TOPICS > Politics

Police Reclaim Towns From Haitian Rebels

BY Admin  February 10, 2004 at 11:30 AM EDT

Police reasserted state control over the large port town of St. Marc, north of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and Grand Goave, a town southwest of the capital, news outlets reported.

Fighting has also erupted in the north in the outskirts of Cap-Haitien, the island country’s second-largest city, where rebels briefly seized the police station in Dondon, according to The Washington Post.

Officials said the insurgents were overwhelmed by police troops and members of a pro-Aristide militia, which has augmented the thinly stretched national police force in recent days.

“The population in both cities is for peace, safety and security,” Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune told the Post after visiting St. Marc and Grand-Goave. “That’s why the population has welcomed back the police.”

United Nations aid officials have warned that violence was shutting off deliveries of necessities to thousands of needy Haitians. Bertrand Ramcharan, the acting U.N. high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, urged “all concerned to stop the violence and resolve the political crisis in a peaceful and constitutional manner,” according to the Associated Press.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations “will be stepping up our own involvement fairly soon” but did not elaborate, the AP reported.

The uprising, which began Thursday in Haiti’s fourth-largest city of Gonaives, signals a dangerous turning point in the nation’s three-year political crisis. A similar revolt in 1985 also began in Gonaives and led to the ouster the following year of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

Gonaives and a half-dozen other towns appear to remain in rebel hands.

The recent revolt has been brewing since Aristide’s party won contested legislative elections in 2000.

Aristide, a former Catholic priest, was once thought to be the hope of democracy in Haiti — a tiny Caribbean nation of 8 million people — but has since been accused of corruption and brutality by his opponents. He has been under pressure to resign but refuses, saying he will see his second term through to its end in 2006.

The rebel group calls itself the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front and says it is the armed wing of a civic movement of business leaders, students and other Haitians who have been calling for Aristide’s resignation, according to the Post.

Some of their rallies have turned bloody after coming under attack by groups linked to Aristide’s ruling Lavalas Party. At least 40 people have died in the recent uprising.