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25221: Hermantin(News)U.N. mission unable to establish order (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Thu, May. 26, 2005
U.N. mission unable to establish order
BY DON BOHNING
f the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is to retain
any credibility with a local population increasingly frustrated by a lack of
the most basic security, it's clear that a renewed mandate must provide
greater authority for the mission to deal with a country teetering on
The current six-month mandate -- involving some 6,700 military peacekeepers
and another 1,500 civilian police -- expires June 1. The U.N. Security
Council is expected to begin debate this week for its renewal.
The debate comes amid a torrent of kidnappings, carjackings and other forms
of violent crime in recent weeks, particularly in and around the capital of
Port-au-Prince, carried out by a motley mix of thugs linked to politics,
drugs and simple criminal greed. Adding to the problem is the proliferation
of arms in the country, despite ongoing but ineffective disarmament efforts.
If the security situation continues to deteriorate it seems likely that
national elections scheduled for later this year will be delayed or canceled
and provoke a new exodus of Haitians, an exodus already beginning among a
business/professional class able to afford it.
The debate over a new mandate also comes amid growing local antipathy
bordering on hostility by many Haitians against the U.N. mission for what
they regard as its ''passivity'' in dealing with the security situation
since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country 15 months
So bad has it become, some Haitians are even warming to the suggestion that
it is time for Haiti to become some form of international protectorate.
The MINUSTAH, says Claude Beauboeuf, a private economic consultant in
Port-au-Prince, ''has not proven that it can do the job. Haitians consider
them as bizarre tourists, as military consultants with too high salaries and
not interested at all about providing minimal security, notwithstanding the
exceptional times in which insecurity is at a record high.'' This seems to
be a widely shared opinion.
At the same time, the undermanned Haitian National Police, numbering less
than 4,000 for a country of eight million, is regarded as both incompetent
and corrupt, and some elements themselves involved in criminal activity.
The Associated Press, citing a U.N. estimate, said that some 130 for-ransom
kidnappings of mostly affluent businessmen occurred during April, an average
of more than four a day, and not including scores of kidnappings that most
likely are never reported.
Other estimates run even higher. Ransom demands reportedly range from a half
million dollars down to a few dollars.
Extrapolating the April figures cited by the United Nations, Beauboeuf
estimates that 600 to 800 kidnappings occurred from last year through the
end of April.
As the Security Council debate begins on renewal of the MINUSTAH, it is
under increasing pressure from outside as well as inside Haiti not only to
give the mission greater discretion in dealing with the security problem but
also a longer term mandate.
''Most critically, MINUSTAH's renewed mandate must give it the necessary
military and police capacity to address these problems,'' Human Rights Watch
said in a May 16 letter to the Security Council. It also added: ``MINUSTAH
patrols should be explicitly authorized to use the force necessary to
protect the civilian population and stop violent attacks.''
Refugees International called for the mandate to be amended to allow the
U.N. Civilian Police force ''to do more than mentor and advise'' the Haitian
National Police, a call echoed by analysts in Haiti who also are encouraging
a much larger U.S. role as well as a larger U.N. force.
The Security Council itself appears to have recognized the problem as a
result of its unprecedented mid-April visit to Haiti.
In a May 13 report to the Security Council, Brazilian Ambassador Ronaldo
Mota Sardenberg, who led the council mission to Haiti, called for a renewed
mission mandate of 12 months, instead of the previous six months.
He also appealed for additional ''military forces and civilian police,''
adding that ``given the nature of potential threats in Haiti, the United
Nations civilian police should enhance its participation in providing
As a South Florida Haitian businessman who travels to the island regularly
observed of the United Nations and its role in the current security
situation: ''The U.N. is there. You see them. But they are not there to help
you if you get into trouble.''
Don Bohning, a former Herald Latin America editor, is author of the recently
published book, The Castro Obsession: US Covert Operations Against Cuba