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25728: Durban (comment): Solutions for Haiti (fwd)
From: Lance Durban <email@example.com>
Someone on this list recently suggested that we turn down the
political rhetoric and try to address Haiti's problems in a
constructive manner. Good idea, and with that as a goal, let me
offer six suggestions which, I suspect, will please no one 100%,
but which, taken together, might offer a way to move forward.
FOR THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT...
1. Sign a Long Term U.N. Peace-keeping Contract
The Haitian Interim Government has made a habit out of
disavowing authority to do anything beyond organizing the
elections. Sorry, but it is time that this government
acknowledges that it IS the Haitian Government, and as such is
responsible for what is happening on its watch. To ensure
stability for future governments, while recognizing Haiti's
atrocious record at self-governance over the last 201 years, it
should sign a 10 Year Contract of Intent with the U.N., whereby
it would invite the U.N. to remain in Haiti for the next 10
years, assuming the U.N. authorizes/ finances the regular
renewals of its mandate. I'm suggesting that this government
tie the hands of the next few Haitian governments... but also
protect them against unexpected coups d'etat.
2. Release Neptune Immediately
The Interim Government needs to recognize the importance
of getting everyone on the bus. Keeping Neptune in prison, even
in a comfortably expensive prison annex is totally
counterproductive to its own efforts to organize an election
with full participation of all Haitians. Legal procedure in
Haiti is unfortunately laughable, and right now everyone is
laughing. Just screw up your courage, declare an amnesty, and
release the guy. OK, so maybe he WILL declare his candidacy for
the Presidency, but hey, that would make for an interesting
election, and probably generate the hoped-for good turn-out.
What's that you say? "The guy's a hack politician and would
probably invite an early Aristide return". Well, let's bear in
mind that whoever wins this election will have the chance to be
his own man, and even Neptune might be able to surprise people.
I recall being told by a knowledgeable Lavalasian long ago that
Neptune was very intelligent, the most under-rated guy on
Aristide's team. Well, OK, but you do have to admit that anyone
who has kept himself alive while supposedly on some kind of
hunger strike since April, must at least have some media-savvy.
FOR THE U.N. IN HAITI...
3. Sponsor an Elder Statesman Solution
In recognition of the fact that part of the internal
peace-keeping problem stems from abroad, and that both of
Haiti's elder statesmen have expressed an interest in returning
to Haiti, invite Aristide and Duvalier back to be part of the
solution. Conditions would apply and, granted, pride and ego
will make this a very tough sell, but Norway would probably
agree to host a meeting of these two adversaries. Each of whom
would have to pledge a good faith negotiation for this
expense-paid trip to Oslo, and then the rest of us just need to
sit back and hope for good chemistry.
As moderator of the effort, the U.N. should set some
high hurdles: (1) a joint declaration from both participants to
abide by the rule of law, (2) a personal and formal commitment
by both to remain out of Haitian politics, both as a candidate
and as a supporter of other candidates, (3) a declaration of
personal financial assets and agreement to promptly remit any
State funds still under their control. And finally, (4) it's an
all or nothing package; they both have to return to Haiti on the
same plane. In the event of proven non-compliance by either
party, a harsh penalty clause would be imposed by the U.N. as
guaranteur of this agreement.
One would like to think that the Interim Government
would recognize the value of this U.N. effort, of getting
everyone on the bus. Don't count on it. Fortunately, however,
the immense financial resources behind the U.N. effort in Haiti
give Kofi Annan and the international community some valuable
FOR THE U.S. EMBASSY/STATE DEPARTMENT...
4. Finance and Train Haitian-origin U.N. Peace-Keepers
The U.S. government is presently spending over $1 billion
dollars every week in Iraq. Regardless of what you might think
of that investment, the U.S. Embassy/Port-au-Prince ought to be
lobbying hard for even a small fraction of that to assist the
U.N. in the creation of a U.N. peacekeeping force made up of
Haitian nationals of all political stripes. In fact, the U.S.
should fully engage itself in the training of such a force.
Call it "Long Range Planning for Iraq" if that's what's needed
to sell it to the Bush Administration, Mr. Ambassador. Some of
that billion dollars a week should be used right here, right
From where would such Haitian U.N. peace-keepers be
drawn? Frankly, it doesn't matter. Int'l peacekeepers in
Africa, Sinai, Cyprus, Afghanistan, or Iraq could favor Aristide
or the rebels who helped oust him. What matters is that (1)
these Haitian peacekeepers be trained to work together, (2) they
would be inexpensive - just like the Bangladeshi, Jordanian, and
Nepalese troops now on duty in Haiti, and (3) this program would
provide meaningful alternative employment to young Haitian males
drawn to the martial arts who may be contributing to the mayhem
presently reigning in Haiti.
FOR THE PNH...
5. Better Integration of Forces on the Ground
The large numbers if black-uniformed, heavily-armed
members of the PNH (Haitian National Police) recently seen
directing traffic at key intersections in Port-au-Prince are
intimidating, and not only to the bad guys they are intended to
stop. Frankly, most Haitians don't trust this ominous-looking,
home-grown security force. Meanwhile, U.N. blue helmets
continue to casually drive around in packs of a dozen or more,
seemingly oblivious to the activities of the PNH. Something is
wrong with this picture!
Road blocks and police investigations should be carried
out by an integrated force of U.N. troops/police and the PNH.
Haitian drivers are going to feel a lot more comfortable
stopping at a checkpoint on Delmas if those tough-looking PNH
heavies are being accompanied by a few U.N. blue helmets. The
reputations of both the U.N. troops and the PNH would benefit
from better integration.
FOR THE PRESIDENTAL CANDIDATES...
6. Campaigning for President
So far, the few candidates who have announced seem a
pretty uninspiring bunch. Some are doing their campaigning in
Washington D.C., most have little or no announced platforms, few
appear to have given any thought of how to best get themselves
elected. HINT: Most potential voters in Haiti are desperately
poor people. If you want to get elected you have got to win
that vote, and to win that vote you have got to convincingly
How about a raise in the minimum wage? How about more
electricity and subsidized water delivery to the slums of
Port-au-Prince? How about massive public service projects to
build roads, offering all able-bodied men the chance to work on
the country's horrendous infrastructure problems. (How many
incredibly potholed streets in Port-au-Prince are lined by
un-employed men loitering around doing nothing?) How about
promising to pay for all this through significantly higher
property taxes! Hey, rich folks don't have that many votes, and
from what I've been hearing many of them hold themselves above
the electoral process and are not even planning to vote anyway.
While Haiti is mired in its usual political controversies,
today's global economy is truly passing it by. Interviewing
some Haitian university grads recently, the realization dawned
that all of the skilled people in Haiti who do not already have
their exit visas would leave this afternoon if given the chance.
Most dream of the U.S. or Canada, unaware that global growth
today is centered in the Far East. What kind of a future will
Haiti have if all of the best people want out. French-speaking
Quebec, of course, is quite happy to assist.
In closing, the six suggestions above may seem dangerous or
impossible, but Haiti's crisis is serious and certainly not
understood by the Haitian Diaspora who have already abandoned
their former homeland. It's well beyond the time when some
radical solutions need to be tried.