Originally: Management without Principle: A Familiar Path to Chaos in Haiti


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Management Without Principle: A Familiar Path to Chaos in Haiti

By Stanley Lucas*

Executive Summary
▪ The newly-elected Preval government has been exhibiting decision-making reminiscent of the recent past, specifically the period between 1994 and 2004.  The result of decision-making during that period led the country to the chaos of February 2004 with the haphazard departure of Aristide. 

▪ The Preval administration has outlined priorities in line with international governance standards, such as rule of law, human-rights protection and free and fair elections.  But there is no action plan on how to achieve these standards.  And, in fact, the actions being taken are starting to go against these standards.

▪ If the Preval administration continues down this path, Haiti will be led into chaos yet again.  Haitian society and the international community have an opportunity to help change the course by requiring the Haitian government to meet the international guidelines for receiving international aid that all other countries must meet.  This will help ensure that there is an appropriate framework in place to support Haiti?s nascent democracy.

The Aristide Legacy

In October 1994, the United States sent twenty thousand troops to reinstate Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power and provided more than US$3 billion to support democracy-building in Haiti.  Under the theory that all politics are local, the international community pressed Aristide to come up with his own plan for democracy and Haiti?s future and to take ownership of the effort rather than having it led by the international community.  Aristide consulted his closest advisors ? Philippe Rouzier, Leslie Voltaire and Leslie Delatour ? and outlined a plan that focused on stability and security by promoting the rule of law and strengthening the police; initiating a dialogue with Haiti?s civil society; organizing free and fair elections and promoting good governance; privatizing industry; fighting corruption and drug trafficking; respecting human rights and promoting development.

On paper, the plan was a good one.  But it had two serious flaws: 

1. It was merely a laundry list of objectives with no real action plan; and

2. It empowered Aristide to be the sole owner of the plan rather than taking an approach based on ?checks and balances? and supporting the leadership as well as nongovernmental actors. Essentially, the international community backed one man.

The results were disastrous.  From 1994 to 2004, Aristide and his associates did just the opposite of their stated goals.  Aristide turned against the United States, calling the government an ?evil power? and what developed was a politicized police force and a network of gangs loyal to the government.  These gangs operated above the law and were free to take whatever measures they wanted to stamp out any opposition.  They burned opposition party headquarters and the private residences of opponents.   

Independent judges were dismissed, replaced by more cooperative people and a network of paid international lawyers acted as mercenaries for the cause. Elections were rigged three separate times (April 1997, May 2000 and November 2000).  Parliament was dissolved; privatization turned into bribery; corruption became rampant, drug trafficking rose to unprecedented levels.  With Aristide’s support, drug traffickers controlled the police, the presidency and its security apparatus, the judicial system and financed rigged elections.  Members of parliament loyal to the president were linked to cocaine trafficking, including the president of the senate, Fourel Celestin.  Political assassination and violations of human rights by the president and his supporters became a normal practice, well- known journalists were killed, including Brignol Lindor and Jacques Roche.  The dean of Haiti?s state university was severely beaten.  Dialogue, a hallmark of the 1994 plan, was later used merely as a tool to flush out opposition.

In the end, Aristide?s gangs took on a life and agenda of their own.  There was extensive infighting over power, control and wealth ? complete chaos.  This infighting led to the events of February 2004 and complete collapse of the government when Aristide resigned and was flown out of the country by the United States as his gang of thugs moved into the capital.

Lessons Learned

In 1996 despite the early signs indicating the government was heading down this path, the donor community remained steadfast in its position that Aristide should lead the efforts to put in place a democratic Haiti as he was the elected leader.  Parliament, political parties, Haitian civil society and some donor organizations decried the situation and made numerous pleas to the international community for support — for free and fair elections, for corruption-fighting, for efforts to redress the lack of transparency in Haitian government, for job creation programs, and on and on — all to no avail.. 

