UN “Peacekeeping” Soldiers Launch Brutal Attack on Haitian Street Vendors

Note: the following article is based on a recent investigation carried out in Haiti by a member of the Haiti Action Committee and other US human rights observers in Haiti.

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.

According to many different street vendors who directly witnessed the MINUSTAH assault, four or five MINUSTAH soldiers emerged from parked trucks near the market and began smashing up the property of street vendors, setting the market on fire, setting off tear gas, and shooting directly at unarmed vendors.

According to one vendor, MINUSTAH soldiers used flame throwers to torch the stalls. He said the soldiers also grabbed hammers and began destroying property. This vendor was hit in the head by MINUSTAH soldiers with these hammers. On April 17th, he showed a member of the Haiti Action Committee and other US human rights observers a massive wound to his head and a blood soaked shirt. He lost consciousness and was taken by a friend to the St. Joseph Hospital nearby.

Another vendor reported that he was shot in the leg by MINUSTAH soldiers and showed his wound to the delegation. He also showed his medical records from the hospital where he had gone to be treated.

Vendors spoke of people killed by MINUSTAH gun fire. According to an officer of the National Association of Vendors, at least three people were shot and killed by MINUSTAH soldiers, who allegedly zipped bodies into bags and took them away. Reportedly, the families could not locate the bodies in the local morgue. A different source indicated that more people may have been killed. The Vendors Association officer also stated that several hundred vendors may have lost their property in the raid.

The National Association for the Defense of Haitian Vendors and Consumers has filed a formal complaint asking the Haitian President to take action and secure compensation for the 263 Haitian vendors whose property was reportedly destroyed by the MINUSTAH troops. Members of the association provided our human rights delegation with a full listing of the names of these vendors, what property they lost, and how much it was valued. For many of these vendors, who live in dire poverty, the loss in property is truly devastating. Additionally, the Association provided us with a list naming seven people who were injured and two killed — Amonese Pierre and Anna Ainsi Connu — by the MINUSTAH troops.

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. I was part of a small human rights delegation that visited Cite Soleil approximately 24 hours after this attack. We saw firsthand the bodies of murdered civilians, including a mother and her two young children, who community members told us were gunned down by MINUSTAH soldiers. Our delegation later interviewed the military high command of MINUSTAH who reported that the command was unaware of any civilian casualties during the assault.

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.

Take action to demand that the MINUSTAH soldiers involved in this latest outrage are prosecuted for crimes against civilians!

Take action to demand that the street vendors receive full compensation for what they lost!

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 moc.loanull@itiahakova.
Your letter will be hand-delivered to the Presidential Palace in Haiti.

Haitian Ministry of Justice
Tel: 011-509-245- 0474

Seth Donnelly is a Bay Area High School social studies teacher and a member of the Haiti Action Committee. He has traveled to Haiti on solidarity delegations six times over the last four years approximately. Read other articles by Seth, or visit Seth's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Annie said on April 26th, 2008 at 11:08am #

    Mr. Donnelly,

    What do the Haitians have that the U.S. and other countries want?
    Is it about location or resources?
    What are the reasons for the 2004 coup?

  2. sk said on April 26th, 2008 at 9:34pm #

    Annie, here is one place to get started.

  3. Annie said on April 27th, 2008 at 9:25am #

    I still don’t understand why the U.S. wants to pick on Haiti. I’m not doubting, I just want to understand. Encylopedia Britanica says that there is a little bit of copper and gold in the north and they grow coffee, what’s in it for foreignn interest? Central and South America have oil and gold and water power, DR Congo has everything else and we know what happened there when Lumumba was elected, he didn’t even last a year. But why Haiti?

  4. sk said on April 27th, 2008 at 11:21am #

    Peter Hallward’s take on why Haiti is “profoundly threatening” can be heard between minutes 12-18 of this audio (MP3) interview.

