Ayisyen: You Are Not Alone!
Danto Witness Project
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group in the world
sends more money
than Haitians living
in the Diaspora
Ezili Dantò's master Haitian dance class (Video clip)
Haitian & West African Dance Troop
Much Like Here- Jazzoetry CD audio clip
group of Haitian migrants arrive in a bus after being
repatriated from the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands,
in Cap-Haitien, northern Haiti, Thursday, May 10, 2007.
They were part of the survivors of a sailing vessel crowded
with Haitian migrants that overturned Friday, May 4 in
moonlit waters a half-mile from shore in shark-infested
waters. Haitian migrants claim a Turks and Caicos naval
vessel rammed their crowded sailboat twice before it capsized.
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
in the Yellow
Dlo, Nan Ginen
Workshops - See, Red,
Black & Moonlight series or Haitian-West African
of articles written for the October 17, 2006 bicentennial
commemoration of the life and works of Dessalines, I wrote
for HLLN that: "Haiti's liberator and founding father,
Jacques Dessalines, said, "I Want
the Assets of the Country to be Equitably Divided"
and for that he was assassinated by the Mullato sons of France.
was the first coup d'etat, the Haitian holocaust - organized
of the masses, misery, poverty and the impunity of the economic
- continues (with Feb. 29, 2004 marking the 33rd coup d'etat).
Haiti's peoples continue to
resist the return of despots,
tyrants and enslavers who wage war on the poor
majority and Black, contain-them-in poverty through neocolonialism'
debts, "free trade" and foreign "investments."
These neocolonial tyrants refuse to allow an equitable division
of wealth, excluding the majority in Haiti from sharing in
country's wealth and assets." (See
Mundele: Our mission to live free or die trying, Another Haitian
Independence Day under occupation; The
Legacy of Impunity of One Sector-Who killed Dessalines?;
The Legacy of Impunity:The
Neoconlonialist inciting political instability is the problem.
Haiti is underdeveloped in crime, corruption, violence, compared
to other nations,
all, by Marguerite 'Ezili Dantò' Laurent
other national group in the world sends more money than Haitians
living in the Diaspora
...."[I]t is not our way to let our grief silence
us." (Edwidge Danticat in "Brother, I'm Dying"... (Brother,
I'm Dying )
Media Silence on Lovinsky
is MINUSTHA silent about the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine?
Line at UN, New York
"...Si nou fè silens,
y ’ap fè l pou nou,
y’ap fè l sans nou
y’ap fè l kont nou...Ki vle di, pran peyi Ayiti lan men
Sixto on Free (Sove) Lovinsky, mp3 (8:19, Emission Fanmi Lavalas New
York, Sept. 16, 2007)
Lies and Real Haiti News
Caribbean nation, reality or myth?
Myrtha Desulme, Contributor
Jamaica Gleaner News, Sept. 16, 2007
On September 11, as the sun was setting on the first day of the Ethiopian
Millenium, and America observed the anniversary of a day which had shaken
its very foundation, Orette Bruce Golding became the eighth Prime Minister
The Caribbean leaders assembled for Mr. Golding's investiture seemed pleased
to hear his confirmation of Jamaica's commitment to CARICOM. But is the
Caribbean nation a reality, or is it a myth?
It is ironic that the Caribbean, which is a crossroads of civilisation,
and a melting pot of cross-fertilisation, proud of its ability to blend
European, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and African blood and heritage,
to create such a unique breed of people, should have remained so surprisingly
insular between islands.
Trinidadian luminary, C.L.R. James, asserted that West Indians first became
aware of themselves as a people in the Haitian Revolution. Haiti is where
the African Presence first stood up in the New World,and due to the integrity
of its African retentions, Haiti holds the key to the Caribbean's cultural
Today, the Caribbean spirit seems to be gaining momentum. According to
Professor Michael Dash, who has studied extensively the relationship between
Haiti and CARICOM, Haiti is arguably a test case for rethinking the Caribbean
in terms of a new supranational entity, and moving beyond the sub-national
cocoons that have bedevilled Caribbean integration in the past. Haiti
is undoubtedly the last frontier in the Western Hemisphere.
