Originally: New Government Should Seek Even-handed Justice

In the coming days and weeks, nations and institutions around the world will be asked to come up with nearly $1 billion to support Haiti. This is a commendable effort led by the World Bank. Without this level of aid, Haiti has no chance of achieving the elusive goal of self-sustaining, democratic nationhood. Haiti deserves all the aid and assistance it can get.

At the same time, Haiti’s leaders must strive to be more even-handed, especially in projecting and administering justice. Some events since the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide give rise to concern.

Armed and dangerous

This may be a harsh judgment, but it is fully justified by the poor record of interim Prime Minister Gerard LaTortue, who took power on March 12.

Violence has subsided, but little progress has been made in disarming the armed factions that roam the countryside and many of Haiti’s urban areas. The rebels who helped to topple Mr. Aristide are still armed and dangerous, as are the so-called chimeres who acted as the enforcers of the former government. The presence of, first, a U.S.-led military force, and, now, U.N.-led peacekeepers, keeps a lid on the violence, but the danger is still present.

Mr. LaTortue himself has lent credibility to the outlaw forces by lauding the rebels and appearing on the same platform with their leaders shortly after he took over, and he has never publicly disowned them. Recently, the government issued a two-month warning for thugs to turn in their weapons or face arrest, but it is unclear if this is a bluff or how the government plans to enforce this order.

Meanwhile, instead of reconciliation, the new government seems intent on revenge. Former Prime Minister Yvone Neptune, who turned himself in, sits in the National Penitentiary facing murder charges for acts over which he appears to have had little control.

Government’s delays

The new government also has failed to announce new election dates other than to say they will take place next year. That, too, is worrisome, given that the initial idea was to begin a round of elections before the end of 2004. Perhaps waiting is better, but the government’s delays don’t inspire confidence.

Others share the blame, particularly Haiti’s friends abroad. The U.N. peacekeeping force is nowhere near the 6,500 troops promised. Training of the new police force has been slow to materialize. The period of nearly five months since the fall of President Aristide isn’t a long time, but the gravity of the situation in Haiti shouldn’t be underestimated. The interim government must move faster against all known perpetrators of violence regardless of political stripe. Recent history shows that patience wears thin quickly — and understandably so — among the people of Haiti.