  5. Annie said on April 27th, 2008 at 11:31am #


    the link isn’t working for me

  6. sk said on April 27th, 2008 at 12:36pm #

    You might have to download the MP3 file to your computer. Right click the link, and then select Save (keeping note of where it’s saved).

    Above linked program aired on April 21 and should be accessible via this Archives link (though, possibly because of high server loads, it might not always work during peak usage times).

  7. Annie said on April 27th, 2008 at 3:55pm #


  8. David Morris said on April 27th, 2008 at 9:13pm #

    Haiti is a source of extremely cheap labor, the cheapest in the hemisphere, and just a few miles from the US. Haitians assemble a variety of products for companies in the US and elsewhere. Their profits are higher because labor costs are so small and shipping is cheaper than from China, for example. Clothing assembled at one time by US workers was later assembled by Dominicans at lower pay and is now assembled by Haitians for even lower pay, working for a Dominican company in the “free trade zone” on the Haitian-Dominican border on contract with US companies like Levi Strauss, Tommy Hilfiger and Hanes. There is also a potential to revive the Haitian sugar industry to make ethanol and to produce other biofuels.

  9. Hue Longer said on April 28th, 2008 at 12:52am #

    Any country attempting to thwart US hegemony is a threat…Aristide went one further and voiced his opinion that France owes restitutions.

    As shit poor as the people are, they still make a profit for snakes when they are forced to buy US grain

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 28th, 2008 at 7:37pm #

    From: “From Columbus to Castro – The History of the Caribbean (1492-1969)” by Eric Williams.

    First Vintage Books edition (1984), recently reissued.

    pp60-61. “The planters were not anti-monopoly. They wanted monopoly as much as the Spanish King, but monopoly in their interests. There was one aspect of monopoly which the planters not only accepted but advocated and wished to reinforce. That was the colonial monopoly of the Spanish sugar market. The bete noire of the Spanish colonials was Brazil. The sixteenth century struggle for the control of the world sugar market was waged between Spain and Portugal. The Bishop of Santo Dominique (Haiti-my edit) and the Judge of Hispaniola (the entire island – my edit) pleaded the cause of the planters in 1540. They urged that the importation of sugar from ‘other kingdoms of Spain’ should be prohibited, and that permission to take sugar to Spain should be conceded to all the ports of the King of Spain’s dominions, or at least to Flanders. The Council of the Indies was favorably disposed, but in the following year the Emperor was content to request the Council to take advice on the matter and give him its views on the question of prohibiting sugar imports from Portugal.

    Next in importance to the Seville monopoly from the colonial standpoint was the monopoly of the slave trade. The planters opposed the system of licenses and asientos, and advocated free trade. They opposed also the religious limitations with which the Spanish Government had originally hemmed in the slave trade. In 1517 the Geronomite Fathers in Hispaniola begged the Spanish Government to issue general licences for the importation of slaves from West Africa into the West Indies: ‘We beg you to grant this, and to grant it soon, because these people are driving us crazy about it and in our opinion they are right.’ They were not the last people to be driven almost out of their minds by the question of slavery.

    A year later the fathers went further. They urged that permission should be granted for the fitting out of ships to the Cape Verde Islands and Guinea, either from Hispaniola itself or by anyone in any part of the Spanish dominions. Ten years later, Cuba asked for the same facility, permission to fit out ships for Guinea. In 1519 the Court of Hispaniola recommended that, in order to facilitate the introduction of the largest possible number of Negroes in the shortest possible time, an asiento should be made with the King of Portugal. In 1536 the request for a Portuguese asiento was repeated. In 1527 certain planters in Hispaniola submitted to the Emperor a project regarding population, in which they urged that each planter should be allowed to introduce on hundred males slaves and one hundred females. The planters complained regularly of the high prices charged by the asientists.”

    Who are now the planters, the slaves, the Emperor? The present is sometimes much simpler than history. But seldom so revealed.