Former soldiers march on flag day
Port au Prince, May 18 – More than a hundred people dressed in military fatigues claiming to be former members of the disbanded army marched in Port au Prince on May 18, the 209th anniversary of the Haitian flag, AlterPresse has learned.
With no announcement of their plans, the marchers, some of them armed, marched from Carrefour, at the southern edge of the capital, toward the center of Port au Prince.
“It is my heart that brings me here today, that is, the constitution of the country,” Serge Jean Guerrier, who claims he was part of the army disbanded in 1995, told AlterPresse.
The march coincided with celebration of 209 years of the Haitian flag, known as the bicolore. Larger celebrations were held mostly in Arcahaie, some 30 kilometers north of the capital.
Women were seen among the uniformed individuals, although the former army did not include female soldiers.
“This is May 18, our flag day; we came out to celebrate and to stay mobilized with a view to the reorganization of the armed forces of Haiti,” declared Johanna.
“I want to be in the army because I want to serve my country while I am young. There are many young people here who would like to serve their country,” she added.
Beside her was Mackenson, a young man in civilian clothes, who considers the movement to be a sign of renewal.
Joseph, another young man in civilian clothes, says he regrets the fact that foreign flags, representing the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH), are flying over the country. He urges President Michel Martelly to keep his campaign promises, notably that of restoring the army.
Among the spectators, voices were raised against the presence of MINUSTAH and calling for the departure of the United Nations troops.
MINUSTAH and police officers were stationed in the area of Carrefour and carried out searches of vehicles…
Former soldiers have abandoned bases in Lamentin
Port au Prince, May 20 – The supposed former soldiers at the Lamentin camp in Carrefour, on the southern edge of the capital, have abandoned the space they occupied for close to five months, under pressure from a police operation carried out this weekend, AlterPresse has learned.
“They left through the rear of the camp. When the police entered they found nothing,” a resident of the area reported.
According to accounts from several residents of the Lamentin area, Haitian National Police units opened fire when individuals in military fatigues attempted to retake the base during the evening of May 18 after a march in observance of flag day.
Those remaining inside the camp were forced to leave the site after an exchange of gunfire, it is reported.
After the May 18 operations, more than 50 former soldiers and other individuals, most of them armed, were arrested and taken to the Port au Prince police station, official sources say.
Around 20 MINUSTAH tanks and police vans can now be seen outside the camp, which appears to be deserted.
Police agents can be observed inside the camp, which was a military base until 1995, the year of the dissolution of the army.
The exchanges of gunfire that took place on the night of May 18 and 19 sparked a wave of panic in the commune of Carrefour.
Last week, the supposed former soldier occupying the Lamentin base again expressed their intention of remaining there despite appeals by the government, after a period of apparently tolerating them, to give up their weapons.
The former soldiers are demanding the re-mobilization of the army, which was reduced to 1,500 men as a first step and then dissolved by President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1995.