PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Haitians marked their country’s 207 years of independence from France last weekend with protests and demands for President René Préval to step down immediately.
While a celebration took place on Saturday in the city of Gonaives, where a slave rebellion led to independence for the former French colony, angry demonstrators showed their displeasure with Préval, chanting and bearing placards calling for his removal.
In Port-au-Prince, protestors burned tires in the streets, blocked roads and called on the authorities to arrest Préval.
Haitians are still angry about the results of the first round of the presidential elections on November 28, alleging fraud and voter intimidation by the ruling party.
The preliminary results put former first lady Mirlande Manigat in first position, followed by Préval’s handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin. However, those results are currently being reviewed by a team from the Organization of American States (OAS) before a run-off takes place between Manigat and Celestin later this month.
In his Independence message, Préval warned that the political impasse, the earthquake that struck the nation on January 12, 2010 and the ongoing cholera outbreak have put Haiti on “a dangerous road”.
He said everything had changed after the earthquake rocked the capital, killing more than 230,000 and leaving thousands more homeless. Appealing for understanding, Préval said that after the disaster, “the country was turned upside down”.