Haiti leader expected to go today

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE ARMY commander in Haiti, General Raoul Cedras, is expected to step down today as the military regime is dissolved. He will probably go into exile in Spain. His chief of staff, General Philippe Biamby, is also expected to leave office today and is likely to live in the Dominican Republic.

The accord under which General Cedras and General Biamby will give up the power they seized by overthrowing the elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, three years ago, is believed to have been agreed by the military leaders' envoys in Washington on Saturday.

Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff, said yesterday that he could not confirm the agreement. But the United States is on track in its overall policy of removing the military leaders and restoring President Aristide.

Washington officials told the Independent they expected General Cedras and General Biamby to go within a few days. They said General Cedras, who had said he did not want to leave Haiti, was likely to fly to the US and go on to Spain, where he has a house. 'If Aristide is to return on 15 October, there has to be some time between him coming back and Cedras leaving,' an official said. 'There has to be a new commander in chief, who will appoint officers including a new chief of police.' The former Port-au-Prince police chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Francois, fled to the Dominican Republic last Tuesday.

The new army commander will reportedly be General Jean-Claude Duperval, an amiable man who is in theory number two to General Cedras, but whose authority has been eclipsed by General Biamby, considered the most hardline of the three military leaders who staged the 1991 coup. General Biamby will be replaced by Colonel Herbert Valmond.

There is no doubt that most Haitians will be glad to see General Cedras go. When he went to Port-au-Prince airport on Saturday to talk to the visiting US Defense Secretary, William Perry, his white land-cruiser was mobbed by hawkers and taxi-drivers. They pursued his vehicle, shouting: 'Go] Go] Go]'

General Biamby, who lives in his mother's house, a modest villa in the capital, was not to be found there yesterday. A soldier in civilian clothes who was guarding the house denied a rumour that General Biamby had been arrested and said he was attending a meeting at the military headquarters. General Cedras was also not to be found at the Methodist church where he often worships.

As the military government is dismantled there are few signs of tension in the capital and fewer American troops are to be seen. At the yellow-and-white military headquarters beside the presidential palace, to which President Aristide will return next Saturday, a sleepy soldier said nothing was happening because it was Sunday.

At least 14 people were killed when a suspected paramilitary member drove a truck into a pro- democracy demonstration in Miragoane, west of Port-au-Prince, Reuter reports.

People in the crowd said the man deliberately drove his vehicle into the rally and sped away. Twelve people were killed instantly and two died in hospital.

(Photograph omitted)