Over 50 former soldiers and their supporters, among them two Americans, were arrested by police in a recent illegal march staged by the resurging rogue army in Haiti.
Reportedly impatient with President Michel Martelly's delay to reinstate the former Haitian army, hundreds of former and aspirant Haitian soldiers donned green army fatigues and marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince recently, despite orders from the government to disband. According to reports, the march became violent when the marchers reached in front of Haiti's National Palace, where an exchange of gunfire took place between marchers and United Nation peacekeeping officers.
Among the over 50 arrested were two Americans, identified as William Petrie, 39, of Barberton, Ohio, and Steven Shaw, 57, of Dighton, Massachusetts. The Americans were arrested for aiding the rogue army, specifically as drivers for a group of ex-army leaders during the march.
Prosecutor Jean-Renel Senatus has stated that the two men may face up to three years in prison for conspiracy charges.
Meanwhile, many residing in Port-au-Prince expressed fears about Martelly's campaign pledge to reinstate the Haitian army, which was disbanded shortly after former President Bertrand Aristide was exiled in 1995.
Marguerite, a Haitian civil servant, said she feared that because of Haiti's limited resources to equip and train a professional, regulated army, the government would default to a "hurry-up" army with informal structure. Such a return of armies organized similarly to those of "the former bad days" when the army was "badly feared," says Marguerite, could have negative repercussions against the recovering country.
Over the past months, following Martelly's decision to delay the reinstatement of the Haitian army, some former ex-soldiers and their followers have occupied 10 former military bases into training centers for new, young recruits – a group that has been growing while the city labors under heavy unemployment and displacement.
The Haitian police have reportedly closed three of these bases reclaimed by the rogue army so far. Meanwhile, the Martelly government has been calling on the group to leave the remaining bases, but these calls have been largely ignored.
Last November, Martelly established a special commission to ensure that any reinstatement was done constitutionally. The commission was responsible for providing an appropriate timetable for possible reinstatement. The rogue group however saw the move as Martelly succumbing to the strong international pressure opposed to the army's reinstatement.