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The Haitian Intervention: Prospects and Possibilities - Part One

Education 05 Oct, 2023 Follow News

Dr Livingston Smith

Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica

William Ruto- President of Kenya

By Livingston Smith, PhD

Professor, Department of the Social Sciences

University College of the Cayman Islands

This column has been focusing on the dire situation in Haiti, a member of the CARICOM and a country which has made incalculable contribution to the early freedom movement in the Caribbean. With Port-au-Prince essentially under the control of vicious gangs because of a multiplicity of factors, the most recent being the political vacuum left by the ravages of the 2010 earthquake and the brutal assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021.

The World Bank’s assessment is that the earthquake killed an estimated 230.000 people, injured 300,000, displaced more than 1.5 million with the damages and losses estimated at US 7.8 billion and requiring reconstruction of some US$11.3 billion dollars. This was a massive blow to poor country. As pointed out by the World Bank’s  2019 article, ‘Rebuilding Haitian Infrastructure’  a key point, though difficult to imagine, is that Haiti lost one-third of its civil servants and partial or total collapse of main administrative buildings such as the National Palace, the National Penitentiary, the Parliament, and all but one of its ministries. This was a devastation of Biblical proportions.

The assassination of the President only cemented the political crisis. Parliamentary elections due since October 19, 2019, have not been held and the terms of senators who were democratically elected have long expired. The political class lacks legitimacy and the judiciary is non-functional. Given these circumstances, anyone could have predicted the current humanitarian crisis in this country making it ripe for yet another intervention to hopefully end the atrocities being committed against ordinary Haitians, especially women and girls.

The brutal fact is, however, that Haiti has had many outside interventions before. None of them seemed to have worked. The US first occupied Haiti from 1914 to 1934 and there has been several others since the early 1990’s. There was the 1993 UN peacekeeping mission planned in tandem with the arrival of US Troops in 1994. In 2004, there was the attempt by the US to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power and not too long after, a rebellion that removed him again.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission operated between 2004 to 2017. Its mandate was to increase security and protection during the period of elections and help generally with restoring and maintaining the rule of law, public order, and safety. It clearly failed. Academics who are familiar with Haitian interventions have argued that they have not really worked. Prominent Haitian scholar Robert Fatton, Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs in the Department of Politics, University of Virginia, for example, reminds us that during the time of the UN Mission there were allegations of sexual assault by the troops and staffers among other challenges. Another intervention in Haiti does not have the support of many Haitians. Many predict that the gangs will not sit back quietly but will engage in hostile fire fights. Others point to the need to stop the flow of guns into Haitin from their well-known sources. Yet other anti-intervention argument is that all that will happen is that an illegitimate government will be propped up.

Nonetheless, it is difficult not to agree with the UN resolution that has just been passed clearing the way for yet another intervention. With the situation spiraling out of control even with self-defense groups trying their best to impose protection from the gangs, there is no anticipation that anything will change for the better except for some organized outside intervention.

The October 2 UN Security vote has authorized the deployment of a multinational security support mission, mainly composed of police but also military personnel to be led by Kenya which is reported to be sending one thousand of its police officers with participation from several Caribbean countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Suriname. Other CARICOM countries are likely to support in other ways, if not ‘boots on the ground.’  Can a Kenyan-led intervention force make the difference? How likely is this to succeed? We will examine this in the next article on the subject.

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