Enraged Haitians hunt down the old guard

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The Independent Online
'THEY almost tore the roof down and tried to throw a brazier of hot charcoal in my face. They hit me in the stomach where I had my caesarian,' said Marie Andre Marcial, wife of the head of a local paramilitary organisation that policed the village of Grand Boucand in the high plateau of Haiti for the military government.

Beside her stood her husband, Madsen Hypolite, who admitted that he had been a member of Fraph, to which many who were loyal to the old regime belonged.

'I resigned in April and gave back my gun,' he said. It was a .38 pistol and many villagers, who were both angry at and intimidated by him, said he still had it.

'Watch his hands,' said one man, because Madsen - as he was called by everybody in the district - kept running them along his belt to behind his back where his white shirt-tail fell over his shorts. Several villagers believed that he was fingering a gun tucked into his belt.

There are continual rumours of arms being hidden by supporters of the ousted regime, and Madsen had every reason to feel frightened. In every village and city in Haiti, gunmen who used to terrorise people are being hunted down.

One of the more sinister sounds in Port-au-Prince is the screech of machetes being sharpened by crowds looking for members of Fraph; Haitians use the term Attaches Maucoutes and Fraph interchangeably to describe the gunmen of the old regime.

Madsen, who owned a small business selling ice, has fled with his wife from Cite Soleil - a stronghold of supporters of President Jean- Bertrand Aristide, many of whom have lost relatives to the death-squads, to her home in Grand Boucaud two weeks ago.

Isolated even by Haitian standards, the village is down a narrow earth track that can be reached only from a disintegrating road which zig- zags through the mountains of Trou D'Eau into Haiti's central plateau.

There is no doubt about the popularity of Father Aristide in the district.

Red and blue posters showing his face are on every shack. Slogans in Creole, such as 'Aristide can do it', are written on the ground with white stones.

In Grand Boucaud, an impromptu meeting of villagers - about what to do with Madsen - was at times almost parliamentary in tone and at others menacingly close to a lynch mob.

A man in a red shirt called Jean Yves Dermane, who admitted attacking the Madsen family that morning, told the crowd: 'If they are as innocent as they say they are, let's send them back to Cite Soleil and see what they do with them there.'

The villagers roared approval. But then Madsen pushed forward and shouted: 'We are not in Cite Soleil. Is there anybody here who can say I shot at him or beat him or stole from him?' Nobody said a word.

At this point two US Special Forces soldiers, acccompanied by some Haitian troops, arrived. Based in the town of Mirebalais, an hour away, the villagers had come to ask them to search for arms. Under orders to detain anybody who started violence, they began to take away Jean-Yves Dermane.

If he had been detained, then Madsen would probably have been attacked later in retaliation. But he and his wife begged the soldiers to release Dermane, saying everybody in the village was his friend. This may have saved him.

At the local barracks, Captain Gregg Cardott, the Special Forces commander, said his men were always being asked to search for weapons, but seldom found any.

He said Mirebalais was generally peaceful, although two police officers who had tried to issue warrants near a town called Saut D'Eau had been killed and he was still negotiating with the villagers who killed them to recover the bodies.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is to send a group of military psychiatrists to Haiti after the third suicide of a US serviceman there since the invasion of the country a month ago, writes Rupert Cornwell. The move was announced after a private had shot himself in Port-au-Prince.

(Photograph omitted)