As Ex-soldiers Regroup:
First U.N. Troops Killed in Haiti
March 25, 2005
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As Ex-soldiers Regroup:
First U.N. Troops Killed in Haiti


This Week in Haiti 23 # 02

Just over a week after their symbolic surrender in Cap Haïtien to de facto and occupation authorities, former soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAdH) clashed twice with soldiers from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) on Mar. 20, killing the first three foreign troops of the military occupation which began Feb. 29, 2004.

In clashes with ex-soldiers, a Sri Lankan soldier died in Petit Goâve and a Nepalese soldier in Hinche. The U.N. announced Mar. 23 that a second Sri Lankan soldier died from wounds incurred in Petit Goâve on Mar. 20.

On Mar. 12, some 280 ex-soldiers from Cap-Haïtien and 45 others from other areas of the North supposedly laid down their arms and agreed to integrate into the Haitian National Police (PNH). Aiming to be symbolic, the ceremony turned to farce. Only seven ancient firearms, six M-1s and an Uzi, were turned in.

Nonetheless, the officials present put on a brave face: de facto Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse, Culture Minister Magalie Comeau-Denis, UN Special Haiti Representative Juan Gabriel Valdés, MINUSTAH commander Brazilian General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, and the MINUSTAH Chilean troop commander in Cap-Haïtien, Colonel Tulio Rojas.

Latortue promised to integrate some ex-soldiers into the police and to compensate others, as he has been doing since last December.

Pereira tried to give the charade a positive spin. "This shows the will of these people to reintegrate into society and leave clandestinity," he said. "I have said since the beginning of the mission (Minustah) that it is important to physically disarm people, but it is much more important to disarm the spirit (...) It is difficult to live in clandestinity. Therefore, the other groups should follow the example of what has occurred today."

Pereira's statement bordered on preposterous because not only have the ex-soldiers not been living clandestinely, they continue to occupy, as they did in Cap Haïtien, government buildings and police stations throughout much of the country, and even take part in joint patrols with the MINUSTAH in cracking-down on popular neighborhoods.

Moreover, their example did not seem to inspire the ex-soldiers around Haiti."We will never lay down our weapons as this government wants," said Jean Odinel Loradin, a spokesman for ex-soldiers in Cayes. "We do not understand what happened in Cap-Haïtien. We do not understand how these men could give their weapons to this government. It should be said that certain people in the movement are not soldiers. There are sympathizers who have slipped into the ranks. So, for us, those which gave their weapons in Cap-Haïtien without consulting the other areas are only sympathizers."

Meanwhile, ex-soldiers in the Central Department said that the majority of the soldiers from the North had joined them... with their weapons. They said the de facto government was distributing money to certain groups of ex-soldiers in order to create division. "I ask the soldiers of all the geographical departments of the country to tighten their ranks, because Commander Jean-Baptiste and other leaders of the movement are with you," said "Commander" Joseph Jean-Baptiste from his Central Plateau base in Terre Neuve.

One week later, on Mar. 20, a group of Nepalise UN troops were ambushed as they patrolled the streets of Hinche, the Central Plateau's largest town. One Nepalese soldier was killed, according to MINUSTAH spokesman, Damian Onses Cardona, and the ex-soldiers made off with the MINUSTAH's vehicle. It is rumored that fugitive ex-soldier leader, former Corporal Remissainthe Ravix, specifically ordered the attack on the Nepalese.

A few hours earlier, in Petit-Goâve, ex-soldiers clashed with MINUSTAH troops who had come to dislodge them from the police station they had occupied since August 2004. One Sri Lankan was killed and two ex-soldiers. Three UN troops were wounded, one of whom [also from Sri Lanka] later died. Ten ex-soldiers and three bystanders were also wounded.

General Pereira himself tried for half an hour to convince the ex-soldiers to surrender peacefully, but with no success. After the battle, thirty-five ex-soldiers were arrested, including the ten wounded.

In the department of Grand' Anse, Joel Domenica, the examining magistrate of Jérémie, called on de facto authorities to carry out a disarmament campaign in the area. "Armed individuals make the law and sow terror in Grand' Anse," he said referring to the ex-soldiers. "It is ridiculous that these men have a free hand while they talk about democracy, disarmament, and elections."

However, the de facto government has relied more on buying the soldiers then overpowering them. The government has already spend 77 million gourdes ($2.08 million) in compensating 33 of the former FadH's 55 companies. This accounts for 1,726 ex-soldiers, according to a report issued by the de facto government Mar. 14.

Nonetheless tensions remain high. As we go to press (Mar. 22), there is heavy shooting in the Delmas section of the capital and security around the National Palace has been reinforced. A security officer for de facto Justice Minister Gousse was killed this evening, as well as a market owner in Pétionville. On Mar. 24, heavily armed men attacked the vehicle of the Police Captain Jude Altidor, who heads the Central Direction of Judicial Police (DCPJ) at Delmas 33, seriously wounding his chauffeur. Altidor was not in the car at the time of the attack.

The struggle between the MINUSTAH and ex-soldiers is exacerbated by the growing size and frequency of anti-coup demonstrations. On Mar. 18, some 10,000 people turned out in Delmas 2 for the funeral of the three young victims of the PNH: Dieu Béni Juste, Alexandre Francois and Wilner Sévère. PNH officers shot them dead on Feb. 25 during a demonstration to commemorate of the first anniversary of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d'etat. Father Gérard Jean-Juste, who presided over the funeral, challenged de facto authorities to stop their violence against the population.

As has been the case since Feb. 25, MINUSTAH troops replaced the PNH as the security which accompanied the funeral procession to the Port-with-Prince cemetery, where the victims were buried.

The spokesman for Lavalas popular organizations in Belair, Sanba Boukman gave the police a deadline of Mar. 25 to issue an explanation about the killings. Failing that, he said, popular organizations will begin holding demonstrations without notifying the police.

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