by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Despite cold weather, over 100 people protested in Ralph Bunche Park in front of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on Oct. 12 as the Security Council renewed the mandate of UN troops in Haiti for one more year.
The day before, a 10-person international delegation led by Haitian Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles met with UN officials to argue against renewal of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH (see accompanying article). After the meeting, the delegation reported what was said at the encounter to the Haitian community at the offices of Haiti Liberte newspaper in Brooklyn.
At the demonstration, Haitians as well as anti-imperialsts from several other New York-area communities marched in a circle chanting “UN, Out of Haiti!” Some carried signs that read “MINUSTAH=Cholera,” a reference to the epidemic that UN Nepalese soldiers unleashed when their latrines leaked into the headwaters of Haiti’s largest river, the Artibonite. Since then, some 8,000 Haitians have died from the disease, and over half a million have been sickened. It is now the world’s worst cholera epidemic.
The demonstration, called by a coalition of about 20 Haitian and international groups, also demanded reparations for Haitian cholera victims. Lawyer Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) helped draw up a lawsuit against the UN last Nov. 3 on behalf of some 5,000 cholera victims and their families. Until now, the plaintiffs have received no response from the UN.
“The UN has remained silent, but the UN cholera in Haiti has not been silent,” Concannon told the demonstrators. “Since we filed our claim, 800 Haitians have died, and over 100,000 people have become sick. That’s an average of over two deaths a day. So yesterday, two people died of cholera on average, tomorrow two more will die, two more the day after that, and every day until the UN decides to respond justly the the cholera epidemic they brought to Haiti. In the meantime, the UN is spending over $2 million a day sending soldiers to Haiti for an occupation the Haitian people don’t want and don’t need.”
Concannon said that although the UN is stalling, the Haitian people are winning the battle for reparations “in the streets.”
“We have a great demonstration here, just as there are in Haiti, where thousands of people have been coming out to fight for justice for cholera,” he said.
Other speakers at the rally included Gregory Perry of the Dec. 12 Movement, David Abdulah of Trinidad’s Oil Workers Union, Roger Toussaint, former leader of New York’s Transit Workers Union (TWU), Jocelyne Gaye of KAKOLA, Dr. Jean Ford Figaro of Haitians for Peace in Boston, MA, Berthony Dupont of Haïti Liberté newspaper, Greg Dunkel of the International Action Center, and the international unionists and activists who had participated in the delegation that spoke to UN officials the day before.
“Thank you for coming out to show your solidarity with the Haitian people who are under the boot of a military occupation today,” said Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles in his remarks in Kreyòl to the crowd. “The UN doesn’t bring us tractors or money, but they come with guns and tanks to crush the Haitian people. Yesterday we were in the United Nations talking with the UN authorities. Today, we are in front of the United Nations talking with the people. We know it’s not going to be easy to get them out. But we, the Haitian people, along with all democracy-loving people internationally, who are against colonialism, will build our solidarity to build our strength across the world to tell MINUSTAH to get out of Haiti.”
The demonstrators rallied in front of the UN for three full hours, from 3 to 6 p.m. To close the event as dusk fell, Lavalas Family militant Minouche Lambert and KAKOLA’s Jocelyne Gaye took to the improvised stage to sing the Haitian national anthem, “Le Dessalinien.”
Senator Moïse Jean-Charles addressing the demonstration in front of the UN on Oct. 12
Photo by Edgard Lafond/Haïti Liberté
Lawyer Brian Concannon of the IJDH: “The UN is spending over $2 million a day sending soldiers to Haiti for an occupation the Haitian people don’t want and don’t need.”
Photo by Greg Dunkel/Workers World