In July, members of the Haiti-Jamaica Society were delighted to hear,
that at the 28th CARICOM Summit, Organisation of American States Secretary
General Jose Miguel Insulza, and his deputy, Ambassador Albert Ramdin,
expressed to the media, the OAS's feeling that the time was right for
the University of the West Indies to pursue seriously the creation of
a campus in Haiti, as a "much-needed and practical form of support".
UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Harris, responded by declaring that
he is "intrigued" and "quite interested" in the idea
of establishing a campus in Haiti, which he would recommend for serious
consideration, once he was in possession of all the relevant information,
and had benefited from the views of stakeholders in Haiti.
Already, he said, the UWI administration had been approached by students
at its Mona campus, who have shown a keen interest in learning about Haiti,
and in developing lines of communication for mutual benefit.
Shortly before this announcement, the Haiti-Jamaica Society (HJS) was
also approached by the vice-presidents of the UWI Guilds of Students of
the three campuses - Roger Bent (Jamaica), Udali O'Neil (Barbados), and
Malika Thompson (Trinidad) - who have chosen to focus their yearly project
on an initiative called 'Roots to Haiti', which aims to foster educational
integration with Haiti.
They were seeking guidance from the HJS on the best way to proceed, and
the most pressing needs to be filled,for this first such project initiated
by a regional educational institution.
I urged them to set a foundation for posterity, which would serve as a
basis for the eventual creation of the Caribbean nation through the student
body. When I asked them why they had chosen Haiti for their project, Udali
O'Neil spontaneously exclaimed:
"Because Haiti is the emblem of the Caribbean!"
I was deeply moved, and eminently proud of these idealistic, fresh-faced
youths, who had so instinctively caught the Caribbean spirit. They had
the discernment to look beyond the poverty and the gory headlines, and
had the incisiveness to understand, that though the sensationalistic requirements
of the media dictate that our attention be commanded by the actors who
play out the ongoing drama of violence, guerrilla warfare, political intrigue,
and social upheaval, that these are not the ones who deserve our attention,
riveting as they may be.
It is high time we turn our attention to those who truly deserve it. The
Caribbean should be busy rescuing the trapped victims: the millions of
babies, children, youths, women and men, devoid of an outlet, caught in
the crossfire of the factions warring for political power, and economic
hegemony. The HJS plans to do just that.
'And a little child shall lead them'
The UWI Guilds of Students seem to be leading the way on this great Caribbean
adventure. Their far-sighted initiative represents an important milestone,
as it echoes the HJS's overall mission.
The HJS aims to stimulate dialogue in Jamaica, geared towards supporting
the Haitian people in their struggle for justice, human rights, and participatory
democracy; promote peace and national reconciliation; bring an end to
social exclusion; facilitate the integration of Haiti into CARICOM; assist
with the refugee crisis; develop sustainable social, political, and economic
solutions for Haiti; and generally contribute to the rebuilding of the
The society also plans to contribute to the creation of a Centre for Haitian
Studies & Development at UWI, which would provide research to achieve
all of the above, and serve as a resource centre on Haiti for CARICOM.
The centre's research emphasis will be multidisciplinary, drawing on the
expertise of scholars across the UWI campus and internationally. All courses
would focus on the particularities of the Haitian situation, with the
aim of educating CARICOM nationals regarding Haiti, its culture and traditions,
its collective intellectual output, and the importance and international
influence of its historical role. The research would focus on sustainable
solutions for development, stability and regeneration.
The centre would work towards forging links between Haiti and the rest
of CARICOM, through student and private sector exchanges, as well as the
organisation of conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and cultural events.
Haitian business people, writers, intellectuals, speakers, artistes, musicians,
dancers, and other persons of interest would be invited to unleash the
richness, beauty and power of Haitian culture on Jamaica and the rest
of CARICOM, with the aim of enlightening the general public, enriching
the cross-cultural influences, and transcending myths, prejudices, misconceptions
While the HJS enthusiastically welcomes the idea of the UWI campus in
Haiti, we realise that it is not immediately practicable, due to the groundwork
which would need to be effected. This makes the Centre for Haitian Studies
and Development all the more opportune, as the perfect vehicle to lay
this foundation and create the necessary linkages, to make the Haiti campus
an eventual reality.
