Haiti's Martelly wants camps of ex-soldiers cleared

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2012 3:09 PM
Haiti's Martelly wants camps of ex-soldiers cleared

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian President Michel Martelly has asked government officials to find ways to clear several sites around the country being occupied by ex-members of Haiti's armed forces.

Last week, Reuters reported irregular military training camps have sprung up in different parts of Haiti, including one at an old military camp in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where an armed band of former soldiers brandished assault rifles and handguns.

The emergence of the camps comes against a backdrop of mounting international concern over a push by Martelly to revive Haiti's army, which was disbanded in 1995 after a brutal period of military rule.

In a statement released on Saturday, the presidential palace said Martelly held a meeting last week with police officials and lawmakers to examine ways to clear the sites.

The former soldiers, some dressed in military fatigues, were apparently mobilizing at the camps believing the restoration of the army is imminent.

Martelly, a former pop star, has ordered a commission to study the issue.

He has said Haitians would prefer to have their country protected by its own army rather than foreign troops who have acted as peacekeepers in the impoverished Caribbean nation since 1994.

Haiti has a U.N.-trained police force of about 10,000, but the force's image has been badly tarnished by accusations of sexual assault against several peacekeepers.

It has also faced accusations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country that killed more than 6,000 Haitians.

International aid donors and human rights activists say they fear the return of an institution accused of past human rights abuses could be divisive and divert resources from more pressing challenges of rebuilding after a 2010 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people.

(Editing by Kevin Gray)