Originally: Violence in Haiti and the Erroneous Perception of the U.N. Force


This week, Haiti’s population is expecting anxiously the visit of the U.N. Security Council mission which will take place from April 13 to April 16. Every day, it is clearer that Aristide has left a disastrous heritage: Haiti is “a quasi-failed state,” as stated by the Washington Post in its editorial of April 5. The newspaper also rightfully noted, “Sadly, U.S. policy hasn’t changed much either. The Bush administration still aspires to delegate Haiti’s troubles to other countries or international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States. One direct result of this policy is the continued insecurity, since the Brazilian-led U.N. force of 7,400 has lacked the capability or willpower to disarm the thugs.” The Washington Post concluded, “The Bush administration still resists accepting the obvious: that deeper U.S. involvement in Haiti is inevitable . . . The only recourse . . . may be the Marines.”

It is urgent that the U.S. policy-makers as well as the U.N. Security Council take a closer and more accurate look at the field. Indeed, the Haitians have been stunned to hear Brazilian lieutenant-general Augusto Heleno Ribeiro of the U.N. forces in Haiti often linking the violence to “social injustice,” a characteristic of the country’s history for the past two hundred years. This is an erroneous and dangerous reading of the reality of Haiti’s continuous violence.

A major part of Aristide’s heritage was the financing and creation of heavily-armed gangs. Violence in Haiti may be partially due to social injustice indeed, but it is also—and this has to be clearly understood by our U.N. partners in the rebuilding of the nation—highly political, commanded and co-opted by the old regime. The refusal to admit that particular reality will lead to a new failure of the United Nations in Haiti. In addition, the transitional government’s lack of efficiency and strength has worsened the violence. Political analysts go so far as to accuse the government’s personnel of complicity with the practices of the old regime. Not by ideology, but by lack of action.

Haiti is often described as ungovernable. The Haitians indeed contributed to that perception. They need help in all matters to build democracy. They can help the international community to achieve this goal if they convey a more accurate sense of their needs. They cannot do so if the U.N force has no institutional partner besides a government that has failed to restore order and fight the corruptive system left by Aristide. They cannot do so when the U.N. force commander recently equated the use of force with “repression” and refused to employ it against armed thugs.

Haitians are tired of the violence and misery. The country they once knew is gone for good. The only escape from another catastrophe is to avoid applying an “imported democracy”scheme but rather work together toward the future with accuracy and a true knowledge of the Haitian reality. This can only be done if the United Nations hears the voices of institutional partners which are independent from the Haitian government and preferably linked to civil society and human rights groups. If the U.N. Security Council does not clarify the mandate of the U.N. force and correct its perception of Haiti’s crisis, we are bound to fail and the next electoral process will head into new bloodshed. Hearing and acting with the true Haitian democrats could avoid not only a catastrophe but also another intervention of the U.S. Marines. Indeed, the latter has never been nor will be a solution for Haiti’s distress.

*Nancy Roc won UNESCO’s Jean Dominique Prize for Freedom of the Press in 2002 and the Freelance International Press’s Best Radio Journalism prize in 2004 for her broadcast “Metropolis” on Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince. She is also the author of three books, “Les Grands dossiers de Metropolis,” vols. I, II and III.

** “Haiti, One Year Later,” editorial, Washington Times, April 5, 2005