For centuries, Haiti and France have had a shared destiny. Our common history has been painful at times, but it has helped forge an intense relationship between our two countries, based on a common language and Haiti’s proximity to the French Antilles. History, geography and culture have seen to it that our two countries have a close dialogue characterized by respect and solidarity.
It was this respect and solidarity that dictated France’s renewed effort — which it undertook together with the United States and other countries — to come to Haiti’s aid at a time when Haiti was undergoing a major crisis.
In a country that for decades had suffered from poverty and violence, the political authorities had drifted away from the democratic exercise of power, allowing a climate to set in that was propitious to all kinds of abuses.
Escalation of violence
The Assembly was not reelected, armed militias made it all the more dangerous to prepare elections as the police could not guarantee security, and the independence of the judiciary was no longer assured. The human-rights situation sparked deep concern, as evidenced by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights report deploring the disappearance of the rule of law.
Early this year, the situation notably worsened: The escalation of all forms of violence and the total lack of political dialogue — despite the tireless efforts undertaken by countries of the region, through the Organization of American States and CARICOM — pointed to no way out other than chaos and civil war.
Out of solidarity, France couldn’t simply stand by and do nothing. It had a moral duty to intervene. And this it did, alongside the United States and other countries, remaining true to the second principle that guides its actions with regard to Haiti: respect. Respect, first of all, for the institutional order of that country. Then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide chose to face up to his heavy responsibilities and hand in his resignation. According to the Constitution, Boniface Alexandre was sworn in as the interim president . Respect, too, for international law, in view of the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous passage of Resolution 1529, providing for an interim multinational force for Haiti that includes French troops.
Today, hope is being reborn in Haiti. The political dialogue has been renewed and has led to the appointment of a new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, and the formation of a government that includes experts and representatives of civil society. By transcending partisan divides and working for national unity, the Haitian political class is sending a positive message on the return of the rule of law.
On the level of security, the interim multilateral force is providing support for the Haitian police. France, which has 1,000 men deployed mainly in northern Haiti, has supplied the second-largest contingent to that force. It is a difficult task, but encouraging results have already been seen, particularly with respect to the disarmament of armed groups. In a few months, the interim force will be replaced by a U.N. stabilization force with the task of creating conditions for lasting security. France has already announced its willingness to take part in this second stage.
Indeed, the international community’s effort to aid Haiti must take place over the long term and must attack the very roots of the problems facing that country. Mistakes have been made in the past that we must not repeat today. Haiti’s economic and social development represent a real challenge that the entire international community must meet through a long-term commitment. France is prepared for this. Emergency humanitarian aid has been flown in and has already reached the people. A contribution of $1.5 million has also been made to the World Food Program to meet the most pressing needs to help the most vulnerable victims of the civil unrest (children, orphans, pregnant women).
France will spare no effort in urging the international community to help with Haiti’s recovery.
A bloodbath was avoided
In this mobilization, France and the United States are working closely together. Since the beginning of the Haitian crisis, the dialogue and cooperation between Paris and Washington have been exemplary and have enabled our two countries, side by side, to lead the international effort to aid the Haitian people. Without the swift and decisive presence of French and American troops — the first to arrive on the ground — there might have been a bloodbath in Haiti. That bloodbath was avoided.
Today and no doubt tomorrow, Haiti needs the solidarity and respect of the community of nations. It can count on France, just as it can count on America.
Jean-David Levitte is ambassador of France to the United States.