Haiti Democracy Project





Jean-Claude Bajeux – teacher, scholar and human rights activist – has unfortunately confronted the Leviathan in many of its modern manifestations. 


Returning to Duvalier’s Haiti in 1961, following an extended absence spent completing his licence en philosophie at Bordeaux (France), then teaching in Cameroon and editing l’Effort Camerounais as that West African nation achieved independence, he took up a post as professor of philosophy at the Petit Séminaire Collège Saint Martial and resumed his editorial responsibilities at Rond Point, an independent cultural review which was ultimately banned by the regime as part of the initial consolidation of the Duvalierist dictatorship underway at that time. 


Forced into exile in February, 1964, as a result of his “subversive” activities and, more specifically, for attempting to organize the Haiti’s Catholic clergy in protest against Duvalier’s expulsion of the Jesuit order, M. Bajeux took up residence in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where he founded the organization Amistad entre los pueblos, dedicated to addressing the plight of Haitian migrant workers on state-managed sugar cane plantations (braceros).


During his 22 years in exile, he also lived and worked in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Ivan Illich, at his Centro Intercultural de Documentacion (CIDCO), editing the journal Cahiers de Sondeos, and in Rio Pedras, Puerto Rico, as professor of comparative Caribbean literature at the University of Puerto Rico.  He received a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature from Princeton University in 1977.  In 1980, in response to the first wave of Haitian “boatpeople” and the United States’ initial interdiction and incarceration of these refugees at Puerto Rico’s Fort Allen, he founded and directed the Inter-regional Council on Haitian Refugees (CIRH).


M. Bajeux achieved some fleeting international renown in February, 1986, when he became the first of the country’s many sons and daughters in exile to return in the wake of Baby Doc’s ouster.  He immediately moved to establish, on Haitian soil, the Œcumenical Center for Human Rights (CEDH), which he had originally founded in 1977 in the Dominican Republic.  Subsequently, the brought his considerable prestige to bear at the forefront of the tumultuous struggle to achieve passage of the 1987 Constitution by referendum, on March 29 (1,268,980 yeas, 2,167 nays and 187 invalid ballots).  During this same period, he co-founded the National Congress of Democratic Movements (CONACOM), with Victor Benoît.  When that coalition became a formal political party, he served as its Deputy Secretary General, representing it for 10 years as a member of both the Socialist International and the Coalition of Latin American Political Parties (COPPAL).


During the years of the de facto military regime (1991-1994) that had removed President Aristide in the September 29 coup d’état, M. Bajeux remained in Haiti, refusing to resume his exile.  As a prominent Aristide supporter and public figure in his own right, he and his household were the object of numerous threats and several violent attacks by the military and its attachés during this period.  On more than one occasion during this period, he was forced underground.  All the while, CEDH was not only monitoring ongoing abuses, but offering critical basic services and support to thousands of internal refugees – victims or targets of the unrelenting repression unleashed by the Haitian military in order to establish and maintain its grip on power, and their families.


Jean-Claude Bajeux served as Minister of Culture in the government of Prime Minister Smarck Michel, following the return to constitutional order, from 1994 to 1996.  He is the author of a book of poetry (Textures) and a bilingual anthology of Haitian Creole literature (Mòso chwazi: Pawòl ki ekri an Kreyòl Ayisyen).  In 1991, he edited and published the first comprehensive bilingual edition of the 1987 Constitution.  More recently, in his capacity as Executive Director of CEDH, M. Bajeux compiled the first authoritative and documented account of the events of December 17, 2001.

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