A disturbing video [Warning: graphic content] has been circulating online, showing four United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) peacekeepers from Uruguay allegedly raping a 19 year-old man at a military base in Port-Salut, a Southern Haitian town.
By some accounts, YouTube has censored some versions of the video – but even so, all of Port-Salut, most of Haiti and much of the diaspora have seen it via various channels. The graphic video shows four lighter-skinned or white men, one of whom is wearing a blue beret, holding a younger darker-skinned man down and restraining his arms behind his back while apparently sodomizing him. The young man is heard screaming for help.
The images have generated outrage online, including a #withdrawminustah hashtag on Twitter. This is not the first MINUSTAH scandal; 6,000 died from a cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by Nepalese peace keepers from the UN force.
Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), a local human rights organization, has published a report [fr] on the alleged rape case, recommending the UN provide reparations for this and other mishaps in Haiti. It also demands further investigation into yet another controversy for the United Nations force: minors in Port-Salut allegedly pregnant by peacekeeping staff at the base.
Journalists and bloggers such as Etant Dupain (@gaetantguevara) and Ansel Herz and Uruguyan televison [es] have since dug up details on children born to underage Haitian women and Uruguyan men.
Journalist Ansel Herz, who blogs at mediahacker, has published an interview with the two local youths who leaked the video to the Haitian press. One of them stumbled upon it on a peacekeeper’s phone while trying to transfer a song and captured the video via Bluetooth after recognizing that the victim was his cousin. He has now received what he believes to be threats by night visitors to his home, according to [fr] Haiti Press Network.
Haitian President Michel Martelly has condemned [fr] the case, saying the reprehensible act “shocks the national conscience”. Uruguay’s president has offered an official apology [fr,es] to the Haitian people, citing Haiti’s historic contribution to the independence struggles of many Latin American countries:
Le président et le ministre de la défense de l’Uruguay disent s’exprimer au nom du peuple noble, hospitalier et solidaire de leur pays qui reconnait en Haïti une nation sœur, dont la fraternité s’est exprimée au moment de la lutte pour l’indépendance des pays sud-américains.
The chief of the Uruguayan UN contingent [fr] and the four suspects [fr] have been repatriated and are due to be tried [fr] in the Uruguayan courts.
Twitter reactions to the video
Haitians and Haiti sympathizers have reacted with anger, many seeing the apparent rape as a metaphor for how the mission and thousands of foreign NGOs treat Haiti.
@NegAyiti: Mission des Nations Unis pour le Sacrilege et la Terreur Amere en Haiti= MINUSTAH.
@GioJules who blogs at Haitianist had this to say:
@GioJules: We have too many fake aid workers wannabe-famous journos #Haiti. Everyone come here to get their own piece of the cake just to spit on it
@GraceinTC, an American who fundraises for a Haiti-based dental care non-governmental organization, was as strident as some Haitian tweeters:
@GraceinTC: To say the MINUSTAH video is disturbing is the understatement of the century & angry, sick, broken hearted is a small portion of what I feel
She went on to say:
@GraceinTC: It is ridiculous that those in a position to “keep the peace” are in reality causing so much more pain than can easily be imagined….
Another American, who works at Let Haiti Live, asked for a completely independent investigation:
@melindaayiti: We must demand an independent investigation of MINUSTAH – the UN and Uruguay don't cut it! #Haiti #justice #withdrawMINUSTAH
Live tweeting Monday's anti-UN demonstration
On Monday September 5, 2011, a demonstration was held in Port-Salut, the southern coastal town where the rape is believed to have occurred. Parliament members such as Youri Latortue attended.
Activist and blogger @gaetantguevara (Etant Dupain) tweeted and posted pictures on Lockerz.
@gaetantguevara: Si otorite yo pa't Konnen vrè misión #minustah kounye a yo Konnen #withdrawMINUSTAH http://lockerz.com/s/136088239
@gaetantguevara: Majistra port salut a di yo pral fe yon petisyon pou mande gouvenman an ak nasyonzini retire #minustah nan port salut
@gaetantguevara: Moun yo konn sa yo vle. #withdrawMINUSTAH http://lockerz.com/s/136089571
Early yesterday, Etant Dupain (@Gaetantguevara) posted a video of a Port-Salut woman and the child she had with a Uruguyan peacekeeper stationed in Haiti from 2006 to 2008 who has since left.
On the blog Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Dupain goes on to report on various pregnancies resulting from relationships with Uruguyan peacekeepers in Port-Salut:
One of the things that people in the streets of Port Salut know is that MINUSTAH soldiers have fathered many children in the village, and they have a habit of exchanging food and money with women for sex.
