Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haitian Military Confused after Transfer of Power Aristide Must Select New Commander Who Will Promote Basic Change in Military `Culture'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haitian Military Confused after Transfer of Power Aristide Must Select New Commander Who Will Promote Basic Change in Military `Culture'

Article excerpt

THE resignation and anticipated departure of military chief Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras marks a milestone for the Haitian people and the international community.

But after an emotional ceremony in which General Cedras was barely audible above the crowd's taunting, the importance of his departure was reduced to just another step leading to the truly momentous occasion: the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Oct. 15.

The transfer of power from Cedras to Maj. Gen. Jean-Claude Duperval, an interim step, leaves President Aristide with the crucial choice of a new armed forces commander who will support his government and turn the demoralized military into a professional force. Aristide's last choice was Cedras, who led the September 1991 coup against him.

The Haitian soldiers and officers left behind are feeling confused, isolated, and resentful - unsure of their future in the face of United States plans to disman-tle and retrain security forces.

Some low-ranking officers complain that they are not being kept abreast of the situation. They found out about US troops coming and Cedras's departure, they say, from the radio.

"Ever since the Americans arrived, no one has ever talked to us about what they are doing here," says one Haitian soldier.

Many soldiers have deserted their posts. According to one officer, things are so disorganized that no one knows who is where. Cedras signed many transfers before he departed, but they have been impossible to track.

"Everyone is apprehensive about their jobs," one lieutenant says. "They are all wondering what will happen to them. Some are really sad because they thought Cedras was a decent guy." Still others, he says, are relieved. They are tired of being classified as a band of thugs and are thirsty for the training offered to them by US troops.

"It was just a minority at the top who agreed with the coup," says an agronomist with ties to the Army. …

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