doc. 9 rev. 1
September 1988
Original: English






E.       THE COUP D'ETAT OF JUNE 20, 1988


a.       The Attempt by President Manigat to Consolidate his Power over the Military



          195.          Mr. Leslie Manigat, after he wad deposed by the military as President of Haiti, stated that the main reason for his ouster was the resistance of the army and police to his efforts to curb corruption and drug trafficking to the United States.


          196.          Mr. Manigat revealed that several weeks before the coup he had started an investigation into the role of army officers and the police in drug smuggling and other criminal activities.  "My effort was resisted", Mr. Manigat was quoted as saying, "I knew I took a risk to confront people who were engaged in corrupt activities, contraband and drugs".63   He said that when he tried to remove them from power they ousted him.


          197.          Col. Jean-Claude Paul, commander of the Dessalines Military barracks, was indicted on federal drug charges by a Miami grand jury on March 10, 1988.  He was charged with conspiring in 1986, with his brother and ex-wife to introduce a shipment of more than 900 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. from a secret airstrip on his Haitian ranch.  If tried and found guilty in a United States Court he could receive a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a fine of up to US$375,000.


          198.          On April 5, 1988, Mr. Osvaldo Quintana, a Miami businessman and drug informer, testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Communications, and stated that Col. Jean-Claude Paul had asked him to help smuggle the 900 pounds of cocaine into de U.S.64   Mr. Quintana testified that Col. Paul once passed through Haitian customs inspection with a handbag containing his pistol and cocaine destined for the U.S. and when the metal detector went off customs officials recognized the Colonel and everyone saluted him as he went right through.65


          199.          According to reports from another Senate subcommittee hearing held on May 21, 1988, the drug connection reaches high into the Haitian government, including Gen. Williams Regala, who until September 17, 1988 was both the Minister of Interior and Defense, and his liaison officer to the Drug Enforcement Administration".66   One witness, Mr. Fritz Pierre Louis, a former lieutenant in the Haitian army who later defected, stated that "he personally turned over cocaine confiscated in raids to Col. Paul only to have it disappear".  He estimated that 70% of the Colonel's powerful Dessalines barracks forces are involved in the trafficking".67    According to the .S. Drug Enforcement Agency "Haiti sits astride a natural drug-smuggling route from Colombia, providing planes and boats with a staging area for the last leg of the run into the Bahamas and Florida".68


          200.          Without providing a reason for the action, on June 14, 1988 Lt. Gen. Namphy, the Commander-in-Chief of the Haitian armed forces, transferred Col. Paul from his position to Army General Headquarters, naming him Assistant Head of the General Staff, G-2, replacing Col. Morton Gousse who had been promoted to Brig. General.  Lt. Col. Guy François, second in command of the Dessalines barracks, became the new commander.  Lt. Gen. Namphy reportedly summoned Col. Paul and nine other officers on Tuesday, June 14, 1988, and gave them their new assignments.  Col. Paul then reportedly telephone President Manigat and indicated his refusal to accept the reassignment.69    He reportedly also had the support of the 700 soldiers of the Dessalines barracks.70


          201.          On Wednesday, June 15, 1988, President Manigat issued a communiqué stating that the decisions taken in connection with the reshuffle within the Haitian Army were taken without the prior knowledge of the President of Haiti, who s constitutionally the head of the Haitian Armed forces even though he does not command them personally.  In the communiqué the President:



ordered the reestablishment of the status quo ante - i.e., orders this decision withdrawn - as the measure of conservation most in keeping with the national interest, while awaiting a definitive solution which, in keeping with the policy of change of the constitutional government of Haiti, has as its objective the democratization and modernization of the Haitian Armed Forces, to place them at the service of the nation's development.71



202.          In the opinion of President Manigat, what was at issue was not the fate of Col. Paul, but the principle of the supremacy of civilian power over military power.  In testimony presented to the Commission the deposed President explained the situation in the following terms:


  I was the constitutional head of the army.  (…) and we were determined to defend the basic principle of the supremacy of the civilian power over the military.  (…)  We presented and promoted the principle of the supremacy of the civilian power over the military institution.  This is the heart of the problem.



