Haiti Archives 1995-1996
23/11/95 HAITI: Government, U.N., Downplay Reports of Rift by Farhan Haq

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 23 (IPS) — Despite tensions on the ground in Haiti, the United Nations and the Haitian government both insist that their relationship remains largely positive.

Ties have appeared in doubt ever since President Jena-Bertrand Aristide reacted to the murder earlier this month of a Haitian parliamentarian by calling for the Haitian populace to demobilise armed militia groups by themselves.

Haitians responded by setting up barricades in several towns and cities, including the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as Gonaives. In Gonaives, U.N. troops reportedly clashed with Haitian demonstrators, killing at least one person — a charge U.N. spokesman Joe Sills strongly denied last week.

But for now, even as U.S. and U.N. officials privately grumble about Aristide’s growing independence, all sides insist they want to support each other.

The Haitian government’s desire to disarm suspected anti- government forces was basically the same as that of U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) peacekeepers, Sills said. The only problem, he added, was that the government’s hopes for ‘’peaceful and orderly’’ demobilisation had not always filtered down to crowds of Haitians who are increasingly frustrated with the process.

‘’Our relationship (with the Haitian government) has been up and down,’’ Sills conceded. ‘’We’ve had a bit of a down in the past few days with the violence that has taken place.’’

‘’I don’t think there’s growing tension,’’ Ira Kurzban, the U.S. legal adviser to the Haitian government, contended. ‘’I see the relations (with the United Nations and United States) as quite good.’’

Haitians have been frustrated with what they deem is insufficient action by the United Nations and the United States— the main force behind UNMIH — to dismantle the groups which terrorised Haitian society during the reign of the 1991-94 military regime, Kurzban contended.

‘’I think the Haitian government expects that the U.N. and U.S. forces should use their substantial information capabilities to disarm and control’’ former anti-Aristide militia members and soldiers, Kurzban said.

But recent information from Haiti has showed that some U.S. agencies, in particular, remain reluctant to provide information on the right-wing Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) and other armed groups loyal to the former regime under Gen. Raoul Cedras.

Thousands of pages of FRAPH documents obtained by the United States reportedly have yet to be shared with Aristide, Haitian sources say.

A recent U.N. report also downplayed the importance of militia violence, arguing, ‘’There is no indication of any organised threat to the government of Haiti at this time.’’ Instead, the U.N. report said, the appearance of ‘’vigilante groups’’ seeking to track down militia members was regarded as a main concern by the United Nations.

Vigilante activity had appeared quite limited, until pro- Arisitide legislator Jean Hubert Feuille was shot dead in Port-au- Prince Nov 7. In the ensuing rage against his death, several Haitians were killed, while the government moved against some suspected supporters of the anti-Aristide armed groups. One former military president, Gen. Prosper Avril, sought refuge in the Colombian Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Aristide responded to the uproar by denouncing the failure of the U.N. force to more aggressively disarm his foes and expressing his own frustration with its efforts to prevent the people from doing so.

‘’The game of hypocrisy is over,’’ Aristide said last week to a cheering crowd. ‘’We don’t have two or three heads of state, we have one,’’ he argued, clearly referring to the U.S. and U.N. head officials in Haiti.

U.S. officials have refrained from commenting publicly on Aristide’s words. But privately, officials here have complained that the Haitian president should avoid any resort to ‘’demagoguery,’’ a charge that Washington has slapped on Aristide repeatedly over the years.

Kurzban contended the problems are the fault of only a few U.S. organisations rather than being a sign of a wider rift.

‘’I think the (U.S.) Defense Intelligence Agency and certain components of the intelligence community in the United States could help to identify people committing terrorist acts,’’ Kurzban said. ‘’Up to now, they have not done so.’’

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) previously even drafted a psychological evaluation critical of Aristide, at a time when the elected president was in exile following his ouster by Cedras. That evaluation, which depicted Aristide as moody and unstable, was used by Cedras and his U.S. critics to undercut efforts aimed at restoring Aristide.

Now, Kurzban argued, those intelligence forces have to convince the Aristide government that they are intent on keeping his government secure and on combatting its armed foes. If they are not perceived as doing so, he warned, the public mood in Haiti will remain volatile.

He added that Washington should move quickly to disburse funds that have been held up as a result of the Aristide government’s failure to privatise nine state-owned industries, including the power company. ‘’It would be very unfortunate if the money does not materialise,’’ he said. (END/IPS/FAH/JL/95)

Origin: Amsterdam/HAITI/ ----

[c] 1995, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved

May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service outside of the APC networks, without specific permission from IPS. This limitation includes distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media and broadcast. For information about cross- posting, send a message to <ips-info@igc.apc.org>. For information about print or broadcast reproduction please contact the IPS coordinator at <ipsrom@gn.apc.org>.

Main Index >> Index >> Haiti Index