PORT-AU-PRINCE—The day after Cap-Haitien commemorated the 220th anniversary of the Haitian flag with interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry in attendance, disgruntled Haitians in other parts of the country have called the residents of the northern city — the Capois— a “greedy and hungry” bunch for having opened the city to the government officials.
“Cap-Haitien isn’t even clean. I wish Ariel Henry would have the garbage removed,” said Nicholson “Bab” Pierre, a Port-au-Prince resident speaking on social media Thursday. “The day they come complaining about the problems in Cap-Haitien on the radio, I will have to insult their greedy, hungry lot.”
“You people of Cap-Haitien will pay dearly for this, because the May 18 money will not solve your problems,” adds Pierre, an activist with the political organization Pitit Desalin.
Pierre’s are among the tamer names the Capois were being called on local and social media, prompting the city’s residents to push back against the idea of causing more chaos in Haiti by harming its officials. Some suggested the criticism against the northerners might even be a tactic to sow more division and drag the country further down.
While the animus reached these new levels Friday, it began brewing when officials announced the celebration would not be in Arcahaie, the customary and constitutionally mandated host city. With the bwa kale vigilante movement spreading then, scores of people expected the Prime Minister and his entourage would be similarly attacked in Cap-Haitien.
Yet, the flag ceremony took place without major incident, stunning those watching from afar. Many immediately began calling the Capois “Ti grangou” and complaining that Henry should have gotten a taste of “bwa kale.” On social networks, the war of words raged on Friday as some people ruthlessly ridiculed Cap-Haitien and called it names.
An unpopular decision
Fueling the furor is a video of Jean Tholbert Alexis, a former Croix-des-Bouquets deputy turned director of the cabinet of Minister of Sport in Henry’s government, showing him distributing 500 gourdes, about $4 USD, to some Capois on May 18, 2023. Viewers then accused the Capois of selling their conscience for money.
“All the political leaders of Cap-Haitien walked with their empty plate,” medical student Lajoie Vitch said on Facebook. “The price of a plate of spaghetti in Port-au-Prince can buy an activist from Cap-Haitien.
“Hungry people can’t fight a battle,” Vitch said in another post.
On Twitter, the verbal volleys continued against the northerners. Tweets do not bring joy to the heart as angry users lament that the prime minister, unelected and supposedly interim, was able to sit comfortably to mark the 220th anniversary of the flag he brought to the city of King Henri Christophe, one of Haiti’s independence heroes. It is a blow to the people of the north.
“It is clear that they sold their dignity for a bag of rice, 500 gourdes of salted herring and four prestige beers for 500 gourdes,” tweeted internet user Djymps Casimir on Friday. “This page of history that Ariel Henry, presumed assassin of Jovenel Moïse, has just written in the north of the country, yesterday, is for all the generations of Cap-Haitien.”
“If Ariel had accompanied the rice with a little gallon of oil and a stick of salami, people would have sold Ariel the Citadel Laferrière,” tweeted singer Enoch “Jah B Feray” Lubin on May 19.
Capois respond to critics
In response, some sided with the Capois, saying the thrashing is likely part of a plot to smear Cap-Haitien. Avenel Laurent suggested the critics were perhaps Port-au-Prince residents who had received money from the government to make Cap-Haitien look bad.
“The people of Cap-Haitien are not greedy like the activists of Champ-de-Mars,” Laurent said in a post on Facebook Friday. “I have the names of these activists, but I will not mention your names gentlemen, because I know that hunger is severe in the country.”
Dolce Wesnal, a Facebook user who posted photos of the May 18 parade, said critics in the capital simply can’t appreciate beautiful activities.
“[They] only believe in destruction,” Wesnal said. “Among all the beautiful images of May 18, they only retained the image of Tholbert.”
Ritchelle Napoléon, Cap-Haitien resident, wrote in a WhatsApp thread that menacing people would only accelerate Haiti’s decline.
Also, while Henry was not chased out of Cap-Haitien, he was heckled by some Capois on the way to the Cathedral and during his speech at the celebration of the Haitian bicolor as well as taken to task by the priest. The day prior, Henry was also forced to leave a press conference at the town hall of Cap Haitien on May 17 under pressure from employees who accused him of poor governance. Others booed him and threw insults, yelling “thief,” “kidnapper” behind his motorcade.
Still, Henry tried to explain the choice of Cap-Haitien to celebrate the flag and once again gave hope to the Haitian people in the face of political crisis and gang violence.
“Haiti will not perish,” said the prime minister. “Haiti has amazed the world and today, we amaze them once again. It’s Haiti first.”
Henry added, “Flag Day is the holiday of all Haitians, whether it is celebrated in Port-au-Prince, Gonaives or Arcahaie. It is always the same Haiti, the same Flag Day.”