Baby Doc's right-hand man back in business: Machine-gun fire echoes through Haiti's capital on the day President Aristide should have returned from exile

'I AM not a violent man. But if foreign troops disembark on my soil, I shall resist. I am ready to die for my poor, dirty little country. I was an expert in anti-guerrilla warfare. Listen well.' There is doubt as to whether Franck Romain, 57, former Duvalierist mayor and police chief of Port-au-Prince would be anywhere near the beach were there to be foreign intervention. But he was well aware his staring eyes and dramatic gestures would soon be beamed around the world, and more particularly into President Clinton's Oval Office.

Nor was his claim to non-violence believed by the newsmen Mr Romain surprised in a dramatic breakfast visit to the Oloffson Hotel. Mr Romain was once the most feared individual in the land, a leader of the notorious Tontons Macoute gunmen and alleged to be responsible for a 1988 church massacre during a service held by the man who became Haiti's exiled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Mr Romain was seen with the church gunmen shortly before the massacre, in which 13 people died. He fled the country a few days later and has lived in exile in the neighbouring Dominican Republic since. Now, it seems, the right-hand man of Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier is back. He had, he said, been allowed back by Mr Aristide's Prime Minister, Robert Malval. 'I've known Mr Malval for 30 years.'

It was only a temporary visit, he said. But he appeared to suggest he considered himself very much back in the Haiti game. 'I'm ready to sit down with him (Mr Aristide),' he said. Why an exiled, suspected mass murderer would be involved in any negotiations, he did not explain.

Mr Romain is also on a list of leading Haitians barred from the United States and whose assets there have been frozen. The ex- mayor said he had no idea why.

The breakfast visit to the hotel came after a night of heavy gunfire in the capital and rumours of in- fighting involving soldiers, police and para-military gunmen. Reporters listening in to military and police VHF radio channels heard not only local Creole, but also American and Spanish voices as the rifle and machine-gun fire crackled through the deserted streets for more than four hours until midnight on Saturday.

The American voice may have been a US marine or security guard, one of a small force here to protect American diplomats. He spoke of sending help to someone trapped by the gunfire. A female American voice referred to him in her reply as 'colonel'. Haitians who listened to the VHF traffic with reporters said they thought one Creole voice may have been that of Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois, whose resignation, along with army commander General Raoul Cedras, is demanded by Mr Aristide, the US and the United Nations.

Voices spoke of going to the presidential palace, then to the airport. Someone was said to be headed for the Dominican Republic. But by dawn yesterday the capital was quiet and there was no indication that anything appeared to have changed. Had the shooting been a particularly heavy session of intimidation? There were no bodies on the streets, no signs of damage, only an eerie calm.

The shooting, much of which appeared to come from roving four- wheel drive vehicles, may simply have been celebrations by troops, police or gunmen who prevented Mr Aristide from returning from exile as scheduled on Saturday.

At one point during Saturday the evening, a burst of sub-machine gun fire broke out within 20 yards of the hotel where UN special envoy Dante Caputo was dining. His security guards went on extra alert but Mr Caputo continued eating.

Gazing, stunned, as Mr Romain leaned forward in anger from his chair at any suggestion he had ever killed anyone, was 19-year-old Waldeck Janvier. Mr Janvier was one of the street orphans fed and housed by Mr Aristide at the St Jean Bosco church where the 1988 massacre took place, who narrowly escaped unharmed . Waldeck clearly could not believe his eyes.

'I don't think Mr Aristide is very stable. His head turns in all directions at once,' said Mr Romain. 'I know one of the perpetrators of the St Jean Bosco massacre. He went to Libya and is now in the Dominican Republic. I will not name him. But he is from the sector of Aristide himself.'

An American photographer who narrowly escaped death in the attack looked incredulous, but continued taking his picture.

And why did Haitians fear Mr Romain so? In his slow, elaborate French, he replied. 'Perhaps they do hold me in a certain regard.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat