Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Haiti: Numerous Mobs Attack Two Foreigners Believed to be Kidnapping Children for Adoption

Parts of the developing world are apparently increasingly aware of the fact that their children are valuable and coveted commodities to the rest of the world, not just for exploitation for labor and sex, but also for adoption.

Jim Luce, the founder of Orphans International Worldwide (OI), an NGO associated with the United Nations, says fear of an illegal trade in children can change an atmosphere very quickly, as he found out on a trip to Haiti in July.

--from an article, "Child Kidnap Fears Spark Mob Chase" in the BBC news online
Jim Luce, a white aid worker, was on his 16th trip to Haiti and traveling with white American psychologist Dr. Doris Chernik, the Haitian director of Orphans International Jacques Africot, and three young Haitian children from an orphanage in Gonvaives, Haiti, when some of the village women started a dangerous rumor accusing the "two whites"... ... "of trying to kidnap one of their sons as he was swimming the day before."

The accusation apparently spread like quickly for when the party stopped to buy fuel for their car and the local residents saw the whites with what they presumed was their Haitian driver and three beautiful young Haitian children, they jumped to the conclusion that these children were being kidnapped for sale on the adoption black market. The local residents refusing to believe all explanations to the contrary offered by both the adults and chidlren in the car, resolved to stop the kidnapping, rescue the children, and mete out their own justice.

Consequently, the situation quickly turned dangerous and violent.

"Ti melet!" Child-theives!

The angry mob was screaming at us in Creole.

Even though I didn't know at the time what the words meant, I knew we were all in grave danger.

--Jim Luce, from the BBC article
The article details an increasingly dangerous situation as the car is surrounded by a quickly growing, increasingly angry mob of at least 50 people, chanting ever and ever louder--"child-thieves."

The mob attempts to pull the Haitian children out of the car (presumably to rescue them from the "kidnappers"). The mob bangs on the car. A policeman jumps into the backseat in an attempt to find out what is going on.

The car must drive off as two cement blocks are about to be thrown through the windows.

A mile down the road the driver stops the car so that the policeman can sort out exactly what the facts of the case are, but the car is again quickly surrounded by another angry mob.

"We now understood for the first time the angry crowd thought we were kidnapping their chidlren for the international black market.

Suddenly, people in the crowd lifted up cinder blocks ready to throw them through our windows.

The policeman pulled out his gun and aimed it squarely at the lead block-thrower's chest and with his booming voice scream something--perhaps 'back off or you die.'"

--from the same BBC article
By cell phone they seek police reinforcements to protect themselves--but the local police have a broken down car and can't come help. By cell phone they seek help from the Haitian National Police and the UN police but both are an hour away in the city of Gonviaves. They seek help from the American Ambassador and the UN peacekeepers, but these are six hours away. The mobs, on the other hand, are here, there, and everywhere around them.

"With our car, we can out-race mobs, but with cellular technology, the villagers could dial their freinds and family all the way up the mountain.

Many groups were lying in wait to attack us.

At the first market, dozens of angry Haitians stood ready to block the road and burn our car.

The policeman, like Bruce Willis in an action movie, hung out of the car window, pointing his weapon at the angry crowds who then back away as we raced by...

For more than an hour, all I could feel was the sense of impending death."

----again, from the same BBC article
Things get worse as the road ahead is blocked on their account by construction debris and tables turned on their sides in order to stop the car. They miraculously escape the gathering mob to escape to a police station where eight policemen have gathered to protect them. But a new mob gathers around them.

But finally the facts of the case begin to get sorted out. The policemen believe their story about who they are and who the children are. The women accusers have arrived and are questioned by the policemen.

The police quickly determined that one of the women had only heard that 'two whites,' whom she had never seen, had tried to kidnap her child. Nor had she reported the alleged kidnapping to the police.

Luckily, we had a receipt showing that we had hosted a party for our children at Doris's hotel, 60 miles away.

The police scoffed at the women's story and then scolded them in Creole, apparently ridiculing them for coming very close to getting international development workers killed.

Some six hours later, another police car arrived and --with the police riding shotgun in case of ambush--we drove down the mountain.

Police from Gonaives and the UN met us at the bottom, and they took us back to safety.

--yet again from the same BBC artcile
It should be noted that it is currently recognized that mob violence and mob lynchings have recently been occuring at an alarming rate in Haiti. According to an article, AP Interview: UN envoy raises concern over rise in lynchings in Haiti, International Herald Tribune, 27, July 2007:

"At least six people were killed by mobs in a single week in different attacks this month, according to the U.N. mission's human rights section. At least 105 people have been reportedly lynched in Haiti since 2005.

"There has been a very large number of lynchings in the past months and weeks. We do hope this will not become a trend," Edmond Mulet, the special U.N. envoy to Haiti, told The Associated Press Friday in an interview.

He blamed the rise in part on a lack of confidence in Haiti's notoriously corrupt judicial system, which keeps hundreds of people imprisoned without trial while others who can afford a bribe walk free.

"You have cases of gang leaders being released after paying judges," Mulet said. "The population knows, so they're fed up ... and they take justice into their hands."

Child kidnap fears spark mob chase, BBC News Online, 15 August 2007


  1. Desiree & Usha -

    Thanks for sharing this story with your readers. There have been several comments to this story published at our organization's blog as well:

    Thank you for your valuable work.

    Warm regards,
    Jim Luce, Founder
    Orphans International Worldwide
    Associated with the U.N. Dept. of Public Information
    540 Main Street #418
    New York, N.Y. 10044
    O: 212/755-7285
    F: 212/755-7302

  2. I never knew you were here til Mirah told me. We need more like you.