Haiti's 2004 bicentenary year was a particularly trying one for the Haitian
people. A vastly popular regime was toppled in circumstances which, to
this day, remain murky, resulting in an implosion, which brought the country
to the brink of civil war. As if that were not enough, a shattering earthquake
came close on the heels of a particularly devastating Hurricane Jeanne,
which had already claimed a whopping 3,000 lives.
In the face of this unprecedented accumulation of catastrophes, the Jamaican
Government announced imminent plans to repatriate the Haitian refugees,
who had collapsed on Jamaica's doorstep, in desperate search of assistance
and protection. A lone voice soon rang out, however, in the political
wilderness, pleading for compassion in the timing of the return of the
refugees. That voice was none other than then Senator Bruce Golding.
If the spirit which saw it fit to champion such a voiceless and voteless
sector has survived the vicissitudes of the political fray, it may be
safe to take heart in the notion, that the Caribbean spirit is alive and
kicking in Jamaica today.
Myrtha Desulme is president of the Haiti-Jamaica Society.
'Haiti's 2004 bicentenary year was a particularly trying one for the Haitian
people. A vastly popular regime was toppled in circumstances which, to
this day, remain murky, resulting in an implosion, which brought the country
to the brink of civil war.'
Haiti 2007: The Struggle Continues under U.N. Occupation by
Akinyele Umoja, September 19, 2007 |The
Black Agenda Report, NJ
Haiti strains under the rule of foreign tyranny. Although nominally sovereign,
it is an occupied country, ground down by the boots of UN troops, most
of them Jordanian, all answering to the United States. Yet the miracle
of human rebirth and renewal is sustained in Haiti, where the spark of
democracy refuses to die.
Many thousands have been martyred in the course of America's attempt to
stamp out Haitian self-determination, yet the struggle continues. Haitians
demand the return of their elected President, Jean Bertrand-Aristide,
kidnapped and sent into exile by U.S. Marines. Let Aristide go home, and
the Haitian people have their own government.
Haiti 2007: The Struggle Continues under U.N. Occupation
by Akinyele Umoja
"Thousands of people - most of whom were supporters of Lavalas -
were killed, disappeared, or forced into exile."
This article originally appeared in Haitian Action.net.
In July of 2007, I took my first visit to Haiti as a member of a human
rights fact-finding delegation sponsored by the Haiti Action Committee,
a California Bay Area solidarity organization. Since my coming into Black
consciousness as a teenager in the late 1960s, I revered the Haitian Revolution
and its ability to defeat three imperialist powers, France, Spain and
England. Most of my life the names of Haitian revolutionaries Boukman,
L'Ouverture and Dessalines have been evoked during libations and served
as inspirations for my comrades and me.
As most socially conscious sons and daughters of Afrika, I was concerned
about the marginal position of Haiti, the first Black republic in the
western hemisphere, in the contemporary world. Boarding the plane from
Miami to Haiti, I was reminded of the imperialist world's treatment of
Haiti, as airline personnel spoke harshly and impatiently to its Black
(predominantly Haitian) customers while boarding them. Once on the plane
and in the air, I noticed American stewardesses, generally deferential
and helpful, were non-responsive and curt with Haitian patrons in the
coach section of the plane. The airline prepared me for the political
reality of Haiti's relationship with the United States and Europe.
"One clearly sees evidence of the demand of millions of Haitians
for the return of their beloved President, Jean Bertrand Aristide."
Entering the country evoked pride, as I observed advertisements with beautiful
Black people with dark chocolate skin and instructions in French, English
and an Afrikan diaspora language, Haitian Kreyol. I immediately noticed
the people, landscape, and structures of Haiti were reminiscent of my
trip three years prior in Ghana. In the city of Port au Prince, one clearly
sees evidence of the demand of millions of Haitians for the return of
their beloved President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was kidnapped by
U.S. Special Forces during the Coup of 2004. Everywhere in the city, graffiti
is present stating "Aristide Aptounen (Aristide is Returning)."
Also a part of the political landscape is the presence of United Nations
military forces occupying Haiti. The United Nations Stabilization Mission
in Haiti (MINUSTAH) contains military and police personnel from over forty
different countries. While under the banner of "peace-keeping,"
popular organizations in Haiti see the role of MINUSTAH as maintaining
the imperialist domination of Haiti for the United States, France and
Canada, the position of the Haitian elite, and the continued oppression
of the masses. In the tradition of other occupying militaries, we also
heard reports of MINUSTAH forces raping Haitian women and shooting nonviolent
demonstrators and children.