203.          Following the comuniqué72  on June 15, 1988, the armed forces issued a press release withdrawing the reassignment order "temporarily" and reaffirming the military's loyalty to the government, without mentioning President Manigat.  The press release stated in relevant part that:



…it was decided, following a meeting between the President of the Republic and the Ministers of national Defense, Armed Forces, Military Service, and Civil Service, to temporarily rescind the said measures.  The Haitian Armed Forces High Command wishes to reaffirm the institution's unreserved loyalty to the nation's government within the framework of the dispositions of the Constitution and the law, as well as its determination to participate in the overall development program of the government of the Republic.73  


          204.          On Thursday, June 16, 1988, President Manigat held a press conference with foreign and domestic reporters at the National Palace concerning recent events.  He announced publicly the latest success of the forces of order against "certain persons" committing acts of violence and creating the state of insecurity which prevailed.74   He stated that eleven persons had been captured, only one of whom was a civilian, and that the capture was carried out by the Dessalines Barracks forces.


          205.          In deposed President Manigat's testimony presented to the Commission he stated that Lt. Gen. Namphy had organized the insecurity prevailing in the country and that Lt. Gen. Namphy had transferred Col. Paul in order to have these eleven persons set free.


          206.          President Manigat, at this June 16, 1988 press conference, considered the crisis to have been superseded thanks to a four-hour dialogue he held with the Army command and the resultant press release which annulled the transfer.


          207.          On Friday, June 17, 1988, President Manigat "retired" Lt. General Henri Namphy for having ordered the transfer of certain officers on June 14 in violation of "constitutional norms," and placed him under house arrest.  President Manigat name Col. Morton Gousse the acting Commander-in-chief and promoted him to brigadier general.  General Carl Michel Nicolas, Army Chief of Staff, and General Wilthan Lherisson of the General Staff, were retired for "insubordination" because they had begun to implement certain measures that had been annulled by President Manigat, such as the transfer to Army Headquarters of Col. Jean-Claude Paul.75


          208.          In testimony presented to the Commission, President Manigat stated that Lt. General Namphy had been preparing a coup against his government, which had been planned to take place at a later date, and that it was not sufficient for him to place Namphy under house arrest, - he had to move against the other plotters as well.76    Consequently, on Sunday, June 19 198 General Morton Gousse, with the approval of President Manigat, reassigned more than 30 officers in the Haitian police and armed forces.  Col. Grégoire Figaro, the Chief of Police was ordered into retirement and replaced by a moderate within the army who was formerly in charge of the traffic department.  Capt. Ernest Ravix, port director of St. Marc, was reassigned to a post in the remote Southern end of Haiti.  Col. Prosper Avril, who was inspector of the Presidential Guard and former member of the provisional government that replaced jean-Claude Duvalier, was appointed Chief of the Haitian Army General Headquarters Office of Military Attaches.77   The reshuffling of certain powerful officers set the stage for the coup.


b.       The Coup of June 20, 1988


          209.          More than one observer predicted that the outcome of this divide and conquer policy towards the military might result in the ouster of President Manigat.78   Lt. Gen. Namphy was freed at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday by an officer and other supporters, who then proceeded to seize the National Palace.  At 1:20 a.m. Monday, June 20, 1988, Lt. General Namphy appeared on Haitian television wearing a steel helmet and carrying a machinegun and announced that the army had taken power.