It wouldn’t be surprising if in a few years we see Port Salut turn into a town where many of the children are half Uruguayan and half Haitian, because one of the things the Uruguayan soldiers have done in the area is impregnate women and not take care of their children.
Rose Mina Joseph is seventeen years old and eight months pregnant. A Uruguayan soldier named Julio Posse got her pregnant after they had liked each other for a few months. Rose Mina was only sixteen years old when she got pregnant and now she is counting the days until her baby is born.
Johnny Jean became one of many victims of MINUSTAH but it was not the first dishonorable act by the MINUSTAH in Port Salut. The worst thing in the history of violations of human rights MINUSTAH has perpetrated in Port Salut are the authorities who are aware but they never do anything to help the victims or denounce MINUSTAH, and because of this we have arrives at the case of Johnny Jean and a revolting act.
One of the reasons MINUSTAH has created so many problems in Port Salut is that they have no work to do – it is a peaceful and beautiful town that has never had any reputation of violence.
@Ansel (also known as Mediahacker) tweeted yesterday that Rose Mina Joseph’s baby is due imminently:
@Ansel: Was just told by phone that 17-yr-old Rose Mina Joseph has been in the hospital since last night, may give birth shortly. #Haiti
Fatigue among Haitians (both in Haiti and throughout the diaspora) with MINUSTAH and the thousands of NGOs stationed in the country has been palpable for quite some time. Back in May 2011, Massachussetts-based Reginald Toussaint (Toussaint on Haiti) posted:
In light of the recent report by an independent panel indicating that the recent cholera outbreak in Haiti can be traced to the UN base in Mirebalais, it's clear that the UN needs to leave Haiti, now!!!
I'm not one those anti-UN people. I like the idea of a United Nations and, for the most part, I think they do good work. Especially in cases where they can really serve as a peacekeeping force. However, in the case of Haiti, they are causing more harm than good. Whether it's in providing support in running elections or with earthquake reconstruction the UN comes across as a bloated, inefficient organization that's often out of touch with the needs of Haiti.
The diaspora blogger revisited the topic in June and added:
MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti has been fraught with controversy. At times, they’ve appeared as an infective organization that’s more concerned about justifying their presence than helping Haiti. This was especially true after last year’s devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince. To many Haitians, they seemed more concerned about their own workers and their image than taking a leadership role in the larger rescue effort.
The blogger reacted to news of the alleged Port-Salut rape with the following tweet, echoing an argument by Mark Weisbrot of the Guardian:
@RPrestonT: Why are UN soldiers in Haiti referred to as peacekeepers when there is no war?
Recent works by local artists and performers also reflect the unease with NGOs, as related by Nadève Ménard at the blog Tande:
Les Mots Vulnerables was the title chosen for the event held at the French Insitute as part of La Quinzaine du Livre on Friday, June 24th. A theater group presented a short sketch and several authors (Edwidge Danticat, Kettly Mars, Verly Dabel, Lyonel Trouillot, and Georges Castera, among others) read excerpts of their published works and other short texts. The crowd seemed to especially appreciate Dabel's take on Haiti's post-earthquake situation, including his critique of the international community and various NGO's.
A UNASUR meeting took place yesterday in Uruguay among South American countries who contribute the bulk of peace keepers to MINUSTAH to decide on the future of the mission, reported [fr] Haitian paper Radio Kiskeya. The various countries discussed a recent report recommending a gradual end to the mission. The Brazilian Minister of defense has recognized that [fr] “maintaining troops in Haiti will not be beneficial in the long term”. At the meeting, the countries’ decided to ask the UN security council to withdraw gradually, starting with an immediate withdrawal of 15% of the troops, as reported by Haiti Libre:
Celso Amorim the new Brazilian Minister of Defense has called, during this meeting, to a decrease of 15% of the staff of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, aiming to hand over to the Haitians the responsibility for the security of their country. The Brazilian Minister said that Brazil was negotiating with the United Nations to initiate this withdrawal, but that it would maintain its troops in Haiti until the local forces are ready to take over.
Various Haitian groups which form the “Collectif pour un dédommagement en faveur des victimes du choléra” (Collective for Reparations for Cholera Victims) are organizing a series of activities [fr] against MINUSTAH, including a lawsuit for reparations for cholera victims and a popular tribunal – and according to Haitian paper Alterpresse [fr], the Haitian Senate’s justice commission is also planning to propose a resolution to encourage a withdrawal calendar for MINUSTAH.