Monday, November 27, 2006

Violence threatens to blow away Haiti’s fragile democratic gains

Following two shocking recent murders in Haiti of 20 year-old university student Farah Natacha Kerby Dessources and 6 year-old Carl Rubens Francillon, coming as they do on the heels of the grinding march of violence in the Martissant neighborhood, which began in July and seems to show no signs of abating, the tenure of Haiti’s president René Préval appears to be entering a new phase. Unfortunately it seems to be one which is dominated by fears of insecurity as opposed to hope that Haiti’s democratically-elected president and parliament (installed in May) will be able to rapidly turn the country around from its path of political violence and economic exclusion.

Haiti had no longer attempted to recover from Natacha Kerby’s slaying - which found the first year student at l’Ecole Normale St-Louis de Gonzague kidnapped, horrifically tortured and thrown onto a rubbish pile - than young Rubens Francillon was kidnapped from his school in the capital’s neighborhood of Turgeau on November 8th and found strangled outside of the northern city of Cap-Haïtien this weekend.

At Farah Natacha Kerby’s funeral in Haiti’s capital on Port-au-Prince on Saturday at the Pax Villa Sainte-Anne downtown, a demonstration of several hundred people lead by former student leader Josué Mérilien and Rosemond Jean, the former head of the Coordination National des Sociétaires Victimes (CONASOVIC), marched to Haiti’s National Palace and chanted that Préval himself “an accomplice with criminals,” a charge that, however unlikely, gives a glimpse as to the sense of exasperation Haiti’s urban population feels with violence that has continued to claim lives despite a new government with extensive foreign support. Given Mérilien’s and Jean’s years of street-level organizing, this could represent a significant moment in its relations with a population that, on many sides, have grown weary of being victimized with impunity by criminals and criminal-political actors (the two vocations often being interlinked in Haiti).

Haiti’s urban population is not alone. Recently, the Plateforme nationale des organisations paysannes haïtiennes (PLANOPA), meeting at the peasant bastion of Papaye in Haiti’s Plateau Central region, assailed the Préval government for what the organization charges was a lackadaisical approach to combating Haiti’s insecurity.

One hopes for the best, but I fear that things are about to get quite a bit darker before they get any better.

No comments: