This Week in Haiti” is the English section of HAITI LIBERTE newsweekly. For the complete edition with other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-421-0162, (fax) 718-421-3471 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit our website at <http://www.haitiliberte.com>.
“Justice. Verite. Independance.”
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
September 30 – October 6, 2009
Vol. 3, No. 11
OPPOSITION GROWS TO UN OCCUPATION AS MANDATE RENEWAL NEARS by Kim Ives
The United Nations Security Council mandate for the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) expires on Oct. 14. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has already called for a one-year renewal of the mission. But anger and resistance against the illegal foreign military presence in Latin America’s first independent nation is growing throughout Haiti and its diaspora.
MINUSTAH began on Jun. 1, 2004, inheriting its mission from U.S., French and Canadian troops (then called the Multinational Interim Force) which had occupied Haiti on Feb. 29, 2004, the day former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped from his home by U.S. Special Forces and flown into exile in Africa, where he remains to this day. Since then, MINUSTAH’s mandate has been renewed eight times.
>From Sep. 16 – 19, the “International Commission of Inquiry on the
in Haiti” visited the country to investigate charges that MINUSTAH has committed and continues to commit massacres, murder, rape, and other human rights violations. Based at the Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince, the non-governmental international citizens delegation met with a host of organizations and individuals from all corners of Haiti who gave graphic testimony of MINUSTAH’s crimes.
The delegation included, among others, two Brazilian unionists JULIO TURRA and BARBARA CORRALES; human rights activists from Martinique, LUCIEN GRATTÉ and DIOP JEAN LOUIS of the Institute for Research on the History of the Americas ( IREHA); AMADI AJAMU and GREGORY PERRY of the U.S.-based December 12th Movement; a U.S. civil rights movement veteran Colia Clark from Grandmothers for the Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal; a deputy with Algeria’s Workers Party, ZOUBIDA KHERBACHÉ; and four members of the large Guadeloupian coalition, Front against Profit (LKP), JOCELYN LAPITRE, RAYMOND GAMA, HUMBERT MARBOEUF, and VICTOR FABERT.
During its days of collecting evidence, the delegation met with MINUSTAH victims from Les Cayes, Petit-Goave, Gonaives and Lascahobas and screened films documenting many of MINUSTAH’s crimes. The delegates also took testimony from state enterprise employees, Cité Soleil residents, members of the Platform of Haitian Organizations for Human Rights (POHDH), and met with MINUSTAH representatives.
On Friday, Sep. 18, the delegation presented a summary of its findings in a well-attended press conference at the Plaza Hotel.
“Through its work, the Commission of Inquiry has begun assembling information about the crimes MINUSTAH has committed in this country, the repressive acts for which it is responsible, cases of rape and murder,” said delegate Guy Numa of the Guadeloupian Democratic Popular Movement (MODEP).
“The Commission has begun to compile all the crimes which were committed in various popular neighborhoods.”
The Commission also noted a negative economic and cultural impact from the UN occupation. “We found the occupation increases economic dependence and economic imbalance through privatization, causing agricultural and industrial losses,” explained delegate Raymond Gama. “It contributes to the dismantling of the Haitian State and the destabilization of Haiti’s social fabric… It has no educational or cultural programs, leaving the youth completely destitute.”
Gama noted that the UN occupation is doubly illegal by violating not only Haiti’s constitution, which expressly forbids any “foreign armed force” on Haitian soil, but also international law. The UN Charter’s Chapter 7 was invoked to justify MINUSTAH’s deployment, but it only foresees such a mission in case of international conflict, civil war, natural disaster, or crimes against humanity. None of these conditions exist in Haiti, making MINUSTAH completely illegitimate. “Thus, we propose to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and then with the MINUSTAH’s Member States,”
Gama said. “Finally, we appeal to the international labor movement to support the Haitian people and call for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal from Haiti on Oct. 15.”
The International Commission of Inquiry was warmly welcomed by many Haitian popular organizations, trade unions and human rights groups. “The Haitian government benefits from the UN mission and uses it to repress the population,” said Haitian unionist Dukens Raphael of the Confederation of Public Sector Workers. “Relying on the ‘blue helmets,’ the Haitian government is carrying out a policy of contempt and provocation.”
The delegation requested a meeting with Haitian President René Préval but was denied a hearing.
Meanwhile, as the Haitian Parliament began a four-month recess last week, lawmakers spoke out forcefully against MINUSTAH’s renewal. “MINUSTAH should leave Haiti,” declared Mont Organisé’s Deputy Ronald Larêche. “The MINUSTAH’s mission is to insure international peace and security, which it is not doing. That is why we are calling for MINUSTAH’s departure.”
Arcahaie’s Deputy Pierre Fequiere Julien, was indignant about MINUSTAH’s looming Oct. 15 renewal, coming just two days before the anniversary of Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ assassination. “On Oct. 17 we commemorate the 203rd anniversary of the murder of our founding father Dessalines, who died for our freedom and sovereignty,” Fequiere said. “But on Oct. 15 they will likely renew the MINUSTAH’s mandate. What a shame for the descendants of Dessalines!”
Fequiere admitted that the Parliament was guilty of “some negligence” by not “taking our responsibility” to pass resolutions calling for MINUSTAH’s departure. “Therefore, we are as responsible as the Executive,” he said.
“What is going to happen on Oct. 15? President Préval is going to find himself alone in the face of the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate, without the Parliament having had its say, without a document or resolution that would allow the President to call for the mission’s departure.”
Fequiere said he would call on National Assembly President Kelly C. Bastien to form committees from both chambers to work on resolutions calling for MINUSTAH’s removal.
However, such resolutions are not really necessary. “President René Préval was sworn in before Parliament pledging to defend [Haiti’s] 1987 Constitution, which does not allow the presence of any foreign forces on national territory,” wrote Haiti Liberté columnist Hervé Jean Michel last week. “Therefore, he must respect and uphold the Constitution by working for the departure of UN forces from this land that our forefather, Jean Jacques Dessalines bequeathed us.”
Last Jul. 28, on the 94th anniversary of the 1915 landing of U.S. Marines in Haiti at the start of the country’s first military occupation which lasted
19 years, hundreds of Haitians marched through the capital and then rallied in front of UN headquarters where they called for MINUSTAH to pack its bags (see Haiti Liberté, Vol. 3, No. 2, 7/29/2009).
Internationally, opposition against the occupation has also grown. This opposition was reflected in the internationally diverse composition of the Commission of Inquiry and beautifully summarized in a Sep. 11, 2009 letter of support for the Commission from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.
“Few people, unfortunately, remember that Haiti was the first truly free country in the Americas, free of colonial power, also free of slavery,”
Galeano wrote. “Today, encyclopedias say that it is England who was the first nation to abolish this infamous traffic in human flesh, and encyclopedias are lying: the first was Haiti.
“And Haiti has paid dearly: for an eternity the country paid to France a huge indemnity for having committed this offense against Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, and Europe has never forgiven this humiliation.
“Currently, Haiti, a poor country among the poorest, noble among the most noble, suffers the consequences of this long war of liberation, of a sugar monoculture in the exclusive interest of France which has ruined its land for centuries, of the devastating international experts of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, who recently killed all the protections that the Haitian State offered for the production of rice and other domestic products, condemning farmers to begging or leaving the country on rickety boats ( “boat people”). Haiti deserves a better fate. One needs only to know the works of Haiti’s artists, who can turn trash into beauty, to confirm it.
I wish you good luck in your work.”