Serge Bellegarde wrote:A brief summary of the Kongrè Bwa Kayiman, Feb. 5-6, 2005<p align=justify>Last week-end, Feb 5-6, 2005, the Kongrè Bwa Kayiman took place at Trinity College. Apart from the significance of the Kongrè, it was an extremely useful medium to communicate information about the real situation in Haiti, to those who dot know, but are looking for a source of information, to learn first hand about the real story. The following is a very brief summary of the salient points of the Kongrè which I felt merits particular attention from our part.
Dr. Robert Maguire, Director of Trinity College, was the gracious host of this Kongrè. The organ
izing committee consisted of Fondasyon Mapou, September 30th Foundation, Haiti Action Committee, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and the Initiative for Democracy. Among other goals, this Kongrè aimed at not only acquiring “support for the popular democratic movement in Haiti”, but also to “put an end to the abuses and the killing of innocent people…”.
Another important goal of the Kongrè was to provide information which is not otherwise accessible to representatives of the many grassroots organizations in this country concerned by the situation in Haiti, individuals and the Haitian Diaspora in general, particularly given the amount of disinformation, misinformation and outright lies about the situation on the ground.
Different speakers took the floor and I will mention some of them briefly
and others a little bit more extensively. The master of ceremony was Yvon Kernisan.
- <p align=justify>Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, founder of the September 30th Foundation, officially opened the proceedings. A long-time fighter for democracy, he set out to present the reality in Haiti, indicating that the fight was difficult, but ultimately, democracy would prevail, despite the efforts of the present government to stop the democratic movement.
- <p align=justify>Ira Kurzban, a long time expert on U.S. Immigration policy and a lawyer for President Aristide, also took the floor He painted a bleak picture of the situation in Haiti, the violations of the law. He took advantage to underline how nervous the French Gvt. was about the issue of reparations which had taken roots in all conversations in Haiti. An interesting point he insisted upon was that contrary to what some people h
ad been saying, a very careful and thorough effort had been developed to prepare the case against France. Six months before, investigation had been made in archives in France and all over the world; a legal framework had been set up and a whole host of lawyers were working on the issue. However, the case suffered a terrible blow when someone stole the legal framework they had set up and delivered it to the French Foreign Ministry. He did not give further details, but one may assume that the group had been infiltrated.
- <p align=justify>Another speaker was Saurel François, from the Fanmi Lavalas Political Committee who described the many persecutions that members of this party were submitted to. However, he underlined how determined the Lavalas supporters were to resist at all costs and to keep fighting for the attainment of one goal: the physical return of President Aristide.
p align=justify>Another speaker was Deputy Bolivar Ramilus, Representative of Cotes-de-Fer. I must say I was most impressed with his presentation. Deputy Ramilus is a no-nonsense guy who speaks his mind, is an activist and always on the move. He explained how in his area, he had been able to build bridges, execute other public works, and all that, without foreign aid. His goal, he was telling me afterward, was to demonstrate that we can do things without relying on foreign support which, most of the time, is not forthcoming. No wonder then that after the coup d’État, he had to go into hiding, removing his family from the area to protect them. In fact an arrest warrant has been issued against him, of course without charges.
- <p align=justify>Mario Dupuy, spokesperson for President Aristide, showed a video describing realizations made under the Aristide Administration: more than 100 schools built, the public plazas, a hospital, the
Peace University, public housing, roads. He underlined that given the disinformation campaign, you would have the impression that nothing was done under Aristide, something which was echoed by Deputy Ramilus.
- <p align=justify>Njoki Njoroge Njehu, for the 50 years Is Enough Network, fresh from the Porto Alegre World Socialist meeting, provided strong support to the struggle for democracy in Haiti and stressed how important it was to create a an efficient network, so as to work more proficiently.
But it is in the area of Human Rights that one can have an idea of how appalling and dire the situation in Haiti is. This was hammered home by the following speakers.
- <p align=justify>Mario Joseph is one of the most respected human rights lawyers in Haiti, putting his own life in danger everyday. For the time being, he represents about 60 prisoners who were arrested without a warrant. Me. Joseph points out
that the repression in Haiti is made in 3 major ways.
- <p align=justify>Summary executions.
Among other examples, Me Joseph described the conditions in which the reporter Abdias Jean was killed on January 14 by police after witnessing how the latter had killed 3 young men. Another case was that of Jimmy Charles, whose bullet-ridden body was found at the morgue by his father who had seen him alive 2 days before. A striking element in this case is that Jimmy Charles was arrested by the MINUSTAH (the United Nations forces) without warrant and delivered to the police. This made the UN forces an accomplice in this crime. Me Joseph describes how the police, with the logistical support of MINUSTAH, goes into the poor neighborhoods, exerting incredible violence, killing young people and when they retreat, the MINUSTAH moves in and occupies the area. This is done in a systematic manner, seemingly according to a plan. This makes the UN forces an a
ctive participant and accomplice in the killing of innocent people. Me. Joseph also cites the case of Joseph Ederson, 21 years old, arrested in the middle of the night by policemen wearing masks and armed civilians, shot in the back. He is treating all of these cases as crimes against humanity.
- <p align=justify>Arrests without warrants.
