Pepper water and protests in Haiti

By Scott Freeman

Tear gas is not uncommon in Port au Prince. Over the past decade, whether it has been protests over food shortages, controlling political demonstrations, or ‘peacekeeping’ actions by the infamous MINUSTAH UN forces, tear gas and other methods of crowd control have been a reality of the political and social landscape in downtown Port-au-Prince. A veteran reporter in Haiti told me that he had developed all sorts of strategies to deal with tear gas, ranging use of lime under his nose to more preventative measures like always having a paint masks handy.
But as of late, a new method of mass crowd control has been quite literally ‘sweeping the streets’ in the capital of Haiti. A type of pepper spray spiked water is being shot out of water cannons and into crowds of protesters. Dlo grate, or itching water, as it is referred to in Haitian Creole, is a now common term in Port au Prince. While not all have felt its devastatingly powerful effects, knowledge of the new tactic is widespread throughout the city.

The visit of French President François Hollande was the backdrop for the most recent student protest and excessive police response. Student protests are not uncommon in Port-au-Prince, and for the past years these demonstrations have often targeted the government in power. On May 12th, outside of the Faculté d’Ethnologie, the storied home of Haitian anthropology and site of many student demonstrations, 50 or so university students protested the arrival the French President– the first official state visit of any French President to Haiti. Given that Hollande had just rescinded an offer of reparations to Haiti for the damages of slavery and exploitation (officials insisting he was talking about a ‘moral debt’ and not a financial one), such a protest was largely predictable. Other protests in the plaza of Champ de Mars supposedly numbered around 200. During the day of his visit, students and protesters chanted ‘Nou pa esklav anko!’ (We won’t be slaves again), invoking France’s historical role as a slave owning colonial power, and hinting at the continual neocolonial tactics used by France and the broader international community. Some students provocatively dressed as slaves outside the university campus.

Student Protestors at Faculté d’Ethnologie on May 12, 2015.

During the late morning that Tuesday, I was in the second floor computer of the Faculté d’Ethnologie preparing a seminar that would be cancelled 45 minutes later. I could hear student chants that had been building for an hour or so. But new noises soon entered the air-conditioned room, and students sitting around me got up from their computers to see what caused the loud commotion.

From the second floor balcony, we could see that a black armored national police truck had parked itself outside of the walls of the school. On the top of this tank, visible over the wall, was a large turret fixed with a water cannon. The noise we could hear was the water that was being shot at students, occasionally hitting the metal door of the courtyard. The demonstration was non-violent (a Professor later remarked that he saw one student throw a stone, only to be quickly reprimanded by other demonstrators), yet the tank was parked right outside the courtyard, knocking students to the ground with a surge of water even when they were inside the gates of the university. From its position higher than the university walls, the water cannon was policing actions of even the students inside the gate. Continue reading “Pepper water and protests in Haiti”

GW event: From incitement to violence to conflict mitigation

When: Monday, December 16, 2013
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Where: Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
1957 E Street NW

This panel discussion will cover topics including:
How do we know when atrocities are imminent for a country facing conflict?
Does media have the potential to provide early warning of mass violence?
Are there media interventions that can work to prevent violence?

Featuring:

Alison Campbell, Internews Humanitarian Communications Partnership Manager and former Country Director for Burma
Ida Jooste, Internews Country Director for Kenya
Will Ferroggiaro, Internews Project Director – Conflict and Media
Mark Walsh, Internews Country Director for Kyrgyzstan

Discussant:
Matthew Levinger, Visiting Professor of International Affairs, GW

RSVP: http://go.gwu.edu/internewsconflictmitigation

Sponsored by the International Development Studies Program and Internews

 

Washington, DC event: Briefing on Explosions of Violence in Latin America — Landmines & the Context of Conflict in Latin America

When: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10 AM

Where: Congressional Meeting Room South, Capitol Visitors Center

This briefing is part of the monthly briefing series hosted by Sam Farr, Member of Congress, called Latin America on the Rise, which brings in speakers to address issues in the Western Hemisphere.

Latin America struggles with chronic violence and insecurity. In 2012, 1 in 3 citizens reported being impacted by violent crime and 50% perceived a deterioration in security. While insecurity has many manifestations, the presence of landmines in one third of Latin American countries contributes to the face of violence in many parts of the Western Hemisphere.

