Haiti Faces Bloodbath As
Rebels Seize Nine Towns

By David Usborne
The Independent - UK

NEW YORK -- Anti-government rebels were said to be in control of at least nine towns in Haiti yesterday, including the ports of Gonaives and St Marc, after several days of violence in the country which have threatened the authority of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and left more than 40 dead.
The crisis in Haiti, appeared to be deepening quickly. Himler Rebu, an opposition figure and former army colonel, said: "We are in a situation of armed popular insurrection."
Guy Delva, secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, said: "It's an open armed conflict now. It's not a joke."
Other towns and communities that are aligned with the government were fortifying themselves in case of rebel attacks. Residents were yesterday barricading the streets in the southern resort town of Jacmel in an effort to keep out anti-government forces.
The unrest boiled over last Thursday when a gang once loyal to President Aristide seized the northern port of Gonaives and released about 100 prisoners. The gang, previously known as the Cannibals, has renamed itself the Gonaives Resistance Front.
About 150 police officers were repelled when they attempted to retake Gonaives on Saturday. About 14 police officers and several civilians were killed in gun battles, some reports said. One police officer was lynched. Gonaives, with a population of about 200,000, holds symbolic historical importance as the city in which Haiti declared independence in 1804 after slaves defeated Napoleon's army.
Rioting spread on Sunday to St Marc, another port city about 50 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Protesters broke into ship containers and stole television sets, mattresses and bags of flour.
They also blocked most of the roads in the city with felled trees and burning cars. Two civilians were reported dead in the town from the fighting. Sporadic gunfire was reported from St Marc again last night.
At least six other smaller towns close to Gonaives have also fallen to the rebels, including Ennery, Gros Morne, L'Estere, Anse Rouge, Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite and Trou du Nord, according to the Haitian Press Network. Residents in these towns were mobilising to support the rebels.
President Aristide, a former priest who was elected to power in 1991, was ousted in a coup by the army and then reinstalled after American intervention in 1994.
He is in effect ruling by decree after Haiti's parliament ceased to function earlier this year. The rebels are demanding his removal from office and they are accusing him of corruption and human rights abuses. His term runs until 2006.
The troubles began after President Aristide's Lavalas Party swept the board in legislative elections in 2000. International observers said that the election was flawed. President Aristide agreed to new elections last year, but opposition groups refused to participate, triggering a crisis. Anti-government protests and general strikes have been crippling the already impoverished country and 68 people have died in clashes since September, when the mutilated body of the former leader of the Cannibal gang was found next to a road.
The mainstream opposition parties appeared to be pulling back from being associated with the violence. Leaders of the key parties, the Group of 184 and Democratic Convergence, have condemned the Cannibals as an Aristide creation, a link the government has denied.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd



This Site Served by TheHostPros