Defending Haiti’s Future

Date:

Defending Haiti's Future

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Saturday, October 22, 2022.
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • On January 1, 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s founding fathers and the first black head of state in the Americas, declared the country’s independence after fighting European colonial powers for 14 years.

  • So, it was a cruel irony that this week, on the anniversary of Dessalines’ death, the UN Security Council met to talk about sending foreign troops to Haiti.

  • The meeting was set up because Haiti’s de facto prime minister, Ariel Henry, asked for the creation of a “specialized armed force” to fight the country’s armed gangs and a growing humanitarian crisis.

  • If Henry’s request is granted, it will be the fifth time in a little more than a hundred years that the military has been sent to Haiti.

  • I most recently participated in a protest at the White House that demanded the US government stop funding Henry and the Parti Haitien Tèt Kale (P.H.T.K.), the Haitian Bald-Head Party.

After fighting against European colonial powers for 14 years, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s founding fathers and the first black head of state in the Americas, declared the country’s independence on January 1, 1804. The revolution ended French colonial sovereignty over Saint-Domingue, as the nation was then known. Additionally, it freed the slaves and made Haiti the first black republic in history. On October 17, 1806, Dessalines declared, “We have ventured to be free; let us be thus by ourselves and for ourselves.” But his time as leader of the newly independent country was short. He was killed by political rivals, causing the country to split.

So, it was a cruel irony that this week, on the anniversary of Dessalines’ death, the UN Security Council met to talk about sending foreign troops to Haiti. The meeting was set up because Haiti’s de facto prime minister, Ariel Henry, asked for the creation of a “specialized armed force” to fight the country’s armed gangs and a growing humanitarian crisis. Additionally, external pressures would likely aid Henry in defending his flimsy claim to power. Prior to Mose’s murder last year, Henry was chosen by the president to serve as prime minister. He has held that position ever since, largely thanks to the backing of the Core Group, an alliance made up of the United States, France, and Canada, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States. As a result of Henry’s rule, Haiti has had rising inflation, gas shortages, kidnappings, massacres, evictions, and conflicts between gangs with heavy weapons that are getting worse. Many of these gangs are backed by the political and business elite. Haitians started demonstrating in August, calling on Henry to step down.

Then, in September, Henry made the announcement that he would end government fuel subsidies in order to earn money for government initiatives. As a result, gas prices quickly increased by 100%. In response, the leader of the G9 Family and Allies, which is made up of more than a dozen of the most powerful gangs in Port-au-Prince, blocked Haiti’s largest oil terminal, which stores 70% of the country’s gasoline. The blockage, which is now in its fifth week, has forced the closure or limited operation of schools, companies, courts, and hospitals. A worrying trend is the rise of food insecurity. The lack of clean water and the cholera outbreak in Port-au-Prince have created what a UNICEF official has called a “time bomb” for the disease to spread throughout Haiti.

If Henry’s request is granted, it will be the fifth time in a little more than a hundred years that the military has been sent to Haiti. The most recent was the 13-year, $7 billion United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which lasted through 2017 and caused an estimated 10,000 Haitians to die from a cholera epidemic. Assistant Secretary of State Brian A. Nichols and other top U.S. government officials went to Port-au-Prince last week to meet with Henry, members of the business community, and representatives of the Montana Accord, a group that has called Henry’s call for troops “treason.” Since then, a large U.S. Coast Guard ship has been watching the shoreline near Port-au-Prince. The US and Canada sent military supplies together on Saturday, including tactical and armored vehicles. At the U.N. Security Council briefing on October 17, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who represents the United States at the UN, asked for support for two resolutions that the United States and Mexico wrote together. The first would punish Chérizier and others financially for gang violence and selling guns. Their assets would be frozen and they wouldn’t be able to travel internationally. With the second, a non-U.N. mission would be launched under the leadership of a “partner country with the deep, required experience.” The first resolution was unanimously approved on Friday. Voting on the second has not yet taken place.

I most recently participated in a protest at the White House that demanded the US government stop funding Henry and the Parti Haitien Tèt Kale (P.H.T.K. ), the Haitian Bald-Head Party. Haitians have often taken to the streets to protest the incompetence and corruption of P.H.T.K. leaders and to demand that those responsible for the stolen, misused, and misappropriated Petrocaribe money be held accountable. Accountability was absent. Henry may be counting on reinforcements from outside the country to bring what my terrified relatives also want: yon ti souf, which means “a breather” or “a break.” The country is in the worst shape it has been in recent memory, with people struggling to find food and water or being trapped in their homes with the sound of gunfire all around them. Henry would be much less likely to try to reach a deal with civil society or step down if international military support was in place. He might even try to arrange elections under P.H.T.K. leadership, which would restart the terrible cycle.

When Mose announced gas price increases in the summer of 2018, I was in Haiti. This led to widespread protests and lockdowns. As one friend in the education field put it, “this is a generation of Haitians who have never lived in a peaceful political and economic environment.” The young people I talked to at the time often said they wanted a tabula rasa, or a clean slate, so that they could build a more fair and equal society. Four years later, Haitians are still no closer to seeing that society take shape, and the existence of the nation itself appears to be in jeopardy. The “social and economic apartheid” that most Haiti’s citizens experience, according to Vélina Élysée Charlier, a member of the anti-corruption organization Nou Pap Dmi based in Haiti, told me after the D.C. protest, “Historically, no U.S. or U.N. intervention has really addressed Haiti’s problem.” Why should Haitians think that things will be different this time?

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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