This is another method for the present Gvt. to effectively stifle all opposition. Many Lavalas officials are in prison, having being arrested without warrant, never appearing before a judge, as required by he Constitution, and kept illegally in prison even after a judge orders their release. Me. Joseph documented all these cases, underlining that even after a judge order the release of the prisoner, Minister of justice Gousse personally prevents their release. Me Joseph also points out that his work is handicapped by the lack of human resources to do the work. The authorities take advantage of that, knowing that he can on
ly be one place at a time. Thus, he is on his way to Cap Haïtien to examine a case, and he receives a phone call saying that one of his clients, Jean-Marie Samedi, illegally arrested and detained for many months, is appearing in court and he does not have a lawyer. Since November, a judge ordered the release of Jean-Marie Samedi, but Minister Gousse has vetoed the release.
- <p align=justify>Rape.
The phenomenon of rape as an instrument of political repression first surfaced after the 1991 coup d’État against Aristide. It is back in full force. According to Me. Joseph, There is a massive wave of rape against women, particularly in the poor neighborhoods. Young girls, mother, grandmothers are all victims. And even worse, men wearing masks force young men to rape their sisters or even their mother. It is a totally despicable situation. And most alarming, Me. Joseph says with great emphasis, it is that the UN forces are actively supporting these actions by giv
ing logistical support to those who are perpetrating these crimes. The situation gets worse because, unlike 1994, there are no international observers to verify and to protect those people. In the slums, they are totally left to fend for themselves. The human rights organizations in Haiti have become an arm of propaganda for the government. This lack of concern on the part of the international community makes it an accomplice in this whole situation.
<p align=justify>At the end, 3 groups were set up to examine the following issues and come up with orientations for a strategy: Solidarity, Mobilization/Advocacy and Media coverage. These groups came up with a number of points to be taken into account in the setting-up of a strategy to address all the shortcomings h
- <p align=justify>Evel Fanfan is a young lawyer who, along with some other young concerned university students in Haiti, decided in January 2005, to create an organization called “Association des Universitaires pour une Haiti de droit” –AUMODH (Association of University students for the rule of law in Haiti). The organization’s main goal is to defend the rights of prisoners, to provide them with legal assistance and to work with desti
tute children in the streets, without parents, totally abandoned. Evel Fanfan says that it is difficult to picture what is going on in the prisons in Haiti: a prison with a capacity of 10 prisoners, yet having 70 prisoners crammed in the room. Fanfan describes the incredible stench coming out of that and he says how he could not even face the people to talk to them, so unbearable was the stench. He describes the case of 16 young people arrested under the simple accusation of being “chimères”, that’s all. No explanation from the police. After insisting on being given some reason for the detention, the police said that “these people are chimères, they do not deserve any pity”. Among this group of 16, there were some whose faces had been beaten up; there were 3 women and among them one who was the only one to take care of her blind father. The police commissioner would refuse to hear any plea, until Fanfan picked up his phone and threatened to call some reporters to come and see what was going on in the prisons.
Finally, 4 of the group were released. Fanfan will continue to work for the release of the others.
Another case was that of the 4 young people who were arrested just before he left for the US. The parents frantically called him to find out what had happened to them. The 4 young people had been arrested after hours by the MINUSTAH and taken to some prison. After calling different prisons, Fanfan happened to call the prison in Canapé-Vert where he found a classmate who informed him that the 4 youth were there, but he could not give any more details, period. The situations he describes, he says, are just the tip of the iceberg. It gets worse everyday [...]
- <p align=justify>Lead investigator and attorney Tom Griffin, author of the most recent human rights report on Haiti, spoke about what he had seen and heard in Haiti. His report is one of the most damning for the present Haitian Gvt. He expanded on some of the report which contained some absolutely
gruesome pictures, but he insisted on the need for coordination in the task of working for democracy in Haiti. He said that it was not normal that with so many people concerned about Haiti, such a report did not receive more widespread publicity. This was due to the lack of coordination among grassroots organizations which tend to work each in their corner, duplicating the work unnecessarily. His recommendation was to get on immediately with the task of establishing a system whereby these deficiencies would be remedied.
- <p align=justify>Those speakers were followed by Amy Goodman, host of the news program “Democracy Now”, whose reporting has and continues to uncover stories that the mainstream media will totally ignore, because it goes against the establishment. Ms. Goodman showed part of her interview with Aristide on his way back to Jamaica a few weeks after the coup, underlining the importance to seek ways to introduce these stories in the media, otherwis
e they will not be aired and Haiti desperately needs for the real story to be told.
- <p align=justify>Later, Anthony Fenton, a Canadian reporter, took the floor to put emphasis on the role played by Canada as one of the countries participating in the coup d’État. Fenton’s articles have greatly contributed to the information about the real role of that country and its present policy toward Haiti.
- <p align=justify>Kim Ives, from Haiti Progrès also spoke of the need to organize and to get the information out, as they do their part at Haiti Progrès, the newspaper based in New York.
indering support for democracy in Haiti. A follow-up will take place on all those issues and a resolution will come out of the Kongrè Bwa Kayiman.
The Kongrè Bwa Kayiman ended with a recreation of the scene of 1791, during which the participants renewed their commitment toward freedom by forming a circle and drinking from an aluminum pan full of red cola to symbolize this bond and commitment, while Deputy Ramilus was singing the tune made famous by Farah Juste:Lè na libere, Ayiti va bèl oh, wa tande, wa tande koze, Lè na libere Ayiti va bèl oh, wa tande,
A la ti peyi mache oh wa tande…...
Many people deserve to be congratulated for this Kongrè, notably Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine who came up with the idea and the tireless Eugenia Charles, whose petite frame belies an incredible energy that will make you dizzy
. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine close the Kongrè which, no doubt, will become a yearly encounter.