US troops ready for Haiti role

THE FIRST contingent of 600 US troops arrive in Haiti in the next 48 hours to support the transition from military to civilian rule. To get them there the White House had to crush objections by the Pentagon based on fears that violence in Haiti is worsening. The military chief, General Raoul Cedras, and Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Francois, chief of police of Port-au- Prince, show little sign of making way for the government they overthrew two years ago.

They are, on the contrary, almost certainly orchestrating the attacks by death squads on ministers and supporters of President Jean- Bertrand Aristide, the Catholic priest elected in 1990 whom they are meant to restore to power when he returns to Haiti on 30 October. In the last week alone, gunmen belonging to the auxiliary paramilitary police have tried to kill two of Fr Aristide's leading supporters.

There is little attempt to hide who is doing the killing. The gunmen, known in the capital as attaches, are the descendants of the Tontons Macoutes. They control neighbourhoods by terror, identifying opponents who are killed, tortured or forced - as were 200,000 Haitians - to flee.

'We do not have an army but a gang,' said Jean-Claude Bajeux, a human rights organiser who survived an assassination attempt last week. 'Six years after Jean-Claude (Duvalier) left, we realise that the Macoutes are alive and well.'

The killers flaunt their links with the government. On Thursday attaches shut down Port-au- Prince and the countryside in a strike enforced at gunpoint. Five hundred marched past army headquarters calling on officers, who waved back, not to step down.

'Experience shows that the military, including the paramilitary attaches, are much better organised than people imagine,' says a UN official with long experience of Haiti. He points out that in the presidential election in 1990, when Fr Aristide was elected, there were no violent incidents because the military tried not to antagonise international observers.

They are no longer trying very hard. Under the Governor's Island accord, signed in July, Gen Cedras should resign on 15 October. Col Francois was to transfer abroad. They may still do so, but death squads have killed more than 100 people in the past two months with the intention of keeping real power in their hands.

In theory, the arrival of 600 US soldiers - a further 700 UN police are also promised - will calm the situation. The soldiers will be engineers and training officers, their duty to build roads and bridges and help create a new Haitian army split off from the police. Canadian Mounties and French Gendarmes are in Haiti to train the police.

The Governor's Island deal all looked good to the US and UN dipomats who designed the accord. The Clinton administration, fearing a fresh wave of Haitian refugees, wanted to restore President Aristide. The UN Security Council was pressuring the Haitian elite with an oil embargo, and there was the prospect of international aid if the military stepped aside.

Perhaps Gen Cedras and Col Francois never intended to go. Diplomats do not doubt they are trying to sabotage the agreement. Gen Cedras went to the High Court last week to keep in power a chief justice appointed by the military. Another pro-Ariside official was forced with a gun at his head to drink sewer water from the gutter.

Late in the day the Pentagon began to express reservations about going into Haiti; at the very moment the State Department was trying to convince the Haitian military that Washington is serious about the return of Fr Aristide, the Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, suggested that US troops remain on board ship off the coast of Haiti.

The White House overruled the Pentagon, but Gen Cedras has probably taken heart from fresh evidence of the shakiness of the US commitment. He will also know that US troop losses in Somalia have damped enthusiasm in Washington for any commitment of troops to UN operations. Last- minute doubts in the Pentagon will have reinforced the belief of Gen Cedras and Col Francois that they still have much to play for.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant - Global Leader - FTSE 250

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run school photogra...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map