The Popular Movement
Our delegation met representatives from popular organizations and institutions
from Port au Prince and from the northern region of Haiti. We met women's
organizations, labor movement forces, media workers, educators, peasant
organizers, municipal politicians and human rights advocates. Most of
the activists I met were members or associates of Lavalas. Lavalas (Kreyol
for the people's flood) is the party of Aristide that has its base among
Haiti's working class, peasantry and poor. While the Coup and the abduction
of Aristide by U.S. Special Forces constituted a major setback for Lavalas
and the Haitian popular movement, they are not defeated. In June of this
year, the organization of transportation workers went on a two-day strike
protesting increased prices for gasoline and licenses for taxis, which
in turn raised prices for consumers. Gas prices had increased 20% in a
two week period, in spite of oil contributed to Haiti by Venezuela at
low cost. The strike paralyzed Port au Prince and other urban centers
and demonstrated the power of the Haitian popular movement, even under
"Fondasyon Trant Septanm was established to aid the victims of the
right-wing coups of 1991 and 2004, including those tortured, sexually
abuse, politically interned, and families of those assassinated and massacred."
One of the most brilliant and passionate people I (ever) met was Lovinsky
Pierre-Antoine. Brother Lovinsky is a psychologist and the National Coordinator
of Fondasyon Trant Septanm (Haitian Kreyol for September 30th Foundation).
Fondasyon Trant Septanm was established to aid the victims of the right-wing
coups of 1991 and 2004, including those tortured, sexually abuse, politically
interned, and families of those assassinated and massacred. Lovinsky had
to flee the country during the 2004 coup but has returned to continue
his organizing. He not only gave our delegation an excellent overview
of the current state of human rights in Haiti, but eloquently described
Haitian history, culture and religion. Nearly two weeks after our return
to the United States, it was reported that Lovinsky had disappeared and
was presumed kidnapped. In a sobering way, the disappearance of Lovinsky
demonstrated to me that the forces of terror were alive and well under
MINUSRAH and the Preval government. While concerned and worried for his
welling being, the apparent abduction only steeled my conviction that
the occupation and this inhumane regime mush be overturned in the interest
of liberty and human rights.
Brother Lovinsky and other activists spoke of the hundreds of political
prisoners remaining in Haiti's prisons. Under the coup and U.S. (Marine)
intervention, not only was Aristide snatched against his will by U.S.
military, but 7500 elected officials were removed from government. Thousands
of people - most of whom were supporters of Lavalas - were killed, disappeared,
or forced into exile. The U.S. and U.N. supported coup government organized
a police force controlled by the Haitian elite who went about the business
of incarcerating Lavalas elected officials, activists, and supporters.
Despite the election of President Rene Preval in Feburary, 2006, Haiti
is still under foreign occupation and the issue of political repression
is still a major question. While some notable political prisoners like
political organizer Paul Raymond and spiritual leader and singer So Ann
have been released under the Preval government, Haiti's prisons are full
of Lavalas members and associates. Political prisoner Rene Civil, a Lavalas
activist who helped lead resistance to the coup, has been incarcerated
for many months by the current government. Due to the horrible conditions
in Haitian prisons (overcrowded, lack of fresh water, food, and medical
care), prisoners are literally dying while incarcerated. With law enforcement
and the courts controlled by the wealthy elite political prisoners are
held indefinitely without trials.
The Coup also brought the interruption of the social justice project of
Aristide and Lavalas. Under the Aristide/ Lavalas government literacy,
school construction and health care initiatives were implemented to develop
Haiti's most valuable resource-its people. Investing in Haiti's people
would advance the country from poverty, disease and underdevelopment.
