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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February 2005, 23:15 GMT
Aristide's long shadow over Haiti
By Claire Marshall
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

Just over a year ago, student Berny Leveque was marching through Port-au-Prince, beside his best friend, Maxime Deselmour.

A supporter of former President Aristide protests in the Salino slum of the Haitian capital
Mr Aristide still has strong support among Haitians
Dressed in the blue and red of the Haitian flag, they were chanting "Down with Aristide".

Along with hundreds of thousands of others, they had come out on to the streets of the capital to get rid of their president.

Without warning, the crowd was fired upon by gunmen hidden in nearby buildings. A bullet hit Maxime in the neck.

He died shortly afterwards. At the time, Berny told me he was now prepared to give his life to topple the president at the time, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

It is now a year on. I asked Berny how he looked back on those moments.

People really appreciate the safety which the UN have provided, but at the same time they haven't really solved the insecurity problem
Denis Fieffe, Haitian priest

"I was in the street for my country - for my brothers, the students," he says.

"Day by day, when Aristide tried to kill us, he gave me more determination to continue to fight".

He won. Mr Aristide went into a life of exile in South Africa a year ago.

However, something has changed in the idealistic student.

Now Berny is married. He has a more sombre look in his eye. I ask him how things are these days.

"We have still had a change because Aristide is out," he says. "But the government we have is not a good government."

He is sceptical about elections planned for November.

He says: "The government is supposed to make the Haitian people feel secure, but Aristide's men still have guns.

"I want to vote, but if I know someone's going to shoot me, I'm not going to vote."

A major force for instability in Haiti is the fact that many people still support their ousted former leader.

A UN peacekeeper patrols a slum in Haiti
Haitians still feel insecure despite the UN's presence
Violence erupted in Bel Air on Monday when pro-Aristide groups clashed with Haitian police. Two people were killed.

Bel Air is an impoverished slum area of the capital. In January, UN forces moved in to clear it of gangs still loyal to Mr Aristide.

But driving through, from the safety of a UN armoured personnel carrier, it was still possible to see dozens of Aristide posters and murals.

'Too unsafe'

People here love Mr Aristide because he was born in this neighbourhood. They believe that he is the only politician who ever really listened to the poor.

Lionel Auguste lives in a small shack in Bel Air with his family.

"I would say that most people in the area really like President Jean-Bertrand Aristide - and would love to see his return," he says.

Denis Fieffe is a priest who is raising his six children in this slum. He sits on a dusty step outside his house, and looks up and down the street.

There used to be huge piles of stinking rotting rubbish here. The UN forces have cleared it all away.

However, some of the life of this place has been lost. There used to be the hustle and bustle of a busy market, but now the street is pretty much deserted.

Many people have fled for more secure areas. Denis says that this area is still a stronghold of support for Mr Aristide.

In his opinion, the interim government and the UN forces which have come in his place have not been able to change much.

"People really appreciate the safety which the UN have provided, but at the same time they haven't really solved the insecurity problem," he says.

"No one can conduct business any more here. It's just too unsafe."




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