27 June, 2008

(Creole, from the French “dessouchage”)

A dechoukaj can mean the destruction of a house, of an institution or the lynching of an individual. Historian Roger Gaillard (1992: 184-186) used the French spelling of the term (déchouquage) to describe the ransacking of Anténor Firmin’s house by a mob in 1902, after his departure into exile, and characterized a historical pattern designated by the term. In this case, the mob being unable to eliminate the enemy physically, it destroys what symbolizes him: his property. The mob that lynched General Oscar Etienne, who was responsible for the July 27, 1915 killing, then entirely demolished his house (“brick by brick” according to Gaillard, 1973: 88).

However, it was in the 1980s that the term acquired its operative public use to describe the forms of blind popular vengeance that concluded periods of dictatorial rule. Carried out by mobs, often during riots, dechoukajs targeted macoutes in the 1980s and supporters of military regimes in the 1990s (Hurbon, 1987). The recurrence of popular justice suggests it is linked to the weakness of the rule of law and of citizenship in Haiti, where the poor refuse to trust a legal system that excludes them.

Cite this item

Belleau Jean-Philippe, Dechoukaj, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: 27 June, 2008, accessed 17/02/2020,, ISSN 1961-9898
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