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17086: This Week in Haiti 21:33 10/29/2003 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
October 29 - November 4, 2003
Vol. 21, No. 33
OPPOSITION'S "ARMED WING" MOVES OFFENSIVE FROM MOUNTAINS TO
by Kim Ives
(First of two articles)
Gonaïves is the city at the base of Haiti's northwestern
peninsula where Latin America's first declaration of independence
was read on January 1, 1804. The Haitian government is working
feverishly to repave roads, repair street-lamps, restucco
buildings, and repaint walls there as bicentennial celebrations
But the Washington-backed Haitian opposition, in particular its
"armed wing," is working with equal fervor to, at the very least,
disrupt upcoming festivities and, in their best case scenario,
drive President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office.
Commando units of former Haitian soldiers who have been
assassinating government officials and attacking police stations
primarily on Haiti's Central Plateau over the past 26 months may
now be concentrating their energies on fomenting trouble in
Haiti's cities, particularly Gonaïves, Haitian authorities
On Oct. 26, a band of about 15 armed men attacked the Gona‹ves
police headquarters. In the ensuing gun battle, a 17-year-old
girl, Josna Pierre, was killed when shot in the head while
returning home on a bicycle from church. Two policemen, including
Departmental Cheif Camille Marcellus, were also wounded.
In a related operation, heavily armed gunmen burst into the home
of Ketelin Télémaque, the executive's local representative, and
stole all the weapons there. The San Manman (Motherless) army, as
the Central Plateau anti-government guerillas are known, have
frequently attacked targets to recuperate weapons.
"The armed wing of the opposition is sowing terror in Gonaïves,"
said Mario Dupuy, Secretary of State of Communications. "We will
not tolerate terrorist acts, and we are taking measures to stop
On Oct. 27, reinforced police units swept into the Gonaïves
neighborhood of Raboteau in an effort to round-up the gunmen
behind Sunday's attack and another on Oct. 1 in which three
government offices were set ablaze (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 21,
No. 30, 10/8/2003). With a helicopter hovering overhead and Coast
Guard boats positioned offshore, police units surrounded Raboteau
and gradually tightened the perimeter. Gun battles erupted and
Jocelyne Michel, 30, was killed, and two other women wounded. The
house of Amiot "Kiben" Métayer, a Raboteau leader who was found
murdered on Sep. 22, was partially burned along with two vehicles
in front of it. Twelve men were arrested.
The police continued their counter-offensive on Oct. 28. Gunfire
crackled in Raboteau and surrounding areas throughout the day.
Five houses were set on fire in the skirmishes. A one-month old
baby girl died in one blaze. The depots at nine nearby salt flats
were also burned.
The past few days of violence brings the death toll since
Métayer's death to about one dozen, with three dozen wounded.
The current troubles in Gonaïves bear all the hallmarks of a
classic Washington-orchestrated destabilization campaign.
Analysis of the evidence so far suggests that Métayer's killing
may have been planned weeks in advance to lay the ground for
bringing the San Manman's war into the cities.
Métayer had led a pro-government popular organization fearsomely
named the "Cannibal Army." Violence has gripped Gonaïves since
Métayer's killing, which his brother, Buteur, claims was ordered
by Aristide, offering no proof. Mainstream press agencies and
opposition-aligned radios have echoed this suspicious charge and
tried to depict the violence there as a popular uprising.
But other witnesses in Gonaïves say that the trouble stems not
from the town's population of 200,000, or even that of Raboteau.
Out-of-town agitators, they say, whose origins and identities
remain shadowy, have converged on the city, bringing with them
weapons and money. The infiltrators have been working with people
like Jean Tatoune, who was convicted and jailed in 2000 for
participating in the 1994 Army-orchestrated Raboteau massacre
(see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 12, No. 4, 4/26/1994). Tatoune, who
Dupuy says led the Oct. 26 attack, escaped from jail on Aug. 2,
2002 when men from the Cannibal Army bulldozed the Gonaïves
prison's wall to free Métayer, who was being held there pending
trial on charges which were later dismissed.
Ironically, Washington, the Organization of American States, the
Haitian opposition, and the mainstream media never clamor for
Tatoune's arrest, as they did ceaselessly for Métayer's.
The notion that the government had Métayer killed seems far-
fetched at the very least. Haitian government spokesmen, and even
Aristide, have asked what interest the government would have in
destabilizing Gonaïves and Haiti by killing Métayer, who was a
government ally when he died.
The charge hinges on an early report that he was last seen alive
leaving his home with Odonel Paul, the leader of another Gonaïves
popular organization MODLIN. Paul was presented by the mainstream
press as someone working closely with the Aristide government.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Paul had worked in the National Palace press service of
Aristide's predecessor, René Préval. He had then been hired to
work in the Interior Ministry headed by Henri Claude Ménard under
Aristide's first prime minister in 2001, Jean-Marie Chérestal.
Paul was briefly jailed for misdeeds he allegedly committed while
in that post. When he was released, Chérestal and Ménard had both
been replaced, and Paul was out of a job. Bitter, he returned to
Gonaïves where he organized anti-government mobilizations. In a
press conference, Odonel Paul even called on the United States to
intervene in Haiti to remove Aristide from office. In
conversations with former comrades, Paul called Aristide a
"scoundrel" to be "uprooted."
Is it logical, therefore, that Odonel Paul, an avowed Aristide
foe, would be carrying out the assassination of a Haitian
government ally on behalf of that same government?
However, just days before the Métayer's murder, Odonel Paul paid
a "courtesy call" to the Palace, to say hello to some of his
former colleagues. One of them noticed that he was better
dressed, "sharper looking," than the popular organization leader
used to be. Another former colleague, who worked with Paul during
the 1991-1994 coup, opined that he was "not afraid of money."
Could Odonel Paul have wanted to be seen at the Palace? Was his
visit there precisely to draw a link?
Today, Odonel Paul and his family have disappeared. Some rumors
say that he has traveled to the U.S..
In any case, the mainstream and opposition-aligned press, along
with affiliated human rights groups, have been more than happy to
uncritically repeat the flimsy charge that the Haitian government
killed Métayer, all on the basis of the Odonel Paul association.
(To be continued)
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