Biden must stop propping up the old guard in Haiti: IJDH Executive Director Brian Concannon in Responsible Statecraft

Read the PDF version here. Read the Kreyol translation here and below. Read on Responsible Statecraft here.

Biden must stop propping up the old guard in Haiti

The people are not asking Washington to do much. They’re mostly asking us not to do things that make their situation worse.

November 12, 2021

Written by
Brian Concannon

The Biden administration is missing the boat on a generational opportunity to help Haitians get their troubled democracy back on track. By choosing loyalty to its friends in the PHTK (Partie Haitienne Tet Kale) political machine that has dismantled Haiti’s democracy for a decade over a promising broad-based civil society initiative, the administration is condemning Haitians to even more misery and repression and the United States to more foreign policy failure.

Haitians are not asking Washington to do much. In fact, they are mostly asking us to not do things, especially propping up the current PHTK regime, which has run Haiti for most of the past decade.

As State Department Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote wrote in his September 22 resignation letter, Haitians want “the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates.” Ambassador Foote resigned because his efforts to rein in the puppeteering were “ignored and dismissed.” The last straw was “another public statement of support for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry” while the State Department continued to “tout” Henry’s unpopular political agreement “over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society.”

The broader, earlier accord is the work of the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, which has met since January to develop a process for installing a credible interim government that can run fair elections and install a government with the legitimacy to address Haiti’s multiple crises. The Accord has over 650 signatories, including most of the major political parties, the Catholic and Protestant churches, labor unions, chambers of commerce, women’s organizations, anti-corruption organizations, and rural and urban grassroots groups. Commission participants come from across Haiti’s political and social spectrum and many have been on opposing sides of fierce disputes for decades. But the magnitude of Haiti’s crises and the PHTK’s resistance to fair, inclusive elections induced the groups to come together and forge a consensus process that can restore stability and democratic order to Haiti

The Accord starts with the premise that the PHTK, which has never run an election that was either fair or timely, must be replaced by a credible interim government. The Accord would establish a National Transition Council, with a little less than half the seats going to major political parties and a little more than half going to a broad spectrum of civil society organizations. The NTC will choose a Transitional Government, entrusted with restoring regular governance and running elections within two years. Once the transitional government is in place, the NTC will join a larger Transition Control Organ, which will provide oversight to the government.

The foundation of this process is pairing politicians — who know how to wield political power, but are often perceived as conflictual and corrupt — with civil society organizations that will keep the politicians honest and enforce Haitian traditions of consensus building. The Accord’s process is untested, slow, cumbersome, and outside of Haiti’s constitutional framework. But Haitians have been willing to trade speed for a process that persistently allows broad input and achieves compromises on thorny issues. They prefer patiently addressing the complexity of their country’s crisis over hasty expedients that will only increase their misery in the medium and long terms.  

The principal alternative to the Accord, continued PHTK rule, is also outside of Haiti’s constitutional framework. Ambassador Foote called Prime Minister Henry “unelected de facto” because, among other things, he was never ratified by Parliament as the Constitution requires. After a decade of PHTK rule, only 10 elected officials of the thousands established by the Constitution are in office.

Unlike the Accord, continued PHTK rule has no chance of leading to a sustainable resolution of Haiti’s crises. The PHTK party has not only never run fair elections, it has also dismantled the democratic structures that accompany good elections and good governance. There is no electoral council, the judiciary has been cowed by illegal arrests and firings of judges, and government anti-corruption agencies were neutralized.

The PHTK replaced the democratic structures with a political machine fed by spectacular corruption. The consequent diversion of resources has left the government unable to deliver the basic services needed in any successful society, including security and public health. Haiti’s gangs are currently on U.S. radar screens because they are holding 16 U.S. missionaries and preventing transport of gasoline and international aid supplies.

But the gangs have been holding Haiti’s people and democracy hostage throughout the PHTK reign, often in collaboration with the PHTK. Earlier this year, a report from Haitian human rights groups and Harvard Law School concluded that repeated attacks on PHTK opponents by gangs working with police and government officials were widespread and political enough to constitute crimes against humanity.

The PHTK government could not even put the Biden administration’s generous donation of COVID-19 vaccines to good use. The United States sent 500,000 Moderna vaccines to Haiti’s government through the COVAX program in July. But as of the end of October, only 135,256 doses had been administered, among a population of 12 million, leaving Haiti the least vaccinated country in the Americas. This month, COVAX is taking “hundreds of thousands” of these doses back, to use elsewhere before they expire. 

