Originally: Press Statement of the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)Press Statement of the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL )
Press Statement of the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)
Open Society Institute Haiti
in regards to the aborted student demonstration of December 5, 2003.
The Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL) ? Open Society Institute Haïti wants to voice decisively and firmly their absolute denunciation of the brutal acts of unspeakable violence against the students of the Faculté des Sciences Humaines ? FASCH (Social Sciences Faculty) and the Institut National d?Administration de Gestion et des Hautes Etudes Internationales ? INAGHEI (National Institute for Management and International Studies) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
On December 5, 2003, from the windows of our Cultural Center, located on Avenue Christophe, close to these two schools, we were witness to, and at certain times lived, the terror and horror of that day. The whole staff of the Foundation, of the Monique Calixte Library as well as two French diplomats visiting our facilities beheld this ongoing stream of hatred and violence. The Cultural Attaché and the new Cultural Advisor of the Service of Cooperation and Cultural Activities of the French Embassy were, just like us, held hostage from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.
The scenes we witnessed would suffice to justify our indignation.
However our public outcry today results from the fact that FOKAL is, since its creation in 1996, dedicated to education in Haiti. Since this is the Foundation?s mission, and because of the meager national subsides from the government to encourage higher education, and being aware of the fundamental importance of the Université d?Etat d?Haïti ? UEH (Haiti?s State University) for training, research and education, FOKAL has helped many higher schools by giving grants to libraries, computer and research labs and study programs. The Foundation financed the Social Sciences School and to a lesser extent the INAGHEI. We cannot remain silent when ?lavalas?(pro-governmental) gangs invade the university, beating students, molesting the Dean, hitting the assistant Dean and destroying infrastructures we had help to build.
We must add that FOKAL has a small scholarship program assisting students that have a solid academic background and show a will to learn but do not have the means to pursue university studies. Whenever possible, FOKAL helps them buy books and supplies. We have learned that some of these students have also been victims of violence.
In our facilities on Avenue Christophe, we followed minute by minute the ongoing drama. That morning of December 5, 2003, starting at 9 a.m.:
– We saw groups of pro-governmental militia, called chimè or OP (Popular organization), regroup in front of our building, visibly preparing to attack the student demonstration scheduled for that day.
– We saw their arms displayed, ranging from fire arms, wooden and iron sticks, rocks and other objects capable of hurting and killing.
– We saw their chiefs, men and women, also armed, equipped with walkie-talkies and cellular phones, organize and give orders to the commandos that were to attack the students.
– We saw the police, not neutral as has been reported, but acting as accomplices to the militia. On several occasions, during that day of horror and shame, the police opened the way for the chimè?s attack and also covered their backs.
– We saw children aged between twelve and fifteen, some in school uniforms, used by the lavalas militia to throw rocks and attack the students with fire arms.
– We have seen our vacant property invaded by policemen and lavalas chimè. We were powerless bystanders when a small uninhabited house on FOKAL?s property, from which it is possible to see the FASCH, was set on fire. The fire was threatening to spread and destroy us and we were able, with the help of the neighbors and our security guards, to put it out. Then the chimè came back and accused us of being the allies of the students and added that our vehicles and buildings deserved to be burnt down because of this so-called complicity. We had to shut ourselves inside the building whose exits where blocked by the lavalas chimè for more than 4 hours.
– We saw the lavalas chimè set fire a second time to the same house, and when we called the firemen and saw their truck arrive. We also saw the truck hesitate in front of the entrance and leave, intimidated by the screams of the lavalas chimè.
– We saw the chimè invade the FASCH and we imagined what happened when we heard the screams and cries.
FOKAL?s Cultural Center offers a public library service through the Monique Calixte Library. Luckily, that day, the library was closed for renovation. Otherwise, we could have had under our responsibility, more than a hundred of children and teenagers, schools and university students, who usually come to study, read and learn. We are alarmed by this insistence on destroying knowledge and intelligence, against access to information and culture offered to a youth deprived of resources.
Within two weeks of the bicentennial of our revolution, we are revolted by the use of children and youth made by the government, teaching them violence and hatred and driving them to the dead end paths of destruction and chaos. We renew our confidence in knowledge and learning, and we will continue to fight for the existence of libraries, of free cultural spaces in our country, because we are convinced of the primordial role of education and culture in the construction of a free, united and democratic Haiti.
Port-au-Prince, December 8, 2003
For the Board of Directors:
Dr. Daniel Henrys, Vice-President
For the Executive Office:Michèle D. Pierre-Louis, Director