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Haiti Through Our Voices

Onè Respè. Welcome to the latest edition of Woy Magazine’s weekly newsletter, providing you with must-know news and commentary on Haiti and our Diaspora.

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**A strong trigger warning for this week’s newsletter as it will contain various disturbing current events, photos and language.**

Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday

This week proved to be a particular dark one for Haiti as more than 15 people were shot and killed in the capital Tuesday night, including feminist activist Antoinette “Netty” Duclair and journalist Diego Charles. The news sent shock waves across the country and the diaspora, as photos of the lifeless bodies made their ways to social media and communication apps like WhatsApp.

While Leon Charles, head of the National Police Force (PNH) deemed these shootings to be acts of revenge tied to the recent killing of a police union spokesperson, many are seeing it as a clear sign that the country has entered one of its darkest periods in modern times:

Charles' statements sparked criticism from journalists and civil rights organizations, who doubt their truth.

"To come out and simply say, 'We know the double murder of Diego Charles and Antoinette Duclair came from this union,' we think that is acting with great haste and above all great casualness," said Marie Rosy August Ducena of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization. (Source: International Business Times)

The outpouring of grief from advocates, journalists and everyday Haitians for those slain was palpable and immense:

Early Thursday morning, the country’s top newspaper, Le Nouvelliste broke with their own journalistic policies and published photos of the lifeless bodies as the day’s cover. While some pushed back and argued that the paper went too far, many believe that such a grotesque act of violence demands people’s attentions.

In an accompanying editorial, the paper defended its position:

La nation haïtienne est jetée dans la tourmente de la violence sans fin, la spirale nous aspire vers plus de violence et moins de réponses de la part des autorités chargées de protéger et servir. La justice et la police sont dépassées. Il nous faut ouvrir les yeux sur la réalité telle qu’elle est par respect pour les victimes et leurs parents. Par prévention pour l’avenir.

Certains jours, les mots sont en deuil. Les photos parlent.

Radio Vision 2000, which employed Diego, announced that it would suspend all news programming for the rest of the week as an act of protest over the senseless killings:


Pile of Bodies

As PHTK enjoys a full decade of power, the names and bodies of victims continue to pile up. Last year, eerily similar to how Netty and Diego were killed, leading constitutional scholar and head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Me Monferrier Dorval was killed just hours after he delivered blistering critiques of the now defacto government.

Soon after him, student activist Gregory St. Hilaire was shot and killed after protesting the Education Ministry’s inability to properly support students and their careers.

Then the year before, two reporters - Pétion Rospide and Néhémie Joseph - were also killed, while photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur disappeared in 2018 after going on assignment.

On Thursday, the team at Ayibopost published well-known cases of assassinated individuals from 1986 to the present day to show how many people have been killed in order to stifle progress in the country. You can read and add names to the list here.

This latest manmade tragedy comes as the country is dealing with thousands forcefully displaced from their homes and communities in the capital as state-sponsored gangs etch out their domains and territories.

Meanwhile the international governments upholding up this blood-soaked regime continue to offer up empty statements on this wave of violence.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy produced a statement that rang as hallow as an empty gourd. As online publication Rezo Nòdwes pointed out, nowhere did the statement mention the names of Jimmy Chérizier and other noted gang leaders or government officials who have contributed to the country’s suffocating climate:

A noter que dans ce communiqué l »ambassade des Etats-Unis n’a pas mentionné le nom du chef de gang G9 , Jimmy Chérizier(Barbecue) qui, il y a une semaine avait menacé de mettre le pays à feu et sang, après avoir pillé plusieurs centres de vente de provisions alimentaires du secteur privé.

Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph was not one to be left out as he appeared to be tearing up during his remarks to the nation following the deadly night.


Accountability

While the Haitian police try to paint the double assassinations of Netty and Diego as random acts of violence, the Reseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) published a report of the night’s event which shows there may have been motive behind the killings.