Getting vaccines into the arms of the remaining 99.7 percent of Haitians who are not fully vaccinated is vitally important, but will not happen until the country has a government committed to building the public health system, not looting it, and has earned the trust needed to overcome vaccine hesitancy. Allowing a credible replacement to PHTK to emerge will also provide the United States and others wanting to help Haiti with a broadly-supported interlocutor that can facilitate sustainable international cooperation regarding gangs, energy, economic development and the other contributors to Haiti’s crisis.

Brian A. Nichols, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, responded to criticism of U.S. policy by committing “to supporting a Haitian-led solution to the country’s challenges.” Nichols also said the United States “won’t pick winners and losers.”

But Haitians know that Washington has already been picking the winners in Haiti. Ambassador Foote admitted as much in his letter, and Prime Minister Henry attained his office because the “Core Group” — led by the United States and including no Haitians — picked him by announcing that Henry was replacing his equally illegitimate and U.S.-installed predecessor Claude Joseph. In fact, Ambassador Foote told the House Foreign Relations Committee in October that the PHTK government would not be able to maintain power if Washington stopped propping it up.

Skeptics believe that Assistant Secretary Nichol’s commitment to a Haitian-led solution is limited to the political agreement that PM Henry hastily launched after the Accord generated so much support. Very few groups not connected to PHTK support the agreement, but the US keeps touting it. Seeing this, the skeptics believe that Nichols’ promise not to pick winners and losers means protecting the PHTK against any new “winners,” leaving PHTK in power and the Haitian people and their democracy as the losers.  

The State Department can prove the skeptics wrong by ceasing to prop the PHTK government up. Doing nothing in the face of such a crisis, and allowing a lengthy process to play out will take some forbearance. But it is exactly what Haitians, who understand their context much better than people in the United States, are asking us to do. We owe them that chance.

KREYOL:

Ekip politik peze souse Ayiti sa twò lou, fòk Biden  depoze chay sa sou do li

Rèl Pèp ayisyen nan jou sa yo, se  pa pou mande Washinton bagay ki depase, sa pèp la ap mande nou se sispann fòse yo vale bout bannann ankè a san kraze ki soti pou toufe yo

12 NOVANM, 2021

Ekri pa Brian Concannon

Gouvènman Biden nan sanble ap rate yon okazyon an ò pou ede pèp ayisyen remete demokrasi frajil yo genyen an sou ray. Lè yo chwazi pou sipòte kokoday PHTK yo, ki se yon machin politik ki depatcha demokrasi pandan 10 denye lane ki sot pase yo la , olye yo ta ankadre inisyativ sosyete sivil tout moun ladann nan ki gen plis chans pou reyisi. Wout sa admnistrasyon Biden nan pran an  kondane pèp ayisyen pou woule nan plis lamizè  ak represyon ki ap lakoz Etazini badijonnen nan plis politik etranjè ma labou kejan sa te ye  avan.

Ayisyen pap mande Washington pou fè gwo bagay. Okontrè sa ayisyen ap mande se pou Etazini sipann fè aksyon ki ap sipote rejim PHTK aktyèl la ki tap mennen bak peyi pandan 10 denye lane yo.

Jan anvwaye espesyal pou Depatman Deta Daniel Foote te ekri sa nan lèt demisyon li an, jou 22 Septanm nan, pep ayisyen vle jwenn yon opòtinite pou yo kapab deside sou wout lavi yo poukò yo, san yon kominote entènasyonal ki chwazi kandida ki bon pou yo epi fè yo tounen tijwèt yoyo. Anbasadè Foote te demisyone paske Etazini pat pete nan koton ba li santi epi fèmen je sou jefò li tap fè pou mande sispann jwèt maryonèt la. Denye kou pou touye koukou a se sipò ofisyèl Etazini bay premye minis defakto a: doktè Ariel Henry ki kontinye ap resevwa nan men Depatman Deta bèl konpliman pou yon akò politik ki pa popilè, konparativman a yon lot akò lajman laj  sosyete sivil la devlope.

