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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 12:11 GMT
Guy Philippe: The rebelling soldier
Guy Philippe in Cap-Haitien on Friday 27 February
Philippe says his rebellion is motivated by noble intentions
Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe had hoped to spend his 36th birthday - on Sunday 29 February - in the capital Port-au-Prince.

As the day approached, his fighters massed on the city's doorstep, preparing for a final showdown.

In the event, Mr Philippe got more than he may have dared wish for. A day after his 36th, he walked into the capital with no resistance.

Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide - willingly or not - was flown out of the country into exile on Sunday, irrevocably fulfilling rebel demands that he stand down.

The US State Department has demanded that Mr Philippe "make himself scarce" and the "ragtag" rebels he commands disband.

Mr Philippe responded by ordering his men to lay down their weapons.

But only a day earlier, he had declared himself head of the military, and despite denying he has any political ambitions "for now", looks unlikely to leave the scene altogether.

Army training

Mr Philippe, 36, says he has a law degree from Ecuador and studied medicine in Mexico for a year.

You can look in all the banks of the world, but you will not find any money of mine, because I am not rich
Guy Philippe denying any connection with drug trafficking, February 2004
But his critics allege a questionable human rights record - some pointing to rumoured though unproven involvement with military dictator Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier's regime in the 1980s.

In 1990, Mr Aristide was first elected president, but within a year had been overthrown in a coup and was exiled to the United States.

Mr Philippe, who was by then in the army, escaped to Ecuador, where he allegedly received training from US Special Forces as part of the US campaign to reinstate Mr Aristide.

He returned to Haiti in 1994, after Mr Aristide had been restored to power. In 1995 - fearing another coup attempt - Mr Aristide disbanded the army.

Mr Philippe was incorporated into the new National Police Force, eventually serving as police chief in Cap-Haitien.

Coup 'plots'

Under Rene Preval, the new president elected in 1995, Mr Philippe helped hunt down members of the ousted military junta - including former members of the now-disbanded army, with some of whom he now claims a common cause.

Critics allege he abused his position to assassinate opponents, but he denies this.

Mr Philippe's career in the police came to an abrupt end in 2000, when the authorities accused him of plotting a coup with other police chiefs.

He fled - first to Ecuador, then to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

In December 2001, when armed men tried to seize the presidential National Palace, a year after disputed elections returned Mr Aristide to office for a second term, authorities accused Mr Philippe of masterminding the operation.

But extradition negotiations failed, and Mr Philippe remained at large.

While in the Dominican Republic, Mr Philippe's reputed taste for luxury hotels fuelled speculation he was involved in drugs trafficking - a charge that he vehemently denied in a recent interview.

"You can look in all the banks of the world, but you will not find any money of mine, because I am not rich," he said.


On around 10 February, Mr Philippe - who is now married to an American from Wisconsin - slipped back over the border to assume leadership of what he claims is a unified rebel army, the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti.

Despite the shadowy nature of his past, Mr Philippe insists his rebellion was motivated by love of democracy.

"I don't know why the international community is talking about 'the elected president'," he told the Washington Post before Mr Aristide left power.

"They know he was not elected, so why the hypocrisy? Why can't they say the truth?

"Democracy is not a five-year term. Democracy is a set of principles, the right to live, the right to eat, the right to education, the right to health. Aristide is working against all those principles."


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