The symbol of Haiti's underdevelopment and poverty is Cite Soleil. Cite
Soleil is a highly populated shanty town located on the edge of the capital
city of Port au Prince. Estimates of its population range from 300,000
to 500,000. I have traveled to Africa and other Caribbean countries in
the past, as well as the slums and ghettoes of the United States, but
Cite Soleil possesses the largest concentration of poverty I have ever
witnessed. The poorest residential section of the poorest community in
the possibly poorest country in the western hemisphere is called "little
Haiti." There we saw hundreds of people living without running water,
electricity, and children without clothes. While she had been there before,
our Haitian guide was overwhelmed by tears due to the condition of her
people in "little Haiti." Later on our trip, a peasant organizer
explained that the massive poverty of Cite Soleil is the result of the
policy of the Duvalier dictatorships of the late 1950s until 1986, which
encouraged rural people to leave the country to move to the city. In rural
areas, as their ancestors have done for centuries, Haitian peasants were
able to feed and provide shelter for themselves. Transplanted in the cities
they had no land to cultivate, while the Haitian elite took over terrain
abandoned by Haitian peasants.
"Cite Soleil possesses the largest concentration of poverty I have
Parallel with the impact of poverty is the reality of the UN occupation
in Cite Soleil. The buildings in the commercial district are riddled with
bullet holes of large caliber weapons. UN troops (primarily from Jordan)
and tanks were ever present. While the UN forces and Haitian government
claims it attacked Cite Soleil to root out criminal gangs, activists argue
the repressive occupation of the area was to conduct a "search and
destroy" campaign on supporters of Lavalas. As we were guided through
the residential zone, UN soldiers took our pictures. When we took their
pictures, these same soldiers hid "like roaches when you turn the
light on." If they were proud of their mission why were they hiding?
While poverty and the existence of occupation are ever present in Cite
Soleil, so is the legacy of Aristide and the Lavalas government. Beside
the presence of graffiti demanding Aristide's return or saluting slain
(by occupation forces) Lavalas militant Dred Wilme, a park exists as a
common space in the centre of Cite Soleil that was built by the socially
conscious President. Before his rule in Haiti, parks were reserved for
the rich. Poor children did not deserve recreation space. This is one
small example of efforts by Aristide and the Lavalas government that made
them untenable to the rich elite of Haiti. How dare they spend the nation's
resources on poor people? How dare they want to raise the minimum wage
from 32 cents (US) to 70 cents? How dare they provide schools and literacy
programs and health care to the poor?
2007: The Monroe Doctrine Lives
Our delegation concluded that human rights and popular democracy are still
denied in Haiti today. While the massacres that occurred during and after
the 2004 coup have mostly ceased, the existence of political prisoners
and the continued suspension of the Lavalas project of social justice
for the workers, peasants and poor demonstrated foreign interests, particularly
the US, France, and Canada, and the greedy Haitian ruling elite remain
an obstacle to the interests of the Haitian people. In spite of the popular
demand for Aristide to return to Haiti, imperialism and rich and right-wing
Haitians exercise the power to prevent the former President's residence
in the country of his citizenship and birth. This is evidence of the denial
of the Haitian people's sovereignty and self-determination.
"Imperialism and rich and right-wing Haitians exercise the power
to prevent the former President's residence in the country of his citizenship
On my return many I talked to asked the following questions after hearing
my report of our trip. Why would the United States apprehend a popularly
elected President of a sovereign nation and take him without his consent
to another continent? Why would the United States prevent him, not only
from returning to his country, but deny him asylum in the Caribbean? Why
is the United States aligned with elements in Haiti that not only wish
to deny basic human rights of the overwhelming majority of Haitians but
have a history of massacre, drug dealing, and robbery of the nation's
Many of us educated in the United States have accepted the white supremacist
and imperialist orientation presented to us in school and the corporate
Particularly in the western hemisphere, the policy of the rulers of the
United States is to not tolerate governments that promote self-determination.
Jean Bertrand Aristide is loved by the Haitian masses and hated by the
Haitian elite and their U.S. allies because he dared to be an advocate
of Haiti's poor. The Haitian elite controls sweat shops that manufactures
for Walmart, Target, Disney and Levis. As a Haitian labor leader told
our delegation "When you wear a t-shirt, you're wearing the blood
of a Haitian." When Aristide articulated that the minimum wage had
to be increased and the wealth of the nation needed to be shared with
the working class and poor by building schools and hospitals, he threatened
the interests of not only the rich Haitian elites, but global capitalists
of the U.S., France and Canada. In his effort to protect the interest
of the workers, peasants and poor, Aristide resisted U.S. and elite Haitian
demands for privatization of the public sector. For the rulers of the
United States, Aristide was potentially another Castro or Hugo Chavez.