Akò lajman laj sa ki fèt byen avan se travay yon komisyon pou cheche yon solisyon a kriz la ant ayisyen ki ap rankontre depi Janvye pou devlope yon pwosesis moun fè konfyans ki kapab mennen nan yon gouvènman yon ti bout tan ki kapab mennen nan bon jan eleksyon epi enstale yon gouvènman ak lejitimite pou jere anpil nan kriz Ayiti yo. Akò sa yo gen plis pase 650 senyati ki reprezante pi gwo pati politik yo nan peyi a, legliz katiolik ak legliz potestan, sendika, chanm komès, oganizasyon fanm, òganizasyon anti koripsyon, òganizasyon debaz nan zonn pwovens kou zòn lavil. Patisipan nan komisyon sa yo soti nan pati politik ak gwoup sosyel toupatou an Ayiti. Anpil nan aktè sa yo soti nan sektè ki gen diferan pozisyon politik pandan plizyè lane. Men fas a dimansyon kriz Ayiti a rive epi rezistans PHTK pou reyalize bon jan eleksyon ki jis epi onèt, sa pèmèt gwoup sa yo rejwenn fòs yo ansanm pou fòje yon pwosesis konsensis ki ka restore estabilite ak demokrasi an Ayiti.

Akò sa komanse avèk yon rezonman debaz ki se PHTK ki pat janm fè eleksyon ki ni jis ni nan tan ki la pou sa, dwe ranplase pa yon gouvènman pou yon tibout tan epi moun ka fè konfyans. Akò sa ap mete sou pye yon Konsey Nasyonal Tranzisyon (KNT), ak mwens ke mwatye plas disponib yo ki ap ale jwenn pi gwo pati politik yo epi yon lòt kantite plis ke mwatye plas yo pral repati an jeneral a plizyè gwoup nan òganizasyon sosyete sivil la. KNT a pral chwazi yon gouvènman tranzisyon ki gen konfyans pèp la epi ki pral ranfòse kapasite gouvènans pou fè eleksyon nan de lane. Apre gouvènman tranzisyon sa enstale, KTN a pral mete ansanm ak yon ògann tranzisyon ki pi laj ki pral bay yon kontwòl sou gouvènman an.

Lojik fondman pwosesis sa se pou rive mete politisyen travay ansanm ak lòt sektè. Politisyen yo konnen waj pouvwa politik la men trè souvan moun wè yo kòm aktè konfliktyèl e kowonpi. Yo pral ka travay ansanm ak òganizasyon sosyete sivil la pou kenbe pwosesis la onèt epi ranfòse tradisyon pou bati konsensis. Li klè pwosesis akò  sa poko teste li lan , li sanble konplike epi li andeyò de kad konstitisyonèl. Men kanmenm, ayisyen sanble pito mete yo bò kote yon pwosesis ki pèsistan olye yooun ki ta fèt nan mache prese. Ayisyen yo vle yon pwosesis ki  ka pèmèt yon patisipasyon lajman laj nan lespri yon konpwomi sou pwoblèm pikan kwenna. Yo prefere mize nan wout pou pote bon nouvèl fas a tout konplikasyon ki gen nan kriz peyi a olye yon mache prese ki pral ogmante lamizè moun yo sou mwayen ak lontèm.

Pi gwo altènativ ki genyen fas ak akò sa se PHTK ki kontinye ap dirije bak peyi a, bagay sa pa nan kad konstitisyon Ayiti a. Anbasadè Foote te refere a Premye Minis Henry kòm yon defakto paske li pat pase nan eleksyon epi pami tout lòt iregilarite yo li pat janm ratifye devan paleman an jan konstitisyon an mande sa. Apre yon 10zèn lane kote PHTK ap mennen bak peyi a, se sèlman 10 ofisyèl ki pase nan eleksyon kian fonksyon  pami milye ki te dwe anpòs selon konstitisyon an.

kontrèman ak akò sosyete sivil la, PHTK ki kontinye ap jere peyi a pa gen okenn chans pou mennen kriz la nan yon solisyon dirab. Pati PHTK a non sèlman pat janm reyalize elseksyon ki jis, anplis de sa  li te demantle tout estrikti demokratik ki la pou asire bon jan eleksyon ak gouvènans. Pa gen okenn Konsey Elektoral , pouvwa  jidisyè pran nan presyon fas ak pil arestasyon ilegal ki te fèt epi revokasyon jij epi nan fè ajans antikòripsyon yo ret bèbè.

PHTK te ranplase estrikti demokratik yo ak yon machin politik ki mele nan zak kòripsyon tèt chaje. Tout kalite divèsyon sou resous peyi a rann gouvènman yo enkapab pou delivre sevis de baz yo epi bezwen nesesè ki la pou yon sosyete byen mache, tankou sekririte ak sante piblik. Gang Ayiti yo sou ekran rada Etazini paske yo kenbe 16 misyonè ameriken an otaj, bloke distribisyon gazolin epi sikilasyon  kèk lot èd.