Now in 2006, we are again seeing signs of a return to Aristide politics.  But this time, we must ensure that the voices of reason and principle prevail.  This time we (meaning the donor community and Haitian civil society actors) must insist that the government puts into place a real action plan, rather than the list of objectives that they currently have.  Haitian leaders have begun to attack the international community for not providing aid in a timely manner, but international actors much resist the attacks and focus on getting a plan and seeing the actions to fulfill standard requirements for receiving that aid.  To date there have been no capacity building efforts or measures by the Haitian government to ensure that aid is implemented effectively.  This time, no matter what, Haiti must become a reliable partner, a reliable international actor and results-oriented.

The Current Administration

For the past three months, the Haitian government has made some questionable decisions that, if not redressed, will have a negative impact on the democratization process.  It should be noted that Preval has made some personal efforts to reach out to various actors of Haiti?s political spectrum, but time will tell whether or not these talks are truly intended to establish a real political dialogue or if they are purely cosmetic.

▪ First, by retrieving the charges against Jean Bertrand Aristide in a Florida court the government is sending a signal that accountability is not a priority and will make it difficult to pursue others.

▪ Second, the government pressured judges to free Aristide?s political allies involved in political assassinations. 

▪ Third, the government named Samba Boukman, a co-chief of Haiti?s Operation Baghdad, a gang-organized campaign of violence, as a member of the official presidential disarmament commission.  Operation Baghdad has resulted in the murder of 1,821 Haitian citizens, decapitation of 108 police officers, 237 women raped, 500 people kidnapped, including Americans and Canadians. 

▪ Fourth, by leaning on their close allies within the Provisional Electoral Council, the government has delayed ? and continues to delay ? the completion of the remaining legislative elections and the organization of the municipal and local elections.  

▪ Five, efforts to politicize the police have resumed.  The new inspector general and member of KOREGA in the Grand Anse has a well known history of violence.

▪ Six, a resumption of targeted attacks against journalists including Vario Serant of Alterpresse. 

▪ Seven, continuing political assassinations, with the most recent killing of Guy Francois.

▪ Eight, no serious efforts to combat the gangs.  Rather the approach has been to appease them.  They have essentially ?blackmailed? the government ? a worrisome trend. 

Understanding Those in Power

Currently there is a struggle between two major groups that make up this administration as well as past administrations. The first is a group of technocrats willing to play by the rules and promote democracy and good governance.  They are at the nexus of international experience and domestic expertise.  They are generally well-educated, idealistic and motivated.  Most have peasant roots but have staked a serious claim in their country?s future.  Unfortunately, they do not have the upper hand. 

The second is a minority group who knows no other way to rule other than by mobocracy.  They lack a moral compass.  They believe in political violence, and use corruption, kidnappings, political assassination, rape, drug trafficking and other illegal activities to secure their positions of power.  For them, the United States is an ?evil power,? and the international community is weak and can be manipulated.  Appointing Samba Boukman, a well-known criminal, as a member of this official disarmament commission is a way for this group to show it does not ?report to? the international community.  This group of Haitian leaders believes that the plight of Haiti should be blamed on the IMF, the World Bank and others ? but not them.  Unfortunately for now, these people do have the upper hand.

What Can be Done to Change the Path?

A couple months after the chaos of February 2004, a sense of security and stability was reestablished, human rights violations decreased, and an electoral body was put in place.  In addition, relations with the international community strengthened and there was an allocation of US$1.2 billion to Haiti for various restoration and capacity building programs.  Despite the serious challenges left by the Aristide regime, and as a transition authority, the interim government was doing a good job of moving the process forward.  In 2005 and 2006, concerned Haitian citizens, supported by the international community, heavily invested in the transition process.  The 2006 elections constituted the first step for une sortie de crise ? or a way out of the political crisis. 

Now that an elected government is in place, more needs to be done to strengthen Haiti both politically and economically, but with serious accountability.  Haitians, supported by the international community, should continue to mobilize and push for a comprehensive roadmap to strengthen democracy and eliminate mobocracy. 