The report finds that Diego was shot twice in front of his house, while Netty was shot seven times, including once in the temple, as she sat behind the wheel of her car in front of the gates of Diego’s home. The paper also lists the conditions and names of the other victims who were killed late Tuesday night in Delmas 32 along Christ-Roi":

Frantz COFFY, accompagnateur d’un chauffeur de camion a été tué d’une balle à la tête. Le chauffeur, atteint de balle, a été transporté d’urgence à l’Hôpital Bernard Mevs. Gregory MIZAINE et Luc BIEN-AIME ont été tués à la station de motocyclettes de Delmas 32.  Maxnold GUILLAUME a été atteint de plusieurs projectiles. Il a été transporté d’urgence à l’Hôpital Bernard Mevs où il est décédé. Ralph THAM, né le 22 juillet 1984, agent de sécurité affecté à Eclipse Inn Bar Restaurant, rentrait chez lui quand il a été tué par balles ; Anderson Grégory GREGOIRE et Odnel GREGOIRE, deux (2) frères, respectivement nés le 1er juin 1995 et le 6 novembre 1987, se trouvaient à la station de motocyclettes de Delmas 32 lorsqu’ils ont été tués. Junior Pierre JEAN HUBERT, né le 16 juin 1979, a été tué par balle. Louiras SCIPION, âgé de cinquante-cinq (55) ans, a été tué par balle. Fauline Charles CLAUDE, a été tué par balle. Cavens GEFFRARD, a été tué par balle. Yvnol LEGER, a été tué par balle. (Source: Rezo Nòdwes)

Testimony from neighbors in the following linked video corroborates the findings of the report. Le National also reported the experiences of neighbors who heard the assassinations happen in real time:

Selon les témoignages des riverains, relatés par le directeur d’information de la radio Vision 2000, des tirs nourris ont été entendus dans la zone aux environs de minuit. Ce qui a poussé les habitants du quartier à fermer leurs téléviseurs et à éteindre aussi les ampoules allumées afin que les individus armés n’aient pas le contrôle de leurs maisons. Après ces turbulences, Diego et Antoinette ont été retrouvés morts, respectivement en dehors et à l’intérieur de la voiture de Marie Antoinette Duclair. 


Foreshadowing

Further disproving Leon Charles’ assessment are reports of Netty being targeted by unknown bandits prior to her death this week. In a February interview with Le Nouvelliste, it was noted that Netty’s home had been shot at by unknown armed men in February of this year:

Depuis bien des temps, la militante politique affirme être l’objet de menaces de la part d’individus pour ses positions critiques par rapport au pouvoir en place. Dans la soirée du mardi 23 février, la maison familiale d’Antoinette Duclaire a essuyé des tirs d'individus circulant à motocyclette. Les constats d’un juge de paix font état de traces de douilles de M1 retrouvées sur les lieux.  « Je ne vois pas cela comme un acte d’intimidation, mais comme un acte raté. Nous sommes face à des gens qui n’ont aucun respect pour la vie et pour les valeurs », martèle la militante, qui ne semble pas prête à lâcher prise.


In Her Own Words

By all accounts, Netty was a powerful figure who devoted her life to the betterment of Haiti and those who suffer from the constraints of impunity, greed and lack of political, social and physical infrastructure. In honor of her life and work, here’s Netty in her own words:


Gang-Ruled Streets

In a grotesque spectacle, Jimmy Cherizier led members of the G9 gang network in marches across the capital as a sign of “protest” just one day after news broke of the Tuesday night massacre. According to reporters on the scene, the notorious gang leader delivered threats against the defacto government, human rights activists, members of the private sector, as well as members of the opposition:

As it currently stands, Fondation Je Klere announced on Thursday that at least 60 people have been shot and killed in the capital alone this week, most of them in Site Solèy.)


