IPS. “We heard detonations
of the heavy weapons. Many of the dead and wounded were found inside their houses. I must tell you that nobody had been saved,
not even the babies. The Red Cross was not allowed to help people. The soldiers had refused to let the Red Cross in categorically,
in violation of the Geneva Convention.”
The U.N. denies that it blocked ambulances from entering the slum but acknowledges that a peacekeeper did shoot out
an ambulance tire in Port-au-Prince that day. Multiple residents told IPS that MINUSTAH, after conducting its operations,
evacuated without checking for wounded. U.N. sources say gang members shoot with small arms at their detachments.
Residents and Lavalas officials explain they oppose all violence and want peace. But sources close to the National Palace speak of immense pressure
to toughen its stance on Cité Soleil to dislodge armed groups.
Opposition remains strong against MINUSTAH’s military style tactics in the densely populated neighbourhoods.
On Feb. 7, the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, a huge march took place in Port-au-Prince with smaller
demonstrations in Cap-Haïtien, Saint-Marc, Miragoâne, Jacmel, Léogâne and Gonaïves, all calling for an end to the violence
and that Aristide be allowed to return to the country.
Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague are primary contributors to HaitiAnalysis.com.