Men gang yo kenbe pep ayisyen an otaj pandan tout rèy PHTK a, souvan ak kolaborasyon aklè yo.  Pi bonè nan ane sa te gen yon rapò ki soti nan gwoup dwa moun an ayiti ak lekòl de dwa Harvard ki fè konen atak gang yo ap fè sou opozan PHTK yo  dekonsè ak lapolis epi ofisyèl nan gouvènman yo gaye ase epi yo  politize ase pou konstitye  krim kont limanite.

Gouvènman PHTK a pa menm rive mete jenerosite administrasyon Biden nan sou vaksen a bonesyan. Etazini voye 500000 vaksen an Ayiti atravè pwogram Covax nan mwa Jiyè, men nan fen mwa Oktòb se sèlman 135 mil ki te rive itilize  nan yon popilasyon 12 milyon moun, sa ki koz ayiti se peyi nan rejyon Amerik la la ki mwens vaksine. Nan mwa Novanm sa Covax ap repran dèsantenn de milye vaksen sa yo pou yo al itilize yo lòt kote avan yo ekspire.

Rive vaksine rès 97’7 pousan ayisyen son bagay ki enpòtan. Men sa pa pral rive fèt toutotan peyi a pa gen yon gouvènman ki angaje pou mete kanpe yon sistèm sante piblik ki pap dechèpiye yo, epi ki genyen konfyans popilasyon an pou chanje ezitasyon moun yo genyen sou pran  vaksen. Pèmèt yon ranplasman moun fè konfyans ke PHTK pou met tèt yo deyò pral bay Etazini ak lòt moun ki vle ede Ayiti yo yon entèlokitè ki gen konfyans lajman laj popilasyon an epi ki pakab fasilite  koperasyon entenasyonsal dirab sou sa ki gen a pwoblèm gang, dosye enèji, devlopman ekonomik epi solisyon ak lòt kondisyon ki kontribye a kriz ayisyen.

Brian A Nichols ki se Asistan sekretè deta pou afè emisfè wès la te reponn a kritik yo fè sou politik Etazini nan deside pran angajman pou sipòte  yon solisyon ak kriz la ki jere pa ayisyen.  Nichols te di tou Etazini pa pral chwazi gayan ak pèdan.

Men chat konnen, rat konen e tout ayisyen konen Washington deja chwazi gayan ki bon pou li yo. Anbasadè Foote te klè sou sa nan lèt demisyon an li an, lè li te di jan Premye minis Henry rive nan pozisyon sa gras a sipò “Core group” ki te chwazi li apre yo te anonse li te ranplase  lòt moun ki te deja nan plas la de manyè ilegal e ilejetim ki se te Claude Joseph. E nou konnen trè byen se Etazini ki ap dirije gwoup sa ki pa gen okenn ayisyen ladann.  Anreyalite anbasadè Foote te byen eksplike bay komite afè etranjè nan mwa oktob kijan gouvènman PHTK a pap ka kenbe pouvwa a si Washington sispann sipòtel.

Moun ki pa egare ki pap pran anana pou sizal konprann jan angajman Asistan Sekretè Nichol la sou zafè solisyon ki jere pa ayisyen an gen anpil blokaj parapò a mache prese MP Henry te genyen pou kouri lanse akò pa li a ki pa gen anpil gwoup ki apiyel. Okenn gwoup ki pa konekte ak PHTK bay sipò a akò sa, men Etazini kontinye voyel monte. Le nou byen gade bagay sa, moun ki gen je kale ki pa egare ki ap swiv yo kwè zafè pwomès Nichols fè pou pa chwazi ganyan ak pèdan yo se nad marinad, sa vle di se pwoteje pito PHTK kont tout lòt gwoup ki ta ka gayan toutbon. Bagay sa ka lakoz PHTK rete sou pouvwa vitam etènam epi pèp ayisyen ak demokrasi se yo ki ap sèl pèdan.

Depatman deta kapab pwouve moun ki pa kwè yo pa gen rezon lè yo sispann voye gouvènman PHTK a monte. Lè yo pa fè anyen fas a kriz sa, epi kite pwosesis la ap dire plis tan se siy yo  kwaze ponyèt ap gad fent peyi a. Men se ekzateman sa ayisyen yo ki konprann kontèks yo ap viv la pibyen pase moun  Ozetazini yo ap mande nou. Nou dwe pèp ayisyen chans sa.