Originally: Declaration on the Political Situation in the Country
Exclusive translation by Haiti Democracy Project
Since September 2004, the political situation has been continuously deteriorating. On top of the natural disaster where thousands of our fellow citizens lost their life in the Artibonite and the Northwest, armed gangs are perpetrating criminal acts, mostly in the poor neighborhoods of the capital.
In view of that situation, the Council of Eminent Persons concluded that all the sectors of the population interested in the success of the transition must work together to reach a consensus, at least about two essential aspects: the causes of insecurity and the actions to be taken against it. Based upon the information received by the council and its review of the situation, the council believes that two main factors are responsible for insecurity: the lack of political direction from the Executive Branch, particularly the Government, and the action of supporters and thugs of the former Lavalas regime.
The specific goal of this carefully orchestrated situation of insecurity is to prevent a successful transition, a process capable of helping the country in the long run. It is also designed to impose Aristide?s return as a mandatory condition to reach a solution. The organized groups who share our conclusions must speak with one voice and support the Council of Eminent Persons on the basis of this proposal, as much as possible, in its demand for a specific strategy and a plan of action from the Transition Government for an appropriate response to stop this particular violence.
Poverty is a real and dramatic problem in our society, and it has been exacerbated during the last decade. However, the equation “poverty = violence” is not acceptable under any condition, since the vast majority of the poor people have never made the choice of violence to solve their problems. The current violence is basically of a political nature, and is orchestrated by different groups of the Lavalas movement because they are hungry for power and want to impose their dehumanizing rationale on the nation . The Council of Eminent Persons is calling on the nation to reject systematically any rationale mixing poverty and insecurity in order to nurture confusion, since it can paralyze any effort to find real solutions and because, above all, it leaves the initiative in the hands of those who believe in violence and fear. We must never yield to fear and accept, as a miracle solution, that certain armed groups take the initiative and act outside any official institution or without the proper authority.
Since May, the Council of Eminent Persons has been conducting a series of interviews and meetings with the Executive Branch (Offices of the President and Prime Minister) and the Office of the High Commissioner of the National Police (CSPN). More specifically, since the month of August, the council has taken several actions, including writing and submitting a proposal to the authorities, on September 22, to develop and implement a National Security Plan. In that sense, the council tried to promote a continuous improvement of public safety, to stop insecurity and establish an environment for national reconstruction.
The Council of Eminent Persons reiterates its proposal to develop a program against insecurity around five main points:
1. The need for the government to make a clear statement on the framework of the current Transition. This should be a systematic statement phrased as an indictment against the sponsors of the political violence. It should denounce particularly, on the one hand, the demagogic exploitation of social poverty, which has never really been addressed under the Lavalas regime, and, on the other hand, the use of violence as a political strategy.
2. Establish a Central Unit of Intelligence and Planning. The triple mission of this unit would be intelligence, planning and coordination of operations, and recruitment of information agents.
3. Strengthen the capacity for intervention of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) by recruiting new (male and female) police officers, upgrading the equipment of the police (particularly weapons), and enforcing the rules of engagement in order to avoid confusion during police operations. That require, among other measures, taking the steps for the formal end of the arms embargo, and regulating the sale and circulation of weapons.
4. Clarify once and for all the mandate of the MINUSTHA (United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti) and formulate clear conditions on the exact nature of its collaboration with the PNH, the latter remaining the national institution with the authority to direct the operations.
5. Implement reforms within the PNH and the Public Administration, which had been infiltrated with Lavalas mercenaries, to make sure that the equipment made available is used to fight insecurity instead of fueling it, which is still the case today. This mandatory purge will only make sense if it distances itself from the practices of clientelism and allows, through a preestablished screening process, to put in charge dedicated individuals who will be held responsible for following the established rules and enforcing them in the defense of the national interest.
It is the belief of the Council for Eminent Persons that such a program would help the Transition Government progress significantly in the fight against insecurity and, at the same time, earn the trust of the citizens by giving them new hope and, thereby, encourage their necessary participation in the fight against the blind violence that denies a normal life to the population.
The Council for Eminent Persons emphasizes the fact that a prerequisite for the success of this program is the commitment not only of the Provisional President of the Republic but also of the Prime Minister and all the Cabinet. In this critical moment, the entire government must face its collective responsibility about the problem of insecurity which, if left unsolved, will make it impossible to achieve any productive work otherwise. This will also be an opportunity to work as a government team, recognizing the absolute need to establish a Government Action Plan in light of the political environment. The Transition Government will thus have a chance to express itself clearly, and explain its policies to the population.
Port-au-Prince, October 14, 2004
For the Council of Eminent Persons (Conseil des Sages)
Danièle Magloire, Spokesperson