In the wake of weeks of violence perpetrated by criminal gangs, the civil society organizations and political parties that have proposed ways out of the country’s political and legal chaos have called for a march against violence.
It’s Flag Day in Haiti, marking the creation of the national flag 219 years ago – just before the triumph of the revolution in 1804 that freed the slaves and drove out the French colonial regime.
According to United Nations human rights officials, between April 2 and May 16 at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs and some 96 alleged to be gang members were reportedly killed during coordinated armed attacks in Port-au-Prince. Another 113 were injured, 12 reported missing, and 49 kidnapped for ransom. The actual number of people killed may be much higher.
On May 17, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Haitian authorities and the international community to promptly restore the rule of law and protect people from armed violence. “State institutions need to be strengthened to combat impunity and corruption,” she stressed. “The authorities have a duty to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private individuals and entities, such as armed criminal gangs.”
But the Haitian “state” has been weakened by natural disasters and the whims of its political class and their wealthy backers, domestic and foreign. Bachelet’s words are welcomed by all who want profound change, but not by those whose only interests are permanent and cheap labour, and preventing people from leaving (the United States and the Dominican Republic.
It could all be different. Haiti should have been “built back better” (words of former U.S. President Bill Clinton) after the 2010 earthquake. But it wasn’t. The dubious 2011 election (25 per cent turn-out) gave power to by Michel Martelly (“Sweet Mickey”), a pop singer whose shaved head gave name to his political movement, Tet Kale (PHTK). A much-delayed and even worse election in 2016 (21 per cent turn-out) produced Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated just under a year ago. Since then, there have been two interim prime ministers, the second one chosen by the “Core Group” of foreign ambassadors (Canada, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the United States, France and the European Union). Terms of all elected politicians have expired; the prime minister (Ariel Henry) dismissed the electoral council; no new plan or date is set.
The Core Group should listen to the voices of the civil society organizations and opposition parties. Last August 30, they came together to produce a platform (called the Montana Accord for the city hotel where it was finalised). The accord proposes a path toward new elections.
Meanwhile, proposals for change come from other sectors. One list that caught my eye this week – it calls for revolt – emerges from a congress of university students brought together by the student chaplaincy of the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince:
“The commitment of the university in the fight against insecurity.”
The University Congress asserts that:
- the State, which should be the first guarantor of national security)
- the university, which is the compass of society in its mission to train executives and be the vanguard of the collective conscience, and
- the Church, which is a moral institution accompanying society in maintaining social balance) must assume concrete commitments within the framework of the fight against this phenomenon.
The delegates, at the end of a reflection on the commitment of these three entities, agreed on the fact that the globalized insecurity which reigns in the country is a political and economic construction, a deleterious construction which aims to annihilate the state and society in general. The population must therefore revolt against this state of affairs.
Pending the arrival of leaders who truly represent the interests of the community, the public authorities must be compelled to:
- Strengthen the judiciary
- Control the borders
- Invest in national production
- Provide adequate material resources to the PNH
- Invest in education
- Encourage good citizenship
- Create jobs
- Establish social well-being programs
Then, for its part, the university should:
- Raise awareness among young people for the progress of Haiti
- Organize conference-debates, colloquia on insecurity
- Conduct research and reflection, then develop and propose strategic plans to combat insecurity
- Promote the active participation of academics in the political life of the country
- Be a real pressure force in society
- Promote the patriotic spirit in the country
- Serving society
Finally, for its part, the Church, as a moral and spiritual authority, has the imperative duty to:
- Educate the faithful on a civic level
- Stop preaching resignation
- Opt for a more intensified and active social ministry
We all undertake, as students, academics, to act in the name of our belonging to the City, to the University, to any religious denomination or whatever our ideological convictions, and to invest ourselves fully in order to promote the implementation of these resolutions. This, for a serene, just society, and a prosperous Haiti.
Given in Port-au-Prince on May 15, 2022