UN Troops Assault Haiti’s University, Again
On Jun.15, 2012, at about 11:00 am, Brazilian soldiers of the United Nations military occupation force known as the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH) tried three times to enter the School of Humanities (FASCH) of Haiti’s State University, causing confusion, cacophony, and casualties around the campus on Avenue Christophe in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
All three times, the students pushed the UN troops back, preventing their entry onto the campus. Early on in the now eight-year occupation, students declared that the FASCH would remain free of any occupying force, a pledge made in the name of Haiti’s founding fathers, including Jean-Jacques Dessalines. The FASCH is an inviolable entity, the students say, as specified in the Haitian Constitution.
On several occasions during the UN occupation, students have clashed with MINUSTAH troops at various State University campuses.
To date, nobody knows exactly what provoked the latest assault by Brazilian soldiers which left several people wounded by gunfire, numerous students doused with tear-gas, and considerable material damage, including at least two smashed windshields.
Many students and teachers, jolted from a mixed assembly or from classrooms, were injured in the assault as they sought to hide from the UN troops’ bullets and tear gas.
Jean Vernet Henry, the State University’s rector, denounced the Brazilian soldiers’ raid as a “real provocation” against the institution he heads.
Hancy Pierre, FASCH’s coordinator, was also angry. “We don’t know the reason for this thug-like and inappropriate visit,” he said. “It has created general panic. One doesn’t even know who to complain to.” Pierre archly suggested that the soldiers “were at the wrong address. They must have meant to go to the National Palace, as an occupying force, to arrest President Martelly. It’s a national disgrace.”
Angry students and teachers also condemned the MINUSTAH soldiers’ provocation. “Everyone was indoors,” one student explained. “More than a dozen classes were in session when students began running around in all directions. ‘MINUSTAH! MINUSTAH! MINUSTAH! They’ve come to attack us!’ they shouted. And the classrooms began to empty. Again, MINUSTAH’s Brazilian soldiers had come back to try to enter the school. The gate was closed again. They remained for more than 30 minutes poised to fire. Curses from the students rained down on them. ‘Go away! Go do your peace-making at home! Go calm the chaos in the favelas! Let us study. There are no kids to rape here! No women or young boys to rape here! The FASCH is an unoccupied space!’ the students chanted. Vaval Joshua, a psychology professor, wanted to go out to talk to them. But more than one persuaded him not to lest he be indexed by the soldiers, who had already threatened a student who had filmed part of the scene in the morning.”
“We did not fail to remind them that nobody can violate the sanctity of the FASCH, and we did not need them to come to infect us with cholera,” said another student.
Professor Jane Regan had to suspend teaching her course on investigative journalism when the trouble began. It resumed later.
The Association of Popular Communicators (AKP), the Gramsci Circle, and the Circle of Study and Social Work Intervention (Ceits), all based at the FASCH, issued a joint statement condemning the “MINUSTAH’s aggression against an inviolable space of the country and demanding a valid explanation to the nation’s authorities.”
The Collective of Mobilization to Compensate Cholera Victims, in a press release strongly condemns the “brazen (tet kale) landing” of UN soldiers at the School of Humanities.
“Once again, MINUSTAH continues to demonstrate to all who refused to believe it that it is an occupying force,” wrote the Collective. “As an occupying army, the MINUSTAH considers itself as above Haiti’s laws and the principle of inviolability of university spaces. Following various acts of repression, killing, torture, murder, hanging, rape, human rights violations, and the import of the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians and infected more than 500,000, the United Nations occupying forces are becoming increasingly aggressive and threatening against the Haitian people and academic institutions.”
This latest aggression by UN troops against Haitian university students has further fanned the flames of disgust with and opposition to the presence of UN occupying forces on Haitian soil. It should be recalled that first U.S. soldiers on Mar. 1, 2004 and then UN soldiers who took over for them on Jun. 1, 2004 illegally occupied areas of the University of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy located in Tabarre, where they spent several years.
It appears that as far as UN forces in Haiti are concerned, might makes right.