Interim government paves way for return of the military. Haiti Support Group press release, 20 August 2004
The London-based Haiti Support Group – a solidarity organisation working alongside Haiti’s popular, democratic movement since 1992 – continues to be seriously concerned by the power wielded by armed irregular forces in Haiti and by their increasingly bold demands for the re-establishment of the Haitian Army.
These concerns are heightened in the context of the farcical ‘trial’ and acquittals of former FRAPH leader, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, and former Anti-Gang head, Jackson Joanis, and the recent mobilisation of former soldiers in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, and in the Central Plateau and other parts of the country.
Most alarmingly, the interim government appears to be increasing its interaction with the illegal armed groups which helped overthrow the Lavalas Family government in February 2004, and, in some cases, has actively courted and engaged former leaders of the defunct Armed Forces of Haiti.
The Haitian Times newspaper of 18 August reports that the interim government has appointed Winter Etienne as the new director of the National Port Authority in Gonaives. Winter Etienne, along with fugitive from justice and former FRAPH member, Jean Tatoune, led the armed uprising in Gonaives in late 2003 and early 2004. Etienne is currently the coordinator of the new political party, the National Reconstruction Front, headed by former army officer and police commissioner – not to mention coup plotter – Guy Philippe.
At the Ministry of Interior, former Army chief, ex-General Herard Abraham is continuing to integrate former high level officers from the Haitian Army into his staff. One of the new appointees is former Colonel, Williams Regala, once the right-hand man of dictator Henri Namphy, and allegedly the principal instigator of the massacre of voters that took place on 29 November 1987. That same year, Regala, then Namphy’s Minister of Interior, told the New York Times that the Army was ”the guardian of a way of life, of the integrity of the nation. When political institutions begin to collapse, the Army has a duty to take over.”
Regala joins a host of other former high command officers at the Ministry of Interior. One of the most notorious of these is former Colonel, Henri-Robert Marc-Charles. In September 1991, Marc-Charles joined General Raoul Cedras in forming a military junta to overthrow the elected government. At present, he is a top advisor to Abraham despite the existence of a judicial order requiring his imprisonment, pending trial for involvement in the 12 March 1990 Piatre peasant massacre.
Under Herard Abraham, the Ministry of Interior is busying itself with the tasks of recruiting former soldiers into the National Police Force, and preparing to pay ten years’ back-pay and pensions to all members of the Army that was disbanded in 1995.
Meanwhile, in the Central Plateau region, former Army Colonel Remissainthe Ravix claims to lead some 1,800 re-armed soldiers, and has ridiculed the interim’s government’s proposal that they disarm. His intent seemed to be demonstrated when, on 17 August, five riot squad (CIMO) officers returned to their base in the capital from a mission to the Central Plateau claiming that they had been attacked and dispossessed of their arms and vehicle by men wearing military uniform. Radio Kiskeya reports that their colleagues at the CIMO allege that the attack was planned by the government-appointed director of the National Police administration, Destorel Germain, a former soldier who is believed to be allied with the demobilised soldiers.