          210.          The deposed President, Leslie Manigat, described his ouster to the Commission and stated that the State Residence where he lived was attacked with tanks and shot at it at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, after Lt. Gen. Namphy's declaration on television, causing the destruction of the upper part of the State Residence.  President Manigat surrendered in the presence of 20 people, among them his wife and parents and subsequently, was taken to an aviation camp where he was kept in custody until a military plane flew him to the Dominican Republic.  Mr. Manigat testified to the Commission that:  


(…) my house was attacked by guns and tanks.  At 2:00 a.m. they shot at my house.  Three officers - Col. Prosper Avril, Maj. Henri-Robert Augustin and Maj. Marc Charles - organized the take over as the presidential guard took Haiti's only armored tanks and freed Lt. Gen. Namphy from his house arrest and brought him to the National Palace.79



Mr. Manigat, stated that the crucial element in the success of the coup was possession of the armored tanks.


c.       The Installation of a Military Government


          211.          Lt. Gen. Namphy seized power in a bloodless group and declared himself President, with Col. Jean-Claude Paul at his side, and announced that "it is not just the Army.  Everybody is now in the Army because it is this Army that is going to lead this country as it has to be led."80


                212.          On June 20th, 1988 Lt. Gen. Namphy announced the formation of a new government consisting of eleven ministers - all of whom are military officers.  He also reshuffled the military to annul the measures taken by Manigat.  Gen. Carl Michel Nicolas and Gen. Lherisson, who had both been retired by Manigat, were reinstated and appointed Commander and Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the army; Col. Figaro was promoted to Brigadier General and reinstated as Chief of Police and Col. Prosper Avril was promoted and appointed Armed forces Adjutant General.  Mr. Manigat's supporter, Brig. Gen. Charles Louis, chief of the Presidential Guard was retired, but neither Gen. Regala nor Col. Jean-Claude Paul were removed; Gen. Regala was re-appointed to the post that he held during the period of the National Governing Council as the Minister of Interior and National Defense.


          213.          Lt. Gen. Namphy explained that it was the Armed Forces' "duty to once again seize the reins of power" because Mr. Manigat had been "set upon a path that was leading him irrevocably to the most brutal form of dictatorship".81   Manigat's great flaw had been to attempt to divide the military and to subordinate it to civilian control.  In an interview given to the French newspaper Liberation, Lt. Gen. Namphy stated that President Manigat failed to abide by the Constitution and military regulation by refusing to approve the administrative transfer of col. Paul - a decision made by the commander-in-chief.  Lt. Gen. Namphy stated that:  


We could not allow him to destabilize the Army.  The Col. Paul affair and the decision to retire me were aimed at doing that.  We took action to ensure that the Army was not divided, and I think that the coup was the best solution for the Army which emerged from it with a better image and more unity.82



d.          The Political Agenda of lt. General Namphy


          214.          In Lt. Gen. Namphy's interview (supra) with Liberation, he stated that "the time is not right for elections in Haiti".83   According to the General "it has now been proved that there cannot be elections or an elected president in present conditions.84


          215.          Although the military take-over was justified in the name of democracy85  and Manigat's alleged violations of the Constitution, Lt. Gen. Namphy announced that no elections would be held and that the 1987 Constitution was abolished.


          216.          Mr. Hubert de Ronceray, president of the Mobilization for National Development (MDN) party was the first political figure to comment on the coup.  Mr. De Ronceray in his interview with the Commission stated that on February 11, 1988 his party decided not to recognize the Manigat-Celestin government, which it considered illegitimate and that the MDN, on June 13, 1988 invited the Army to intervene.  In Mr. De Ronceray's opinion, a few military men put Manigat into power and then removed him.  He expressed the hope that the military government would restore the democratic process.


          217.          Rev. Sylvio Claude, head of the Haitian Christian Democratic Party (PDCH) also called upon the military to remove Manigat from power.  In the light of Lt. Gen. Namphy's declarations that the military intended to remain in power indefinitely, he appealed to the Commission to call upon the international community to isolate Haiti and to cut off all aid, including humanitarian aid, until the military government falls.