OAS Report

Following its political mission to Haiti, the Organization of the Americas (OAS) published a report that many are calling into question, including representatives of St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda. The report calls for Jovenel Moïse to appoint new cabinet officials including a prime minister and electoral council to hold elections, but delegates from St. Lucia and Antigua are calling the mission’s bluff as they feel it did not succeed in fostering dialogue between the defacto government and the opposition:

Antigua and Barbuda’s alternative permanent representative to the mission was much more direct

“Judging from the report it appears that no dialogue was facilitated,” said Gillian Joseph, filling in for Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders, who was chairing the meeting and later circulated three letters objecting to the report from Haiti’s opposition. “There was no meetings between the parties... At no point was there dialogue between the president and the stakeholders.” (Source: Miami Herald)

There’s also the issue of the OAS report omitting the fact that several leaders and civil society organizations refused to meet with members of the forum. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago we reported how several union groups and activist organizations chose to instead hold protests before the OAS building in Haiti rather than meet with the delegates leading the mission.

The electoral commission, in the meantime, has decided to schedule the constitutional referendum, presidential and legislative elections all for the same day - September 26, 2021.


COVID Update

It’s quite safe to say Haiti is battling two pandemics: COVID-19 and insecurity, and they are certainly marching hand in hand. Earlier this week, Doctors Without Borders announced that they would be suspending all work in the Matisan neighborhood of Port-au-Prince due to the raging gang violence. The organization recognized that doing so would greatly hurt their COVID response efforts:

"At a time when we should expand our activities because of COVID-19 and other needs, we are fighting to keep our structures open despite deplorable security conditions," Giudiceandrea said, adding that MSF hopes to find the buildings of the emergency center intact after the suspension of activities this week. (Source: ReliefWeb)

The National Association of Pharmacists released a response to the Ministry of Public Health’s decision last week to allow the private sector to begin importing vaccines. They called the act irresponsible, and a sign that the government lacked the willpower to truly address and tackle the pandemic head on:


Two Calls to Action

  1. If you’re looking to provide support to those on the ground in Haiti who’ve been displaced, consider boosting or making a donation to Kay Trans GoFundMe, an LGBTQIA shelter in the capital that has seen an uptick in applications for housing since the attacks on Matisan started.

  2. Are you or someone you know a Haitian Kreyòl translator? The Border Rights Project is looking for those who are to help them parole migrants into the U.S. out of dangerous border cities. They desperately need help screening the Haitian cases and preparing expedited parole forms so that clients can be approved to enter the US. If you or someone you know may be interested, email them at volunteer@alotrolado.org.


Decolonizing Haitian Studies

In anticipation of an upcoming town hall focusing on decolonizing Haitian studies, respected scholar Dr. Asselin Charles published a manifesto detailing what such an undertaking should include. Here are some standout points:

The stakes are economic. Decolonizing Haitian Studies means looking into who gets the jobs in the field in the academy and under what conditions. It means asking, ceteris paribus, are some Haiti scholars with a certain ethnoracial profile more privileged on the job market than others?

…The stakes are professional. Any discussion about decolonizing Haitian Studies must address such issues as marginalization in the academy and discrimination in hiring, promotion, grant giving, publishing, invitations, and consulting opportunities.

Secondly, any honest talk about decolonizing Haitian Studies must address the urgent need to work on decolonizing the Haitian mind. For truth be told, there is much intellectual alienation in Haitian scholarship (excessive deference to Western, American and French thinkers and scholars, as evidenced in  bibliographies and footnotes, to the detriment of thinkers and scholars from Haiti and the Global South


A Little Ray of Hope

Despite long being a hotbed for state-sponsored gang activity, Bèlè continues to be a home for many artists. In a new Ayibopost article, Rebecca Bruny finds that the neighborhood remains a village for creative minds who refuse to abandon their homes and succumb to intimidation:

« Bel-Air, dit-il, est le pilier du pôle culturel de Port-au-Prince. Entre les bann apye, troupes de danse, groupes de rara, et lakou, on sent que la culture populaire y est effectivement très présente ». Mais au-delà de ce tout, le numéro un de l’atelier baptisé « À trois quart » fait éloge de la diversité qui règne dans chacun des domaines. Les lakou sont alors pris en exemple.


Mize pep sa

On a final note, here’s Eddy Francois’ Mize Pep Sa to take us into the weekend.

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