Originally: Haiti ? the ten-year solution

Sunday 14, March-2004

Amb. Orlando Marville, chief of OAS electoral observation mission in Haiti, May 2000, founding board member of Haiti Democracy Project


A recent session of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee on the situation in Haiti immediately revealed that everybody was interested in Aristide (to demonise or beatify him) but no one seemed really interested in Haiti.

Oddly, the situation as it is now represents probably the last window of opportunity left for that great country, riddled with poor governance and abominable leadership. The first need is to disarm the various thugs that control or roam the streets of Port-au-Prince. That has evidently vaguely begun.

The next step would be to provide food, clean water and other humanitarian needs to the people of Haiti. This would have to be followed by the reconstruction of the police force as a non-political control within the country and the rebuilding of the justice system.

Then one could begin the long ? at least over two years ? the process leading to a general election. This would require bending the constitution, which requires that an election for the presidency be held within 45 days after the resignation of a president. That deadline is likely to be exceeded under any set of circumstances.

It is necessary to forget Aristide, even if he is back in Jamaica. He was elected in circumstances that would not have been acceptable anywhere else in CARICOM and he has polarised the country, put murdering gangs on the street and created a great deal of wealth for himself and poverty for the people. He is unlikely to be a positive force in any Haiti of the future.

Nor is Guy Philippe or his boss, Toto Constant, a terrorist living comfortably on his real estate business in New York. Nor are any of the cronies of Guy Philippe like Chamblain or the former Aristide chimère who invaded Port-au-Prince with them. It is also necessary to collect the M-16s which seem to have been US issue and make the streets that much safer. The reason for the delay in the election process is that it will take a while to select a proper and permanent Electoral Council, determine who will be eligible to vote at the next elections with all the difficulties this would involve.

The process of ID cards, proper voting boxes, well-organised polling stations and methods of vote collection that leave little doubt as to the fairness of the process would also need to be considered before allowing proper time for campaigning and finally voting.

Moreover, there has to be seen to be some serious improvement in the lot of the average Haitian before the process of elections could be seen to be meaningful.

There has to be a serious effort in the interim to create new investment in the country so that people could earn a living rather than survive on humanitarian handouts. It is not the proud Haitian tradition to wait for people to provide life?s necessities.

Even after elections, the international community and CARICOM, (now discredited in Haiti because of its nearness to Aristide and its unwillingness to accept that the May 2000 elections were a farce) must stayon in Haiti to monitor the progress of any newgovernment.

Hands-on assistance will be required for at least another two to four years. Beyond that, there will be a need for at least ten years of democratic tradition building, new investment and the development of the social infrastructure of that country before one can believe that Haiti would finally assume the role thatit should play in this hemisphere.

That country was, after all, the liberation beacon for all the enslaved of the hemisphere as well as the inspiration for Simon Bolivar in his quest for the liberation of Hispanic South America.

One may well ask where all the monies involved are to come from. There is something in the region of$1 billion available from the European Union, the World Bank and other lending institutions.

The problem of absorption capacity could be solved by putting in place expertise primarily from the region to move the process along. There has, however, to be total co-operation between all the players involved.

This is not the moment for the continued use of Haiti as a political football. The process can only work if all the former slave-owning countries abandon what seems to be a continued desire to punish that country and to use it to prove a point that is so often the goal of a racist North Atlantic.

Finally, those of us who genuinely love Haiti must also recognise that it will require more than simple sentimentality to make Haiti well.

If the international community and CARICOM fail to grasp this opportunity, we may all see a failed society right in our midst. The hard-working, talented people of Haiti deserve much more from us all.

SOURCE: Barbados Daily Nation