By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
UNITED NATIONS, April 20 — U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called Tuesday for establishment of a force of 6,700 U.N. troops to relieve a U.S.-led multinational mission that has maintained security in Haiti since the Feb. 29 departure of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Annan said in a 33-page report to the U.N. Security Council that the U.S.-led force of 3,600 troops would transfer authority to the United Nations by June 1. The arrangement sets the stage for the United Nations’ second attempt at nation-building in the troubled island country in more than a decade.
A senior Bush administration official said that some of the troops serving in the current multinational force, which includes French, Chilean and Canadian soldiers, would “stay on in some capacity” under U.N. command. He said that “no decision had been made” to keep U.S. troops in the country. Still, he added, “we expect no slippage in the timing of the handoff.”
The new U.N. mission would have a broad mandate, providing security for humanitarian aid givers and restoring stability as Haiti prepares for national elections by the end of 2005. It would also oversee the disarmament of gangs and help establish a national police force of 10,000 officers.
The report represented Annan’s sharpest criticism of Aristide to date, charging that he failed to advance the cause of democracy during his tenure and contributed to lawlessness and a flourishing drug trade.
Aristide formed a destructive alliance with armed groups known as chimères to maintain his grip on power, Annan said. In return, “these armed groups received financial assistance and were given a free hand to intimidate political opponents . . . and to engage in organized crime, including narcotics trade,” Annan said.
Annan indicated that Aristide, who was overthrown in a 1991 military coup, had committed a fatal mistake by disbanding the army in 1995 after his return to power. He said that Aristide had failed to take steps to integrate the soldiers into civilian life or to preserve their military pensions, planting “the seeds for future civil unrest.”
Haiti continues to be plagued by violence under a transitional government. Many armed insurgents who fought to depose Aristide have “turned to banditry and other criminal activities,” Annan said. “The absence of the rule of law has reinforced a climate of impunity and other crimes, such as kidnapping, robberies and rape, are on the rise.”
The U.N. chief’s indictment of Aristide’s rule appeared to undermine lingering hopes by Haiti’s neighbors to restore Aristide to power. The Caribbean Community, known as Caricom, has criticized the U.S. role in Aristide’s departure, and appealed for a U.N. investigation into the matter.
Roger F. Noriega, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with representatives of Caribbean countries who are posted at the United Nations.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity said the Caribbean ambassadors never mentioned the fate of Aristide at Tuesday’s luncheon meeting. But he said that the United States would be willing to share information on the U.S. role in aiding Aristide’s flight to Central African Republic.