Saturday, 4 July 2009

Review: An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson

This is the second, long overdue, post in my series on the 5th anniversary of the second overthrow and exile and Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The first can be found here and a posting dealing with current events in Haiti can be found here.

An Unbroken Agony is a much different kind of book to Damming the Flood, the book we had previously reviewed in this series. Damming the Flood is a highly detailed and well researched account of the rise and fall of Jean-Bertrand Aristide examining how and why he came to power as well as how and why he was overthrown.
Whilst An Unbroken Agony attempts to tell this story too as well as putting the events in a longer historical context than Damming the Flood, there is nowhere near the same amount of depth of research and explanation. Instead the main value of this book is in its insight into the life of Aristide through his friendship with the author.
Indeed, the book solves the question that Damming the Flood suggests an answer to but lacks the inside knowledge to conclude definitively on. That is the question of how Aristide ended up leaving Haiti for the second time on February 29th 2004 – did he flee or was he kidnapped?
Robinson is rather equivocal on the subject, he was kidnapped. In the book Robinson reproduces e-mail correspondence with Aristide and his wife and other information that make it blatantly clear that in the space of a few short hours the plans of the Aristide’s changed dramatically, they had made plans for a major interview on the 29th which was never cancelled. The change was precipitated by the arrival of US soldiers at Aristide’s house who escorted him to the airport.
Robinson points out that US TV news stations showed old footage of Aristide making a trip by himself abroad and attempted to pass this off as Aristide fleeing the country (as Robinson points out, his wife is nowhere to be seen in this footage. Moreover, why would Aristide flee to the dictatorship of the Central African Republic when neighbouring Jamaica had offered him asylum?
Although the book makes contributions on a few other points it is its utter demolition of the argument that Aristide fleed Haiti of his own free will, that is its strongest point.

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