Tonton Macoute

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Tonton Macoute is the common name for a Haitian militia founded in 1959 under the control of the dictator François Duvalier . From 1971 it carried the name Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale , or MVSN for short ("National Security Militia made up of volunteers"). It served Duvalier's retention of power and acted outside the law. Because of their martial appearance, the regular excessive use of brutal violence, their extra-legal status and their self- cultivated image as allies with voodoo forces, its members were extremely feared by the population.

A large part of the "Tontons Macoute" was part of the Front Révolutionnaire Armé pour le Progrès d'Haiti (FRAPH) founded in 1993 .

Origin of the name

The name "Tonton Macoute" ( "Uncle shoulder bag") comes from the Haitian folk tradition and refers to a kind of bogeyman that night through the streets and kidnapped small children who are still out so late. He stows the children in his shoulder bag (macoute). Because uncertainty and danger as well as violence were used as factors of the MVSN, they were therefore called “Tonton's Macoute”.


The doctor and former Haitian health minister François Duvalier ("Papa Doc") came to power in 1957 as the democratically elected leader of a populist platform . It was because of his struggle against the "raspberry disease" ( yaws or yaws become known). After an attempted coup against him in 1958, Duvalier rewrote the constitution and made himself " president for life ". In 1959 he created the Tontons Macoute, which he granted automatic amnesty for the crimes they committed . The Tontons were led by second in the order of power of the Duvaliers, Luckner Cambronne . For the mid-1980s, its membership was estimated at 15,000. The militia was outside the state administration and the judicial system and was only responsible to Duvalier. She had a completely free hand to suppress Duvalier opponents and to eliminate them summarily.


The Tontons Macoute were known to dress paramilitary , comparable to the Italian fascists and the German National Socialists . They were also known for wearing dark sunglasses , using machetes, and displaying their victims in public places or in trees, hung up as a deterrent. They cultivated an image that they Voodoo - demons or zombies are what the terror emanating from them and the threat reinforced by the majority voodoo religious people. They were often in possession of firearms but preferred to beat their victims with machetes and knives to inflict serious injuries.

The tontons were feared by the locals because of their readiness to use violence. They were always present in public with their identifying marks (dark sunglasses, paired appearance, standing around street corners, bored rolling of a ball, the machete as a weapon). The Tontons Macoute were notorious for provoking people into brawls, taking them to secret prisons and severely physically abusing them, extorting information and generally creating a state of threat. It was also torture is a widespread practice to deter enemies of the Duvalier regime.

The members of the militia financed themselves through criminal acts, including extortion.

Overall, the Tontons are said to be responsible for the killing, abducting and disappearance of over a thousand people. It is certain that they acted as death squads well into the year 2000.

Media reception

The British writer Graham Greene wrote the 1966 novel The Comedians (German title: Die hour der Komödianten ), in which the plot in Haiti of the tyrant Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier takes place. Greene described in it the terror regime of the Tontons Macoute and was therefore persecuted for years by Duvalier with slander. For the same film version from 1967 with Richard Burton , Elizabeth Taylor , Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov Greene also wrote the screenplay. In the film adaptation, the Tontons were preferably shown with the Ray-Bans of the US Air Force. Ray-Bans represented a certain status symbol in the otherwise very poor country at the time, but also symbolically refer to the political ties and entanglements of the Central American dictators of those years.

The fictional film drama Der Mann auf dem Quai (original title: L 'Homme sur les quais ) directed by Raoul Pecks from 1993 is based on the fictional story of six-year-old Sarah and her sisters who initially fell apart after their parents had fled the country are in the care of their grandmother and are to be taken out of the country by her, the constant confrontation with persecution, abuse and the disappearance ofsubversive elements” in Haiti at the beginning of the 1960s under the terror regime Papa Docs . The zombie motif against the historical background of the fall of the Duvalier regime in 1986 can also be found in the American horror flick The Snake in the Rainbow by Wes Craven from 1988.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b The Tonton Macoutes: The Central Nervous System of Haiti's Reign of Terror. Council on Hemispheric Affairs, March 11, 2010, accessed April 9, 2018 .
  2. David Grann: Giving "The Devil" His Due. In: The Atlantic . June 2001, accessed August 5, 2017 .
  3. Haiti; Military regimes and the Duvaliers. In: Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved September 5, 2017 .
  4. ^ Haiti Moves Toward Duvalier Corruption Trial. CBS News , January 19, 2011, accessed April 9, 2018 .
  5. Randal C. Archibold: Jean-Claude Duvalier This at 63; Ruled Haiti in Father's Brutal Fashion. In: The New York Times . October 4, 2014, accessed April 9, 2018 .