A woman covers her face from the smoke of burning tires set up by demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, who complain that UN peacekeepers are the source of the cholera epidemic sweeping the country. Emilio Morenatti/AP

Haitian protests blame UN peacekeepers for cholera

Demonstrations against Nepalese peacekeepers turn violent, as UN soldiers open fire and complain of political bias.

UN PEACEKEEPERS opened fire on demonstrators in Haiti last night, shotting one man during an exchange of gunfire following demonstrations which complained that Nepalese soldiers had been the source of the country’s cholera epidemic.

Anti-UN riots have spread to several cities as locals become increasingly frustrated with the role of the UN’s international forces on the island, which – rather than maintain civil society – are blamed with bringing Nepal’s local strain of the cholera bacteria to the island, and thus for the deaths of over 900 people now claimed by the infection.

The Guardian reports that the peacekeeping force maintained its soldier had shot in self-defence, but said an investigation had been launched.

UN officials have also argued that the protests were politically motivated, and were more to do with the Presidential election of two weeks’ time rather than the involvement of the UN.

The way events unfolded suggests these incidents were politically motivated, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of elections.

Minustah [the peacekeeping force] calls on the people to remain vigilant and not be manipulated by enemies of stability and democracy in the country.

Minustah added that six of its own personnel were injured at Hinche, where the protests were at their most vicious,

The spread of cholera in the stricken nation – still struggling to come to terms with January 25′s earthquake which left 1.2 million people living in tented suburbs of the capital, Port-au-Prince – has now officially reached all 10 of the country’s departments, with the death toll standing at 917, while another 14,000 cases have been confirmed.

Cholera had never been discovered in the country before it first broke out three weeks ago; officials remain concerned that the shortage of clean drinking water caused by Tropical Storm Tomas – combined with the poor sanitation conditions of the capital’s tented slums – could see the epidemic take a firmer hold.