While the rhetoric of the (US) empire we are subjects of tells us it supports
elections and democracy, it has a history of supporting dictatorial criminals
to overthrow popularly elected democrats who wish to develop their nations
and assert their people's integrity and independence. Remember Mossadegh
in Iran (1953), Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), Lumumba in the Congo (1960),
and Allende in Chile (1973). Remember that the rulers of the United States
have opposed an independent Haiti since its inception.
A Message from Haiti to the Black/ New Afrikan community in the United
As an Afrikan born in the United States, I was embraced by my Haitian
brothers and sisters. I traveled to Haiti in a multi-racial delegation.
While enthusiastically welcoming all of us, our Haitian hosts intentionally
acknowledged the presence of Nia Imara, a resourceful and talented graduate
student and activist, and I, the Black folks in the delegation. We were
constantly told that we were the same people with the same blood. Our
Haitian sisters and brothers expressed their concern for the people of
New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as the images of governmental neglect as
Black people were left to die during Hurricane Katrina.
The San Francisco 8 Black Panther veterans, now being held as political
prisoners, sent their solidarity to the Haitian people through members
of the Haiti Action Committee. Our Haitian hosts definitely understood
as we shared with them about political prisoners in the United States
and exchanged messages of solidarity. When our people suffer in the United
States, Haitians feel our pain. In turn people of Afrikan descent in the
United States must make Haiti a priority in OUR foreign policy. Inside
the U.S. empire, we must fight for the return of Aristide, the freedom
of Haitian political prisoners, social justice for Haitian workers, peasants
and poor and the end to UN occupation as we fought for the end of apartheid
and the freedom of Mandela and South African political prisoners. Our
Sisters and Brothers are depending on us.
To the Haitian People
To the people of New Orleans
To Political Prisoners
KENBE FEM PA LAGE!!!!
(In Kreyol: KEEP IT UP DON'T GIVE UP!!!)
Akinyele Umoja is a founding member of the New Afrikan Peoples Organization
and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He is also an Associate Professor
of African-American Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.
He can be contacted AADAKU@langate.gsu.edu
An Interview with Father Jean-Juste
September 16th, 2007
By: Alva James-Johnson - Sun Sentinel
How were you received when you returned [to Haiti in August 2007]?
They were telling me so many people wanted to see me. I couldn't believe
that. From the airport, I got a big reception at the VIP room. And then
the media covered me, all of them, TV, journalists, reporters and all
that. And so I had an impromptu press conference, and the press conference,
they asked me so many questions. And then I finally get to the door
to the exit of the airport, and a crowd outside was waiting for me.
They had to call on the security forces in order to have a little bit
of control, cause everybody wants to jump on me, embrace me, say hello,
pull my hand and so and so. Finally I took a ride to a park nearby.
There I met the crowd. It was amazing. So we start chanting, dancing,
Many people at one time thought you would have run for president. Do
you think that's still something in a lot of people's minds?
It is in the mind. I have to face this question so many times. First,
there is no campaign now. It's three years, four years from now. They
still coming with the same questions. And it seems that they want to
draft me right away. And I have to tell them that the Lavalas family
doesn't take power through coup d'etat. We have given a mandate to President
René Préval, and we know that all of us would respect
his mandate. So Préval is the president. I support him. And I
ask everyone to support him, and then do whatever we can to come together.
When you returned to Haiti this last time, were there still charges
pending against you?
No. Before I left Haiti in January (2006), the judge had dropped the
main charges such as the killing of Jacques Roche. And now, there were
two lesser charges. They wanted to drop them. They said I have to ask
for pardon. I said: "No. I was not going to ask for pardon. If
you don't drop them, I was going to go on appeal." Two of the three
judges on the panel want to hear my case. And then when I returned to
Haiti, I was expecting if they want me they could get me, but instead
I heard they would like to see me in November for a hearing in order
to officially drop everything.
You were suspended from the priesthood; has that been lifted?
The church itself took a position, believing that I am a (political)
candidate. They falsely put a sanction on me. It's not for the whole
church. It's for the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, I cannot exercise
my priestly functions. The Archbishop of Miami, he has been very friendly.