          218.          In his first major address on the nation's future, on July 8, 1988 Lt. General Namphy announced that the military government was committed to the "democratic process," which would be advanced by setting in place credible political institutions that all sectors of society will join in establishing.86   In order to organize the government, the 1987 Constitution, which "strayed too far from our moves," would be replaced by "a new, equally democratic charter" which will be submitted to the people for approval.87   The "struggle against corruption" is to continue and "no effort will be spared to create the environment for private initiative to blossom".88   Lt. Gen. Namphy called upon all sectors of society to participate at our side, in the efforts to bring the nation to a normal life that is indispensable for a felicitous outcome to the process of democratization.  Political solutions will take shape along the way, as this normalization occurs".89


                          219.          Political figures, such as Mr. Marc Bazin, leader of the Movement for the Establishment of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH), in a public address on July 28, 1988, urged that Lt. Gen. Namphy be taken at his word and that the different sectors of society participate in a dialogue, since the hard fact is that it is the Arm which is holding the reins of power.90    Other political figures, such as Rev. Sylvio Claude reject the idea of dialogue with Lt. Gen. Namphy, stating that a dialogue is not possible without the Constitution of 1987 and that the result of dialogue with the CNG which Lt. Gen. Namphy headed, were the events of November 19, 1987 and January 17, 1988.  On August 5, 1988, Lt. General Namphy stated that he was ready to dialogue with the opposition as long as it did not question his authority.  "The train has room for everyone," he said "but everyone who decides to get aboard must be ready to accept the conditions of the conductor".91






a.       The Attack on the St. jean Bosco Church


          220.          On Sunday, September 11, 1988, a large group of assailants attacked the approximately 1,000 parishioners in St. Jean Bosco church while Father jean-Bertrand Aristide was officiating at the morning mass.  The brutality of the attack, led by men armed with guns and machetes, resulted in the killing of at least a dozen persons and approximately 77 were injured badly enough to be hospitalized.  The assailants, dressed in plainclothes but with red armbands, entered the church screaming "Communists, communists" and targeted Father Aristide (an outspoken opponent of the military government) and parishioners dressed in white.  The assailants sought out persons wearing white clothing because the opposition groups had called for Haitians to wear white or display white flags on Sunday to protest the plans of the Namphy government to rewrite the 1987 Constitution.  In spite of the fact that there was a military compound across the street from the church and three others nearby, the police and soldiers according to eyewitnesses merely looked on rather than coming to the aid of the victims.  At the conclusion of the three-hour rampage the church was burned down thereby making it impossible to verify the total number of deaths since some remains are believed to have been consumed by the flames.  The attack was the third attack in a week involving Father Aristide and St. Jean Bosco Church.  The priest's bodyguards disarmed a gunman September 4 as he tried to enter the church during mass and attackers surrounded and stoned the church on Tuesday, September 13, 1988.



          221.          Mr. Franck Romain, the mayor of Port-au-Prince and the former chief of police during the Duvalier regime, stated publicly that Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been "justly punished".  According to an interview given to Radio Metropole, Mr. Romain stated that "Father Aristide has always preached violence … and that he who sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind".  Eyewitnesses to the event identified city hall employees among the assailants.  Mr. Romain responded to questions by saying "If (city hall) employees were involved … I don't see how I am concerned".  On Monday, September 12, 1988 five men and one woman appeared on the government controlled television station (Télé Nationale) and admitted their participation in the attack on the church.  They threatened a "heap of corpses" at any future mass celebrated by Aristide  Many people were outraged that these individuals could appear on television, without any disguise, confess their participation in these events and threaten future criminal acts with no fear of being arrested by the authorities.  On Wednesday, September 7, 1988, the same assailants reportedly raided the maternity ward of the Port-au-Prince General Hospital, ripping sheets off the patients, looking for a pregnant woman who had been stabbed in the church attack.  They said that they wanted to kill her but were not able to find her. 


