If there was any doubt as to the power and influence of Christopher Dudus Coke --- who controls a section of Kingston, Jamaica, known as Tivoli Gardens --- that has been put to rest.
- Parts of Kingston are under a State of Emergency
- Two police stations have been attacked
- A third one, in Hannah Town, was set ablaze.
Armed gunmen who were responsible for those unprovoked attacks on the police stations have been joined by many residents of the barricaded West Kingston community in declaring their support for Christopher Dudus Coke. The message to the security forces and the government was clear: Try to arrest "Dudus" and there will be all out war.
The unrest began after the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, declared that an arrest warrant had been issued for Christopher Dudus Coke who is being sought by U.S. authorities on gun-trafficking and drug charges. It took 9 months of procrastination by the government before the decision was finally made to grant the request for the extradition of Coke to the U.S. to face those charges.
In responding to the unrest and declaring a State of Emergency for parts of Kingston, the Prime Minister said security forces would be "moving swiftly to bring the current situation under control".
"Criminal elements bent on violence and mayhem will be detained," he said in a televised address.
"What is taking place is a calculated assault on the authority of the state that cannot be tolerated, and will not be allowed to continue."
Prime Minister Bruce Golding stressed that Kingston “is not being shut down,” and schools and businesses outside the battle zone will be open.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said “scores of criminals” from gangs across the Caribbean island had traveled to West Kingston to join the fight.
“It is now clear that criminal elements are determined to launch coordinated attacks on the security forces,” he said.
Police said the attacks were unprovoked and called for all “decent and law-abiding citizens” in the troubled areas to immediately evacuate their homes and said security forces would ferry them out safely.
While the U.S. sees Christopher Dudus Coke as a dangerous criminal involved in the international drug trade, in Tivoli Gardens he is a leader or "Don" who provides for the welfare of the community. Many see him as a benefactor who for many years has ensured their safety and is mainly responsible for sending their children to school and putting food on their tables.
Hundreds of residents of West Kingston took to the streets last week to voice their support for Dudus:
"After God, then Dudus," read one placard. "Jesus died for us so we will die for Dudus," read another, and these were not idle sentiments.
"Leave 'Dudus' alone. Him a law-abiding citizen," many of them shouted as they assembled outside the Denham Town Police Station.
Many of the supporters who came out in defense of Dudus were women who were very vocal in their praise of Coke's benevolence and said they were prepared to die for the man who is wanted by the U.S. as a dangerous criminal. An article in the Jamaica Observer explores the connection between the women and men of influence in their communities.
Christopher Dudus Coke himself has had very little to say. While the uproar in the streets continue and his lawyers fight the extradition order in the courts, he has kept a very low profile. According to the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner:
Dudus "is not one of those flashy dons who one sees at every dance or nightclub 'flossing' with bottles of high-priced liquor and scores of scantily dressed girls in his entourage."
He is also not one of those dons who crave the attention of the media while flaunting power.
"You know that I don't talk to the media," is the stock response from Dudus on the few occasions journalists have been able to get close enough to ask him questions. But make no mistake, Christopher Dudus Coke wields enormous power.
In another article The Gleaner takes a look at how the Prime Minister owes his position to Dudus. Without his approval Bruce Golding would not be the representative from West Kingston nor the Prime Minister.
"The power-sharing framework between the man who formally represents the West Kingston constituency in which Tivoli Gardens is located, and the man who really runs the place, is just as fascinating."
The article traces the history of the links between politics and the streets and where the real power resides. For more background material on the Dudus controversy see the articles below:
What happens next? Will the securities forces try to storm the barricaded Tivoli Gardens community? Will Christopher Dudus Coke give himself up? Will Bruce Golding be forced to resign as Prime Minister? No one really knows the answers. All we can do is hope that things don't get worse before they get better.....more to come.
UPDATE: Christopher Dudus Coke: Captured