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Haitian Bishops fear looming Civil War

Haiti's bishops fear a civil war might follow the "complete confusion" that grips this Caribbean nation, says a member of the Church hierarchy.

The bishop, who preferred to remain anonymous, made his remarks on Thursday during a phone call to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

He said the protest movement against President Jean Bertrand Aristide is large. But Aristide "sticks to his throne" and, therefore, a "civil war is foreseeable," the bishop said.

The so-called Group 184, made up of trade unionists and employers' associations, is the main movement calling for the president's immediate resignation, the Church leader explained.

According to the same source, there are pro and anti-Aristide armed groups, in particular near the border with the Dominican Republic that "are killing each other without knowing who is who."

Haiti has been in crisis since 2000, when Aristide won legislative elections, which the opposition and the international community challenged. The opposition refuses to participate in new elections until Aristide resigns, while he insists he will stay until his term ends in 2006.

Over the past few weeks, Aristide has confronted a large anti-government movement on the one hand, organized peacefully by the political opposition and civil society and, on the other, insurgent armed groups. Sources of the Missionary Service News Agency confirmed that the discontent is gaining supporters from the ranks of the Lavalas Family, the president's party.

Haitian Bishops Fear a Civil War Looms (Zenit 16/2/04)
Church representative denounces "complete confusion" in the country (Aid to the Church in Need 13/2/04)

Aid to the Church in Need
Catholic Church in Haiti
UNHCR urges Haiti's neighbours to receive refugees in event of exodus (UNHCR)
UN chief promises more involvement in Haiti (Xinhuanet 17/2/04)
French Considering Haiti Peacekeepers (Associated Press/Rocky Mount Telegram)
Q&A: Unrest in Haiti (BBC) | Profile: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

18 Feb 2004