RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
Rebels cut off Haiti's second city

Barricaded within their station, the police admitted they could not repel the attacks and were terrified. "Of course we are," one told the Associated Press. "It's a natural reaction after what [has] happened in other parts of the country."

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Aristide vowed to fight on. "We have machetes and guns and we will resist," said Pierre Frandley, a carpenter.

Aid agencies called for urgent international action, claiming that Haiti was "on the verge of a generalised civil war", as radio stations said that police officers in four towns had deserted their posts.

Mr Aristide rebuffed US suggestions that he convene early presidential elections as a way to defuse the crisis, a senior US official said last night.

Radio Metropole, a station sympathetic to opponents of Mr Aristide, reported that police had abandoned their posts in the central towns of Mireblais, Savanette and Las Cahobas, as well as Belladere on the western border with the Dominican Republic, the latest sign that the small, demoralised force is no match for rebels joined this week by former soldiers of Haiti's disbanded army.

The political crisis has accelerated rapidly in the past two weeks as political opposition to Mr Aristide in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has been bolstered in the provinces by armed gangs. Their forces were strengthened at the weekend by the return of death squad leaders and ex-soldiers from the former dictatorship.

"The army is no longer demobilised. The army is mobilised," said Jean-Baptiste Joseph, a former sergeant who was jailed in the 1990s for plotting insurrection.

Amnesty International said yesterday: "As rebel forces under the leadership of convicted human rights abusers expand their control in the centre and north of the country, and the population of conflict areas is cut off from supplies of food and medicines, fears of a mass refugee outflow are bound to increase."

Mr Aristide's critics are calling on him to resign, claiming he has lost credibility after rigging parliamentary elections in 2000 and presiding over human rights abuses.

He insists he will see out his term until 2006, and accuses his opponents of trying to oust him by unconstitutional means. But with no army and only 4,000 policemen, he has become increasingly reliant on gangs loyal to his Lavalas party. Efforts at mediation by the Organisation of American States and the Caribbean community, Caricom, have failed.

France, Haiti's former colonising power which has 4,000 troops in its Caribbean territories, is considering sending a peacekeeping force, or proposing the UN do so. However, the French government would first like to see some prospect of reconciliation between both sides.

"An intervention force _ implies a stop to the violence, a restart to dialogue," said the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin. "Nothing will be possible in Haiti if there isn't a jolt."

The US and the European Union are pressing both sides to reach a political solution. "The EU strongly believes that the present crisis in Haiti must be resolved peacefully by seeking dialogue and compromise," an EU statement said yesterday. "All constitutional solutions should be considered."

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, said the world body was planning to become "much more actively engaged" in Haiti's crisis.

In the fourth largest city, Gonaives, food reached the town for the first time since the rebels took control two weeks ago. As lorries arrived with lentils and millet, rebels fired shots in the air to prevent residents from stampeding them. One woman was hospitalised after being trampled.

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
Another Day in the Death of America
book review
Younge’s masterwork. To be read through tears. Brilliantly reported, quietly indignant and utterly gripping. Naomi Klein
 follow on twitter
RT @typemediacenter: #ICYMI, read @garyyounge’s recent five-part @guardian series on the challenges, tensions, and vast untapped potential…
RT @MSNBC: 2017 marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, according to a new report. https://t.co/zvf…
"Aimee was generous, always guiding outreach workers to homeless people she considered vulnerable. She was less goo… https://t.co/6M64Or8KoG
RT @LSHGofficial: The Staying Power of Peter Fryer - Discussion with contributions from @DavidOlusoga @garyyounge, and Terry Brotherstone.…
RT @DrFrancesRyan: “Austerity was absolutely a choice. You chose to hurt communities.” @Miatsf absolutely destroys Kate Andrews and a Tory…
RT @NesrineMalik: ‘It is not talent but access to the right people, the adventurism of those with nothing to lose, the financial comfort th…
RT @NLawrenceOBE: We always mark the birthday of our son Stephen. We will never forget him. I also remember others suffering the ongoing gr…
RT @hoperoadpublish: We've got that #FridayFeeling, as the weekend is prime book reading time! Looking for a great diverse read? #TheNowh
RT @Maxine_GLabs: I am looking for #BAME features writers please? Please send me names, a contact (email or social) and areas of interest/s…
RT @eldiarioInt: "Socialismo" ya no es una palabrota en Estados Unidos https://t.co/zpwg0oCKii Lo explica Gary Younge (@garyyounge) https:/…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc