Originally: Is There a Need to Revisit the Transition?

LE MATIN Editorial, November 12-15

When people talk about the transition, they usually refer to a document. First, there are those who engineered the transition, and the institutions that they created. There are, also, the events filling the transition and coloring it. We have spoken at length about all that. Right from the beginning, we said what we believe: no effort must be spared to make this new transition a success. Keeping with our duty as a critic, which is expected from an independent publication, we have, in our editorials, warned against the “pitfalls of the transition,” and emphasized its weaknesses. The challenges are many, but the means are few.

In the short term, the main concern is the increasing insecurity. The Aristidian violence is persisting. It is a new form of political opposition, difficult to analyze because it has no precedent. All we know is that the forces of law and order, poorly trained and ill equipped, cannot overcome this urban guerrilla. They cannot use their artillery to destroy the popular neighborhoods where the hard-core resisters are hiding. Impatience and denunciations will not make any difference. This manhunt will be a long and elaborate process, requiring police intelligence and respect for fundamental freedoms. We welcome the progress made in pursuing the criminals, but it should not be expected that violence will disappear overnight from the social environment of the cities. Its elimination must be carefully programmed into the process of restoring normality to the political situation. It cannot be done by the government alone, nor by the police.

Voices are still heard pointing out the social dimension of insecurity. During his visit in Port-au-Prince this week, Mr. Marco Aurelio Garcia, special envoy of the president of Brazil, said that it is urgent “that social and economic measures be taken to avoid a social deterioration benefiting the violent groups in Haiti.” I think that this opinion is shared by many, but how is it possible to do social work in areas where peace has not yet returned, and where blind violence is predominant? Moreover, the development of a social policy in Haiti must be carefully planned, in view of the enormous needs of a population literally facing disaster.

In the medium term, the worst danger hangs over the organization of projected elections. This issue is linked to the recent experience of the provisional electoral commission (CEP) and its inability to solve its internal problems. The recent resignation of its president could suggest that the CEP is moving toward a solution of this problem. Nothing is less certain. The simplest and easiest way would be to go back to the provisions of the transitional consensus. The Catholic hierarchy would then appoint a representative to replace the resigning Mrs. Julien. This would not be the choice of all the parties, however, particularly among the organizations who did not participate in the consensus for the political transition.

Isn?t there an opportunity here to reflect upon political practices in Haiti? What is the reason, for instance, to give such an important role to the churches in an exercise aimed at developing solutions to the country’s problems? Is it the necessity to preserve morality in our national affairs? Or is it a way for politicians to take advantage of the increasing popularity of religion amidst the general poverty (with so many religious groups exerting their influence upon the members)? In exchange, would the Church hierarchy contribute members to fill positions of influence within the enchanted circles of power? The time has certainly come to think about laicizing the affairs of the country.

There is so much pressure from the main national and international partners to normalize the political situation in Haiti that a solution must be found for the CEP. However, it will take some time before we can be rid of the devils haunting the mind of our politicians. It is as if the numerous political parties do not realize how they have discredited themselves by the mere fact of their multiplicity. At this time, however, it is hard to see how the problems inherent to that multiplicity can be solved. “The mergers that could reduce (divide) by 2 the number of party leaders are a lot more difficult to achieve than the splits causing them to multiply by 2.” (Jacques Julliard) Tiny groups are tempted to engage in violence.

Under those conditions, how is it possible to reevaluate the transitional accord seriously without a mandatory national dialogue? The tragedy is that everyone ? or almost everyone ? knows what needs to be done, without knowing who is going to do it, and how. In spite of appearances, we have failed to approach this transition with a new type of regulating force. Should the transition, therefore, be revisited? I believe so, but not in the usual sense, where such an operation would involve a general reshuffle; which would imply changing the government, creating new institutions, and starting over from scratch. Rather I believe that it is possible to revise the consensus document to include new players. The government would have to take this initiative. Of course, the transition would require more than the government’s involvement alone, but the government must play a central role.