Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Information on the Kidnapping Incident

By the Lambi Fund Advisory Board and Haiti staff

Note: Some of you may have heard bits and pieces about an incident that happened to four Lambi Fund staff and board members in April. Here is a brief factual account of the events.

Every other year the Lambi Fund of Haiti (LFH) holds its annual board meeting in Haiti in different locations. On these occasions, LFH staff and board members that live in the US always have the opportunity to visit nearby LFH projects and meet with members of its partner organizations.

This year the meeting was scheduled to take place on April 14-18, in a seaside hotel on the Cote de Arcadins. LFH staff (both US and Haiti), directors of the board and advisory board members planned to visit four projects in the Artibonite Valley, one of the LFH’s geographic areas of project concentration.

LFH US staff and board members arrived in P-a-P on April 14. The LFH Haiti team met them at the airport and the group headed directly out of the capital on National Rd #1 in 3 rented cars.

On that road, specifically in Tamarinye after Bon Repos, a group of four armed bandits stopped the rented car. Inside the car were the LFH Haiti Project Director who was driving the car and four female staff and board members of LFH USA. The bandits blocked the road, held a gun to the LF Project Director’s head, made him get out of the car and then drove the car away with the four LFH USA staff and board members in the car.

The LFH Project Director immediately borrowed a phone and called the other LFH staff and board members that were ahead in the other two cars. After re-uniting, they analyzed the situation in order to determine what to do next.

Meanwhile, the bandits drove down a remote road with the four LFH women in the car they had stolen. After terrorizing them with cocked guns and deadly threats and taking all they owned --money, jewelry, laptops, and personal belongings-- the bandits released them on Blanchard Road in the Cul-de-Sac plain. They did, however, return the passports to their victims.

Local residents directed the kidnapping victims to a nearby church where they sought help. From there, they were able to phone LFH staff, who rescued them. The LFH Haiti staff found the four women a secure place to stay the night.

Crimes such as kidnapping and highway banditry are happening everywhere, at anytime and to anyone in Haiti now. In this context, we remain convinced that LFH was not specifically targeted in this attack. We also have no idea who the bandits were or if they claim any affiliations.

Lambi Fund takes this opportunity to thank everyone who aided them in this difficult situation: the staff of the church run by the Oblates in Blanchard, who gave them refuge and much consolation; the staff of the Faculty of Agronomy that permitted LFH members to gather at the faculty to discuss the incident and make decisions; and the Sisters of Hospice St Joseph who took in the Lambi Fund women in their place that night.

The goal of telling this story is to correct mis-interpretations and erroneous accounts regarding what happened. LFH staff received many solidarity calls, especially calls from organizations that LFH has supported. People asked Lambi Fund to not be discouraged…to continue the good work it is doing, to continue to support them. The Lambi Fund assures people it is continuing to support their struggle to obtain a better life for people in Haiti.

Letters of Solidarity

By Karen Ashmore, Executive Director

As one of the Lambi Fund of Haiti team that was kidnapped while traveling through Haiti, I want to say that although this was a terrifying incident, it in no way deterred my commitment to the struggle of the people in Haiti. We escaped with our lives when they released us with just the clothes on our backs on a remote rural road. But it was the grassroots people, the honest hard-working peasants of Haiti, who rescued us and delivered us to safety. Once again, the grassroots movement proved its strength in Haiti.

We returned to our homes in the U.S. traumatized, of course, but more committed than ever to the Lambi Fund of Haiti. This is because we were clearly reminded of the huge need that the Lambi Fund is filling. Kidnappings and murders by lawless people are increasing each day as Haiti struggles for democracy. As devastating as our kidnapping was, Haitians live with this fear and violence each and every day. And, unlike us, they cannot board an airplane and leave.

This is why the board members, the other staff, and I, although narrowly escaping death in Haiti, will continue to dedicate ourselves to the Lambi Fund. It is the best way we know to ensure that not one more person in Haiti dies of violence from the anti-democratic forces, of hunger, or of neglect.

We know that you, too, care about the people who are left behind, who have no option but to continue surviving and fighting to turn their country’s fate around. We know that you will share with us our delight in how the peasant-run projects that Lambi Fund supports are continuing to flourish. And we believe that you will keep funding our work, because the Lambi Fund is one of the best ways that you, as one who cares about Haiti, can help.

One of the most heartwarming aspects of this whole incident is the letter of solidarity I received from representatives of 18 peasant organizations in Haiti. I share this letter with you:

De: Organizasyon Rejyon Latibonit
From: Organizations from the Artibonite Region

Pou: Fon Lanbi
To: Lambi Fund

Objè: Lèt de solidarite
Re: Letter of Solidarity

Dat: 15 Avril 2005
Date: April 15, 2005

Zanmi kanmarad nou yo bonjou

Greetings to our comrades and friends,

Kijan nou ye? Eske nou repran moral nou?

How are you? Is your morale better now?

Nou menm òganizasyon patnè ki nan rejyon latibonit lan, nou te chita ansanm pa zòn pou nou te reflechi sou sak pase a. Dapre refleksyon nou yo, se yon aksidan ki rive, tankou sa abitye rive anpil nan manm nou yo sitou ti machann ki vwayaje Pòtoprens yo. Se ka ensekirite Global peyi a. Se vre se yon kou di pou LF pou chofè ki tap kondwi machin nan, lè li pa konnen ki bò yo fè ak kanmarad li yo. Sa yo pral fè ak yo. Se te pi di toujou pou kanmarad yo ki livre nan men kidnapè yo, kap sibi presyon, e yo pa konnen ki sò yo. Se te yon kou di tou, pou rès manm Lanbi yo, ki tap viv moman pak la tap rive. Bon Dye te la. Bagay yo pase jan yo pase a, konpliman pou Bon Dye.

Members of our partner organizations from the Artibonite sat down in our respective areas to reflect about what had happened. Based on our reflection this incident that occurred is what our members experience, especially the little market women who travel to Port-au-Prince. There is a global insecurity problem in Haiti. It is true it was a blow to Lambi Fund, especially to the driver who did not know what had happened to his colleagues and what their fate would be.

It was even harder for those kidnapped that were under pressure not knowing what their fate would be. It was a hard blow also for the other members of Lambi Fund who had to experience this with Easter around the corner. God was a witness and things happened as they did, thanks to God!

Nou menm ki se òganizasyon patnè LF travay nan latibonit lan nou endiye devan aksyon revòltan sa a, kòm pèp ki reve yon chanjman, kòm moun kap batay pou yon lòt sosyete, aksyon sa yo revòlte nou anpil e se konsekans move pratik politik ki trennen peyi a nan lawont ak desepsyon li twouve l la a.

The members of LF partner organizations in the Artibonite are indignant with regard to this revolting action; as people dreaming of change, as people struggling for a different kind of society, actions like this revolt us very much and are the consequence of bad political practices that drag our country down in the shame and deception it finds itself in today.

Zanmi nou yo kouraj, fòk nou kontinye lite pou chanjman reyèl la. Pa dekouraje òganizasyon baz yo makonnen fòs yo ak fòs pa nou pou n rive kwape fòs fè nwa yo bloke wout chanjman an. Kenbe pa lage!

Courage our friends because it is necessary that we continue to struggle for real change!

Do not get discouraged for we of the grassroots organizations join our forces with yours to overcome the forces of darkness that block the road to change. Keep the faith!






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