RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
Joy tempered by reality in new Haiti

The family fear he was caught in the crossfire - one of the scores who died on Sunday when armed gangs supporting Mr Aristide were rapidly replaced by another group of armed gangs opposing him. Bystanders never stood a chance.

"I don't know what happened to him," Mrs Cheribe says. "He was not involved in politics but in these times anyone can be unlucky. I just want to know what happened."

At the makeshift hospital set up by a Cuban medical brigade next door to the main building, doctors attended to 18 people injured in the street fighting, all with bullet wounds. "We sent them to the Canape Vert hospital because there were no doctors in the general hospital," medical director Hector Torres said.

"One 12-year-old boy had a bullet wound in his back and the exit wound in his chest."

Such is the vacuum in Port-au-Prince the day after Mr Aristide's departure. After a day of looting and shooting those shops still standing are closed.

The blazing roadblocks which pro-Aristide gangs, the chimeres, once controlled now pose little more than charred slalom challenges for drivers. The runway at the airport, which was empty on Saturday, now serves as a concrete welcome mat for military forces from the US, Canada and France. The tap-taps (local buses) are back on the road, but with the petrol stations still closed small children sell them cans of fuel at the roadside.

At various hospitals the worried go in search of the missing. In various parts of the city those Aristide supporters who did not flee are in hiding. A tense calm reigns after the bloody, chaotic storm.

Into this vacuum drove the victorious cavalcade of Guy Philippe and Louis-Jodel Chamblain - the former chief of police accused of fomenting two coups and a death squad leader from a previous dictatorship.

The convoy of more than 70 rebels commanded by Mr Philippe left the western town of Gonaives - the first city to fall to rebels and precipitate the crisis - before dawn, driving past scenes of death and destruction.

In the town of St Marc, which the rebels had taken and then lost to pro-Aristide gangs, the convoy passed a roadblock where the charred bodies of three people lay in the middle of the road.

The rebel vehicles had mechanical trouble during the drive, delaying their arrival in the capital. Mr Philippe's bulletproof van broke down and he hopped into a truck.

When they arrived they performed a lap of honour around the presidential palace to the release of doves and ebullient crowds chanting: "Aristide had to go, whether he wanted to or not." From the side streets throngs of people came to join them, carrying huge Haitian flags. T-shirts announcing support for the opposition not worn out in the open for weeks were displayed proudly on their chests.

On the road to the airport, some Haitians held up two fingers in a victory sign. Others held up three fingers, a sign that Mr Aristide's presidency had ended after three years of a five-year term.

But if the demonstrations revealed joy at Mr Aristide's departure, they gave a hint of the challenges to come. As well as armed rebels wearing camouflage uniforms with US army insignia (bought in bulk at surplus stores), there were armed civilians and police.

Having shown that force works, the struggle to restore order and disarm the gangs on both sides might prove more elusive. For most Haitians the key issue is less who is in power than what they are going to do with it. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, has been ravaged by Aids and has an average life expectancy of 53. About 83% of the population live on less than £2 a day.

Lyonel Charleus, 41, trained as an electrician. He has never had a proper job but he puts his skills to work stealing power from lines in the streets so his family has electricity.

He laughs when asked whether he receives help from the government. "There's no way the government would help to feed you."

"Very hard, very hard life," he says. "If it was harder, it would be death."

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
book review
'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
 follow on twitter
RT @mrjamesob: “The fascists of the future will tweet a lot of made up Winston Churchill quotes.” Abraham Lincoln.
RT @Lanre_Bakare: Proud to work with @aamnamohdin and @Haroon_Siddique - they've been all over BLM protests and Covid-19 BAME deaths, respe…
"If Europe has a proven talent for anti-racist solidarity with Black America, one that has once again come to fore… https://t.co/ZqiMG2OaMa
RT @CBCAdrianH: "Most of those who run, & recruit to, British newspapers. claim they are colour-blind. But blindness is a disability. If yo…
"From the vantage point of a continent that both resents and covets American power, African-Americans represent to… https://t.co/qi4MLj6aqD
RT @mirakamdar: "Answering the laments for George Floyd in the US this week, Parisians chanted the name of Adama Traoré, a citizen of Malia…
My brilliant colleague, Claire Alexander, on her research on Asian gangs, black youth culture, masculinity and puzz… https://t.co/KyXAnNW3Sq
RT @AliaRebeccaSara: An amazingly timely and poignant meeting. Thank you to guests @garyyounge @SoniaAdesara Iain Wilson and Dame Donna Kin…
RT @DoubleDownNews: Full 33 minute interview with @garyyounge on the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter: https://t.co/zt1BcP5A9t
There’s a few bad batons in every barrel! https://t.co/alnN15zOA6
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc