Archive | January, 2011

“Baby Doc” returns to Haiti, is arrested

19 Jan

Supporters of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier hold signs. Duvalier returned to Haiti this week, after 25 years in exile.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was arrested yesterday by Haitian authorities, two days after the former president-for-life returned to Haiti after living in exile for almost 25 years.

He was charged with corruption and the theft of national funds during his 15-year reign.

Duvalier, 59, took power in 1971, after the death of his father, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Papa Doc kept power with the help of the Tonton Macoutes, his police task-force, who were responsible for an estimated 40 000 deaths, and by filling all upper-level military positions with his supporters. In 1964, he rigged elections to give him 100 per cent of the vote and the title, “President-for-life”.

Becoming president at the age of 19, Jean-Claude was unable to maintain the strength of his father’s regime. His 1980 marriage (which cost the public an estimated $3 million) to Michéle Bennett, a member of the mulatto elite, lost him the support of the poor, black majority that his father had had. The marriage also strained his relationship with his mother, Simone, and military leaders appointed by his father. While U.S. aid was restored when Jean-Claude took power, reportedly 64 per cent of public funds were used for “extra-budgetary expenses”, including tens of millions into Duvalier’s personal Swiss bank accounts. He was also known to have lavish parties at public expense.

Unable to stop mounting civil unrest, Duvlier fled the country for France in 1986.


Southern Sudan awaits independence

12 Jan

South Sudanese soldiers pose with their rifles. After decades of civil war, Southern Sudan will vote this week for independence.

In the 1960s, Philip Geng Nyuol was ambushing and firebombing cars in the name of Southern Sudanese independence. After Sunday’s referendum, his cause may be realized.

“This is a dream,” Nyuol told the New York Times, “a dream we always hoped would come true, even if it took one thousand years.”

Even prior to becoming an independent nation, Sudan has been a land of conflict. In the 1920’s, British colonizers declared that Sudan should remain separate – in order to stop the spread of Islam from the Arab-controlled north.

Sudan gained independence in 1956, but a 17-year civil war had begun the year before.

A second civil war lasted 22 years and resulted in an estimated 2 million deaths, and led to the rise of current president Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. al-Bashir is the first sitting head-of-state to be indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court.

Although polls will remain open until next week to allow those in all regions to vote, Nyuol told the Times he expected to vote as soon as the polls were open, early Sunday morning.

“We have waited for this, we have fought for it,” he says.