The following is a list of recommendations on how to achieve this.  Essentially, it requires that Haiti?s government leaders go back to the basics and spend time working, structuring, and organizing rather than undertaking endless travel to international conferences that will not contribute to Haiti?s stability and reconstruction. There is much talk about constitutional reform.  Constitutional reform is not at all a priority (unless perhaps one is interested in being ?President for Life?).  It seems that some foreign mercenaries preoccupied by advancing their careers are more focused on constitutional reform than on taking care of the Haitian people themselves.  Haitians are seeking a better security environment and opportunities that will help them provide for their families ? not constitutional reforms.  So let?s focus on what is of priority.

▪ Security. There is a need for a national security strategy with the input of the executive, legislature and judiciary.  Input from political parties and civil society should be sought out and encouraged.  Gang members, thugs and drug dealers are still linked to state affairs and cannot be allowed to participate in official functions. The Haitian government must put a vetting process in place to keep criminals out of its ranks ? and have the courage to clear out criminals and others unworthy of the public trust who are already in government. The strengthening of the police including recruitment, training, and purchasing of arms in the United States should be supervised by a multifaceted commission with veto power formed by  representatives of the executive branch, the judiciary, human-rights organizations and other civil-society organizations. Building a new force, as the Preval administration has proposed, seems premature and dangerous.  Why build a new force when the current one has not been strengthened and cleansed of the cronies recruited in 1994-2004?

▪ A Policy Agenda. After three months in office, it is time for Haitian government to present the international donors with a strategic economic, social and political action plan.  Not a Program to Assist Sinecures (PAS). Their current plan is disorganized and is not comprehensive.  It is a list of US$7 billion in projects without any context as to how they fit into Haiti’s overall goals.  This plan should include projects in the areas of education, infrastructure, agriculture, health, security, economic development, and environmental protection.  Equally important, this plan should take into account international funding requirements and the US$850 million available.

▪ Efficiency in the State Sector.  Haiti?s revenue-generating sectors are currently organized to provide kickbacks (bribery) to political allies and cronies. This corruption must stop. The government should show its performance in generating its own revenue from its revenue-generating sectors, such as telecommunications, ports, and the tax authority.

▪ Strengthen Domestic Management Capability and Accountability. The Haitian government needs to build up the capacity to absorb international funds before they are received.  The government needs to put in place a human infrastructure that is capable of project and fund management and remove those who are incompetent. They should recruit capable professionals from the Diaspora and within Haiti into government. There are too many unqualified people in the government and it is severely limiting progress. As a capable management team comes in, they must also be subject to strengthened rules to ensure proper oversight and accountability so that the cycle of corruption that has weakened the infrastructure in government in the past is not repeated.

 Support Haiti’s Private Sector. Haiti has an eager chamber of commerce with ten chapters throughout the country.  They desperately lack information on how to function as a chamber of commerce as well as the ability to carry out the various trade- and economic-promotion activities normally run by such chambers.   In addition, there is a need for micro-credit programs and women’s development projects, including women entrepreneurs ? a particular opportunity for the IADB.   Haiti needs jobs.  One way to encourage job creation would be for the U.S. Congress to pass the HOPE legislation that would lower tariffs in certain sectors and promote greater U.S.-Haiti trade.  Hopefully the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas, and Rep. Charles Rangel will do their best to get a vote during Congress?s lame-duck session in November.  Let?s encourage this effort.
 Timely Elections.   There is some concern that there is a deliberate effort to implode the Provisional Electoral Council in order to delay the remaining legislative and nationwide municipal and local elections scheduled for December 3, 2006.  The Haitian voters at the local level and Haitian political parties are getting impatient and the international community has a US$120 million investment in these elections.  If they are not carried out in a timely, free and fair manner, this government will have undermined all the current and previous efforts to build viable democratic process.

▪ Arms Control. When the arms embargo is lifted by the United States, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that arms do not fall into the network of gangs and criminals ? as in the 1994-2004 period when the Aristide government actually armed the gangs ? but get to legitimate police officers.  The national police force and a credible commission formed of human-rights activists should help enforce this policy.

* Stanley Lucas worked on Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Lucas is currently the executive director of the Washington Democracy Project