b.       The ouster of Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy


          222.          Reportedly a group of non-commissioned officers of Haiti's 1,000 man Presidential Guard were outraged at the attack against the parishioners of the St. Jean Bosco Church and the failure of Gen. Namphy to condemn the attack attributed to the Tontons Macoutes, and feared that if left unchecked, the Macoutes would eclipse the Army as the premier force in the country.  Consequently, these officers seized power from Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy after ten hours of sporadic fighting which began Saturday afternoon, September 17, 1988.  In a brief prepared statement read in the name of the Presidential Guard at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Sgt. Joseph Heubreux explained the coup as an attempt by non-commissioned officers to restore honor to Haiti's Armed Forces and to end a period of random violence and confusion in the army chain of command under General Namphy.  Sgt. Heubreux introduced the new head of state, Prosper Avril, as "the most honest officer" in the Haitian Armed forces.  Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril stated that he accepted the nomination as President to "save the country from anarchy and chaos".  Lat. Gen. Namphy was escorted to the international airport and deported to the Dominican Republic in the same manner that he had deported deposed President Leslie Manigat almost two months earlier.


          223.          The departure of Lt. Gen. Namphy has led to a renewal of the dechoukaj, as several Macoutes who were involved in the attacks on the Church were seized and burned to death on the streets.  Other well known Macoutes are being pursued and their homes looted.  Prominent Macoutes such as Franck Romain and Claude Raymond are reportedly in hiding.  The absence of institutional justice has resulted in the people, once again, applying a justice of their own.


          224.          The younger officers, - and this is reportedly a "grassroots coup", - intend to retire officers who have completed 30 years of service.  They have stated that they do not need so many generals for such a small army.  They have called for a clearer division between the police and the Army and for the restoration of the 1987 Constitution which needs to be amended, but they insist that Article 291 (the anti-Duvalierist provision) be maintained.


          225.          It is too early (September 20, 1988) and Haitian politics are too unpredictable to be able to predict how the political situation will evolve.  It may not evolve and a counter-coup might occur tomorrow.  But this "revolution", from the base line, apparently from the lower ranks of the Army offers, at least, the hope for optimism as regards the restoration of the 1987 Constitution, control over the Macoutes and a return to the democratization process.  




          The Commission has come to the conclusion that the military government in Haiti has perpetuated itself in power as a result of violence instigated by elements of the Haitian Armed Forces resulting in the massacre of Haitian voters on November 29, 1987, the manipulation of the elections held on January 17, 1988, and the ouster of President Manigat on June 20 1988, when President Manigat attempted to subordinate the military to civilian control, and the substitution of Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril for Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy by a coup within the coup on September 17, 1988.


          Whether the military "seized" power on February 7, 1986, as it claimed, or was placed in power by other forces, the National Governing Council (CNG) during its period in power demonstrated no vocation for democracy.  The CNG was reorganized on March 21, 1986 following the resignation of Mr. Gérard Gourgue, and three of its members were removed as a result of the continuing demonstrations calling for their dismissal.  One of the members who was removed due to his having been considered a strong supporter of the Duvalier regime was then Colonel Prosper Avril.


          The result of the almost three-year old democratization process led by the military in Haiti has been the entrenchment of the military in power.  Lt. Gen. Namphy, who proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in 1987, in open defiance of the dictates of the Constitution, and in prejudice to the yet-to-be-elected President, has now proclaimed himself President sine die, expelled the civilian President, suppressed the Legislature, abrogated the 1987 Constitution, and in effect, established a military dictatorship.  Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, who has been placed in power by a group of non-commissioned officers is considered by them to be "the most honest officer in the Haitian Armed Forces".  His vocation for democracy is yet to be tested.


          The key element in this analysis is that the Haitian people, by means of the 1987 Constitution, sought to put Duvalier and Duvalierism behind them.  The departure of president-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier did not signify the end of the Duvalier era.  The slogans of the opposition - dechoukaj in 1986 and again in 1988, and rache manyok in 1987 - called for the extirpation of Duvalierism and the Army from the national political scene.  The structure of the Duvalierist state, however, by means of the use of brute force, has remained intact.