Colombia alone has the second highest number of landmine victims in the world, surpassed only by Afghanistan. Since 1990, over 10,000 citizens, including nearly 1,000 children, have been wounded or killed by landmines and estimates suggest clearing all the active mines in Colombia could take over a decade.

Colombia is not the only Latin American country affected by landmines. For the seven mine-affected states in the Americas, the context of this violence is a complicated picture of civilian, military, economic, and development factors. Addressing this larger context of violence is essential to resolving the conflicts and insecurity that can result in the use of landmines.

Panelists:
Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director, Handicap International

Dr. Suzanne Fiederlein, Associate Director, Center for International Stabilization & Recovery, James Madison University

Beth Cole, Director, Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, United States Agency for International Development

Moderator:
June Beittel, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, Congressional Research Service

If you have any questions, please contact Caitie Whelan (caitie.whelan@mail.house.gov).

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event: go.gwu.edu/LCWU

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.

International conference in Oslo

This Africa Center for Information & Development conference, “Africa’s triple threat — The rise of transnational and jihadist movements on the continent,” will cover Boko Haram, Al Shabab, and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Sahel. Speakers include:

Norad logo Twitter
Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation Twitter page

  • Dr. Emmanuel  Franklune Ogbunwezeh, Head, Africa department of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt
  • Stig Jarle Hansen, Associate Professor, Department of International Environment 6 Development Studies, Noragric. UMB
  • Morten Bøås, Senior Researcher at Fafo’s Institute for Applied International Studies in Oslo
  • Imam Ibrahim Saidy, Imam at Darus Salam Islamic Center Masjid Attawwabin, Oslo
  • Ms. Samia Nkrumah, Ghanaian politician and Chairwoman of the Convention People’s Party
  • Mr. Mohamed Husein Gaas, PhD Fellow at Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a Research fellow a Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies

When: October 17, 2013, 10am – 5pm
Where: P- Hotels, Oslo, Norway
Conference funded by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Washington, D.C. event: Crisis in the Central African Republic

You are invited to a Great Lakes Policy Forum on the crisis in the Central African Republic, co-sponsored with the National Endowment for Democracy.

On March 24, 2013, the Seleka rebels seized control of the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), Bangui, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee. Current President Michel Djotodia faces the difficult task of restoring order and organizing elections once the 18-month transition period expires. Please join us for a discussion with Central African legislature and civil society members on the latest crisis situation in the Central African Republic, affecting the Great Lakes region as a whole.

When: Friday September 27, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Where: Main Conference Room, National Endowment for Democracy, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004

Speakers:

Emilie Beatrice Epaye, Member of the National Transitional Council

Nicolas Guerekoyama Gbangou, Member of the National Transitional Council

The Right Reverend Nestor Nongo Aziagbia, Bishop of Bossangoa

Mathias Morouba, Attorney and head of Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l’Homme Dave Peterson, Senior Director, Africa, National Endowment for Democracy

Moderator:

Ambassador Laurence D. Wohlers

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic

RSVP Here

 

Reflections on the Sexuality Policy Watch conference

Guest post by Jamison Liang

Photo courtesy of Jamison Liang

As a graduate student in cultural anthropology whose research focuses on how international, national, and Islamic law have been applied to issues of gender and sexuality in the Indonesian province of Aceh, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to partake in the recent conference, Sexuality and Political Change: A New Training Program hosted by Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW).

The meeting took place in Rio de Janeiro from March 18-22 and brought together 17 individuals from around the world who do research on sexuality in the global south and look to link their work to movements of political and social change. Sexuality Policy Watch, a Rio and New York-based organization, serves as a global forum for researchers and activists who engage with policy debates and initiatives on sexuality, gender, sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, and LGBT activism. This pilot program aimed to provide a forum for participants to share our research and experiences while reflecting on the intersection of theory, research, and change in the realm of genders and sexualities.

One factor that made this conference so important for me—but also challenging—was the diversity of the participants both in interests and backgrounds. Attendees came from Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Brazil, India, Egypt, the Philippines, Cameroon, China, and Mexico, among others. I was one of two Americans. We ranged from current graduate students to established professors to queer activists to UN lawyers and had expertise in areas including sexual health, LGBT rights, migration, and sex work.

In forums such as this, it is always helpful as a space for knowledge sharing, but it is undoubtedly difficult to negotiate how we translate all of our local identities and nationally-bound political structures into terms and strategies that have currency at the transnational and international level. Continue reading “Reflections on the Sexuality Policy Watch conference”