The UN's disconnect with the poor in Haiti
December 25, 2005
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The UN's disconnect with the poor in Haiti

Haiti Information Project (HIP)

Photos: ©2005 Haiti Information Project (HIP)

Lying in blood on the floor of the modest home were Mr. Romelus's wife, 22 year-old Sonia Romelus who was killed by the same bullet that passed through the body of her 1 year-old infant son Nelson.
click image for July 12 article
Boulevard Dread Wilme, December 9, 2005 protest against UN mission slayings. This painting of Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme is at base of the Citè Soleil archway commemorating his life.
HIP - Haiti — The assassination of Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme and four of his armed followers on July 6, 2005 marked a turning point in community relations between UN forces and residents of the Haitian seaside slum of Cite Soleil. In addition to killing the five young men in a hail of bullets, UN forces also took a heavy toll on the community. At least 12 unarmed civilians were confirmed killed by UN forces and dozens more wounded. It is a day the community will not soon forget and they are determined the UN shall never forget either.

Here is an excerpt from aHaiti Information Project(HIP) report filed July 12, 2005:

"Port au Prince, Haiti (HIP) - In the early morning hours of July 6, more than 350 UN troops stormed the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil in a military operation with the stated purpose of halting violence in Haiti. The successful goal of the mission was to assassinate a 31 year-old man and his lieutenants that Haiti's rightwing media and reactionary business community had labeled a bandit and armed of supporter of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. According to residents, Emmanuel 'Dread' Wilmer and four others were felled in a hail of gunfire that came from all directions including a circling helicopter. According to the Associated Press, a military spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Colonel Eloufi Boulbars stated, 'Armed bandits who had tried to resist were either killed or wounded.'

"On July 6 in Cite Soleil, a weeping Fredi Romelus, recounted how UN troops lobbed a red smoke grenade into his house and then opened fire killing his wife and two children. "They surrounded our house this morning and I ran thinking my wife and the children were behind me. They couldn't get out and the blan [UN] fired into the house." Exclusive video footage from a HIP reporter captured the interview as well as the images of the three victims. Lying in blood on the floor of the modest home were Mr. Romelus's wife, 22 year-old Sonia Romelus who was killed by the same bullet that passed through the body of her 1 year-old infant son Nelson. She was apparently holding the child as the UN opened fire. Next to them was her four year-old son Stanley Romelus who was killed by a single shot to the head.

"Officially, the UN has responded that they only opened fire after being fired upon and have discounted non-combatant casualties. The HIP video shows 31 year-old Leonce Chery moments after a headshot ripped through his jaw. Chery was clearly unarmed as he lay bleeding to death in a pool of his own blood. In fact, the majority of the victims shown on the video were unarmed falling prey to a single shot to the head."

Adding insult to death and injury, UN Special Envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes has dismissed the incident as "propaganda and lies" despite a call by the UN for an official investigation. But the real problem doesn't just lie with career diplomats like Valdes, many of who are prone to pathologically believe their own media spin, it also lies with the heart of the objectives of the UN mission in Haiti itself.

While the UN believes it is returning democratic rule to Haiti, the majority of the inhabitants of neighborhoods like Cite Soleil view them as invaders imposing the will of Haiti's wealthy elite. The reason for this is that the ultimate justification for removing Aristide, that he had lost the support of his people, simply was not true. He had lost the support of Haiti's economic elite long ago. He had lost the support of the United States Agency for International Development and Canadian International Development Agency's funded opposition some time ago. He had even lost the support of the so-called student movement, which by all recent accounts was never really led by students nor a viable social movement. Aristide had lost the support of the non-governmental sector that also helped to forge and fund these opposition movements to his government but he never really lost the support and admiration of his people. Aristide's people, and the main base of his support, were always from the most disenfranchised and marginalized sectors of Haitian society, who are not PR savvy, and traditionally have always suffered the most throughout Haitian history. These are the residents of neighborhoods like Cite Soleil, Bel Air, Solino, Martissant and others who have taken the brunt of human rights violations committed by Haitian police and finally armed incursions to rid them of "bandits" by UN forces.

This disconnect, between the reality in the poor neighborhoods of Haiti and the UN's justifications for further military actions, is clearly seen in the case of Dread Wilme. How much propaganda has the elite-controlled Haitian media meted out to destroy the character and reputation of the man? How much has the UN itself invested in portraying him as the ultimate example of a criminal and bandit who must be eliminated for Haiti to make the next transition to democracy? How many soccer games, how much loud rap music and groceries has been offered by Wyclef's organization in Cite Soleil towards improving the image of this great undertaking? Lots and lots, and still more everyday, is the answer to each of these questions.

Despite this tremendous effort to change the views of residents towards the memory of Wilme, and by proxy Aristide, what has it yielded? If you walk down to the entrance of one of Cite Soleil's main streets, Bwa Neuf, you will see the results. The residents of Cite Soleil have built a huge metal archway bearing Wilme's image to commemorate him as a hero of resistance to what they call the coup of February 29, 2004, the coup that ousted Aristide a second time. They have renamed the street Dread Wilme Boulevard.

Where does this ultimately leave the UN when it has exhausted every psychological warfare option, every offer of humanitarian assistance that has so far failed to change the hearts and minds of the poor in Haiti? The very answer to that question also lies with memory of Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme.


A recent poll by the National Organization for the Advancement
of Haitians and the The Democracy Group based in Canada concluded that
51% of the respondents supported the return of president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to Haiti.

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