Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

UN slaughter continues in Haiti and elsewhere

Canadians tend to be a little sentimental about the UN, especially peacekeeping, Lester Pearson and all. However, back in early 2007 when we were belatedly debating whether the Canadian mission in Afghanistan should stress peacekeeping over combat, World Report cited abundant documentation of violence against unarmed and nonviolent civilians by UN peacekeepers in Haiti. I called it "the new peacekeeping." The symbol for me was a white-coloured light armoured vehicle with a gun mounted on the top and the UN symbol on the side.

A second piece the next week, on the occasion of International Women's Day, elaborated on the role that MINUSTAH was playing in the hunger that led some Haitians to eat mud cakes to stay alive and the impact that was having on women in Cite Soleil. That was March 2007.

It's still going on, as this report by Seth Donnelly makes clear. Donnelly is a Bay Area High School social studies teacher and a member of the Haiti Action Committee.

"On Saturday, April 11th, a little past 3 p.m., a MINUSTAH (UN) soldier, Nigerian Cpl. Nagya Aminu, was shot and killed in downtown Port-au-Prince. While this killing was widely reported in the international media, what followed the killing was not.

"In the immediate aftermath of the killing, at approximately 3:30 p.m. that same afternoon, MINUSTAH troops launched a massive assault on Haitian vendors at the open-air sidewalk market near the main Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince - the area where the soldier had been killed."

It's too early for a complete accounting of the mayhem and death that resulted from this assault. Donelly's article does spot the tip of the iceberg.

As he says, "This kind of massive assault by MINUSTAH troops on the civilian population has happened many times before, such as the notorious attack on the people of Cite Soleil on July 6th, 2005."

Nor is Haiti the only place where the UN has been responsible for assaults on the civilian population.

Stephen Lewis's remarks at the 10th Annual V-Day Celebrations, New Orleans, 12 April 2008 bring us up-to-date on the UN's failure to act against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa).

He refers to Eve Ensler's ground-breaking piece for Glamour magazine and urges the UN Secretary-General to "pull out all the stops":

"If the secretary-general were to exercise real leadership against sexual violence instead of falling back – as his advisers have suggested – on statements and rhetoric and fatuous public relations campaigns, he could turn things around. What in God’s name is wrong with these people whose lives consist of moving from inertia to paralysis?"

A piece of the puzzle missing from both Lewis and Ensler's accounts are allegations dating back to 2005 that the troops in UN peacekeeping force in the DRC (MONUC) "have been involved in widespread sexual misconduct, including rape and child prostitution." That part of the story has simply disappeared, possibly the result of a successful, if fatuous, PR campaign.

Meanwhile, Donnelly concludes,

"It is time for the international human rights community to face squarely what has happened in Haiti: a US-backed coup in 2004 that ousted a popular, democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and a subsequent UN occupation (MINUSTAH) authorized by the rich nations on the Security Council. Under this occupation, some 9,000 military and police officers from different countries - ranging from Jordan and Sri Lanka to China and Brazil - are charged with keeping the "peace". These forces have been accused by many in Haiti of targeting Aristide supporters. Indeed, the occupation serves to consolidate the anti-democratic qualities of the coup. Until the international human rights community starts to pay attention to what is happening in Haiti and join in solidarity with the Haitian people, more egregious human rights violations will be perpetrated in the name of "peacekeeping" operations."

The real problem almost certainly extends well beyond Haiti, but Donnelly provides contact information for MINUSTAH, President Rene Preval , and the Haitian Ministry of Justice. It's a good place to start, though considering Canada's role, action closer to home would also be appropriate.

UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
Tel: 011-509-244- 0650/0660
FAX: 011-509-244- 9366/67
Or, Fax Office of Secretary General (New York): 212-963-4879

President Rene Preval
Send a fax to 206-350-7986 (a US number) or email to
Your letter will be hand-delivered to the Presidential Palace in Haiti.

Haitian Ministry of Justice
Tel: 011-509-245- 0474Recommend this Post

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