BBC News
Monday, 23 February, 2004

Analysis: Haiti's diverse rebels

The insurgents who have seized power in northern Haiti and vowed to take the capital Port-au-Prince are a disparate lot.

The main rebel leaders were once bitter enemies, and are now united mainly in their hatred for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The insurgency began in early February in the north-western city of Gonaives, when armed supporters of Mr Aristide turned against the president.

As the rebellion spread, the rebels received support from exiled soldiers who served under former strongman Raoul Cedras in the early 1990s.


The leader of the initial uprising in Gonaives is 33-year-old Butteur Metayer - a prominent member of the "Cannibal Army", a local gang which until recently enforced loyalty to Mr Aristide's party.

But in September he accused the president of ordering the killing of his brother, Amyot Metayer.

Butteur Metayer took control of the group, renamed it the Resistance Front, and on 5 February "liberated" Gonaives.
From his headquarters in a wooden shack, Mr Metayer declared he ruled the country's fourth-largest city and called on Haitians to take up arms against the president.

As a number of towns and cities fell in the next few days, others jumped on the rebels' bandwagon - notably cashiered soldiers from Mr Cedras's army.

They crossed over from the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where they had been living in angry exile since the former army was dissolved in 1995.


These insurgents - some well-equipped and wearing fatigues, others in casual dress and carrying old guns - seized pick-up trucks and marched into eastern towns.

Calling themselves the New Army, they do not regard themselves as rebels, but as the regular armed forces of Haiti.

The exiles' leader is Louis Jodel Chamblain, 50, who fled to the Dominican Republic in 1994.
A former sergeant, he is accused taking part in a number of atrocities during the years of military rule.

He was suspected of involvement in a 1987 election massacre, in which 34 voters were killed and a civilian-run ballot aborted.

In 1993 in co-founded the Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress - Fraph, which sounds like "hit" in French.

The group is accused of killing thousands of supporters of Mr Aristide.


Mr Chamblain denies involvement in any paramilitary activities and describes himself as a "Haitian patriot".

He returned from exile with another controversial former soldier, Guy Philippe, 35.

Trained in the United States and Ecuador, he was a senior security official under President Rene Preval, a civilian elected in 1995.
Now Mr Philippe and Mr Chamblain are allies, and celebrating their capture of Cap-Haitien, the country's second city at the weekend.

But a few years ago they were on opposite sides, as the Preval government hunted down members of the ousted military junta.

However Mr Philippe fled the country in 2000, accused of involvement in a plot to overthrown Mr Preval.

These men hope to be Haiti's next leaders. They will need to bury many old grievances if they are to rule in harmony.