          It is premature to be able to predict how the current political situation will evolve.  The situation, at best, reflects anew the starting point of February 7, 1986 when the Haitian people looked to the Armed forces to assist them in the democratization process.  This group of young officers, unlike the military brass which as "ruled" Haiti since Duvalier's departure, appears to be a microcosm of Haitian society, which, like the Haitian people, "aspires to restore honor to Haiti's Armed Forces".


[ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]


63.          "Haitian Says Drive on Drugs Led to His Ouster as Leader",  George Volsky, New York Times, June 26, 1988.

          64.          "Haitian Military Official Implicated in '86 Drug Plot". Joe Pichirallo, The Washington Post, April 6, 1988.

          65.          Id.

          66.          "Haiti is Becoming a Growing Hub of the Narcotics-smuggling Trade," New York Times, May 23, 1988.

          67.          Id.

          68.          Id.

          69.          "Haiti's President Rejects Military Order", Joseph Treaster, New York Times, June 16, 1988.

          70.          See, "Dessalines Soldiers Interviewed" DBIS, June 15, 1988.

          71.          President Manigat's Communiqué of June 15, 1988.  FBIS 16 June 1978.  Also, Le Nouvelliste, June 15, 1988.

          72.          The complete testimony is in the files of the Commission.

          73.          "Armed Forces 'Temporarily Rescind' Measures" test of press release issued by the Armed Forces General Headquarters on June 15, 1988, FBIS 17 June 1988.  See also, Le Nouvelliste, June 16, 1988.

          74.          See, Chapter III regarding the campaign of violence and insecurity which characterized the latter months of the Manigat government.

          75.          "Namphy, Others forcibly Retired," President Manigat's communiqué of June 17, 1988.  FBIS 20 June 1988.  Reportedly Lt. Gen. Namphy was "rebuffed" when he asked col. Abelard of the Leopards to use force in implementing his order.  See, "Haiti's President Rejects Military Order", Joseph Treaster, New York times, June 16, 1988 and "Haiti's President Shuffles Military on a Broad Scale," Joseph Treaster New York Times, June 20, 1988.

          76.          See, Note 72.

          77.          "More on Army Reshuffling" FBIS 20 June 1988.

          78.          See, for example, "Military Split Could Shake Haiti," E.A. Wayne, The Christian Science Monitor, June 20, 1988.

          79.          See, Note 72.

          80.          "Top Commander Declares Himself President of Haiti" Joseph Treaster, New York Times, June 21, 1988.

          81.          "Explains Power Seizure", Message to the Nation by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy from the National Palace on June 20, 1988.  FBIS 21 June 1988.  Also, Le Nouvelliste, June 21, 1988.  See also, "Haiti Army Officer"  No Apologies for Brutal Military Rule", Clara Germani, The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 1988.

          82.          "Namphy on Coup Reasons, Elections, Army Role", Interview with President Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy by Christian Lionet on June 24, 1988; FBIS 30 June 1988.  Also reprinted in Le Nouvelliste 28 June 1988.

          83.          Id.

          84.          Id.

          85.          Id.  In this interview Lt. General Namphy states that "Only the Haitian Army can bring democracy to this country.  I state that categorically.  The Haitian Army is the only institution which can bring human rights to this country.  I am not afraid to say it.  Lt. Gen. Namphy is the champion of human rights in this country because he does not send people out into the streets to be killed.  Instead, I protect them.  Only the Haitian Army can support development, which is the only way to establishing democracy in Haiti".

          86.          "Namphy address on New 'Democratic Charter'", Message to the Nation by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, President of the Military Government from the National Palace, July 8, 1988.  FBIS 11 July 1988.  Also in Le Nouvelliste, July 11, 1988.

          87.          Id.

          88.          Id.

          89.          Id.

          90.          "MIDH'S Bazin:  Dialogue 'Absolute Necessity'", Message of Marc Bazin over Tele Haiti's Channel 2 on July 28, 1988.  FBIS 2 August 1988.  "Further on Dialogue Call".  FBIS 2 August 1988.

          91.          AP Press release, August 5, 1988.