He came to visit me. We talked. But he said if Haiti doesn't give him
the green light, he cannot help me. That's where I am. I am here as
a priest, cut from my parish, cut from my diocese, and arriving here
my brothers in the priesthood and the church hierarchy abandoned me.
Do you have plans to return to Haiti permanently?
Definitely. I would like to. I need the green light from the doctors.
I want the support of the people to return to Haiti.
On your last visit, how would you describe the conditions that you saw?
It's miserable because when I arrived from the plane, the first thing
that struck me has been the dry condition, the environment. Long time
it has not been raining in Haiti. So it was hot, dusty by the airport
and to my parish. I see the people coming. Many of them hungry, not
working, but they enjoy the peace and security that are still prevailing
in Haiti now, under Préval.
Did you have an opportunity to talk to President Préval?
I did talk to President Préval. I sent him some email. He answered
me. He was little bit angry at me, because I told him that "we're
not friends anymore, it seems. I wrote you, no answer. I call you, no
answer." He said: "Jean-Juste, you said that I'm not your
friend anymore? It's not true. I have not received your phone call.
I have not received your letters. It's not my fault. And so "OK,
I said, I understand." And he asked me to be in touch with his
staff to prepare my arrival in Haiti. So I had a great reception because
the police had been very nice to me at the airport. They secured me
all the way to the church, nightlong I received security. I spent three
days in Haiti, no threats, nobody bothered me, except on one radio a
former coup leader who is a representative (from his town) now. He went
on the radio calling for the arrest of Jean-Juste.
You have been a strong supporter of former President (Jean-Bertrand)
Aristide, and have pushed for his return to Haiti under the Préval
government? Are you optimistic that that will happen any time soon?
The past week, I heard pertinent information that will encourage us
to continue pressure for the return of President Aristide. I have learned,
not confirmed yet, I have learned that President George Bush has taken
his hands off the Aristide case, in a sense that he won't be an obstacle
for the return of President Aristide. The Haitian Constitution must
be respected. If President Préval acts right now, in good faith,
it will be very, very appreciated by the Lavalas people within Haiti,
outside Haiti. And also it will be a great service to the South African
government, as next year they go into elections.
What is your response to people who feel that if he does return to the
country now that would be disruptive to the progress that's being made?
President Aristide is not going to run for any electoral position. President
Aristide now, with all his experience, says he could help us a lot in
education, in culture, in music, in languages. So he has his place in
Haiti. And plus, we cannot continue to put the burden on South Africa.
I understand that the opposition down there is using the presence of
President Aristide to gain votes on the back of the ruling party.
Do you believe there is still hope for Haiti?
Yes. Of course there's hope. That's a secret in Haiti. Most of us —
I should say 99 percent of us — are believers. We believe in God,
the living God. This is our strength. Along history, this spiritual
strength has allowed us to make miracles.
If we respect the laws of our country, and if we love our country, if
we put in practice love for each other, Haiti can be turned around any
Preval of Haiti - A provisional report card: Grade B+
Saturday, September 15, 2007
By Michael Glenwick, COHA
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
More than 18 months have passed since René Préval was
overwhelmingly elected president of Haiti in what many regional analysts
considered one of the country’s most crucial elections in decades.
Within a period of only six years, Haitians had experienced a number
of tumultuous events. It started with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s
chaotic second term, in which international aid was suspended mainly
due to accusations of election fraud surrounding his 2000 victory. Shortly
thereafter, the 2004 coup d’état designed to oust Aristide
and his government, led to two wasted years under the unstable government
of Interim-Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface
Alexandre, whose accomplishments were meager at best. In short, Haiti
was in desperate need of an effective and democratically elected leader
who would govern fairly and help inch the poverty-stricken state out
of its traditional despair. Expectations were large, and it was Préval,
in his second stint as president, who was expected to deliver on some,
if not all, of those expectations beginning in February 2006.
Eight days after the 2006 election, international observers almost unanimously
validated Préval as president and the elections as free and fair.
It was hoped that the unblemished manner in which Préval won—through
an entirely monitored democratic process that upheld the Haitian constitution—would
establish a mindset for his rule. Whether that democratic process would
be the hallmark of Préval’s time in office, or just an
early and later erasable blip on the screen, would be essential to know
in evaluating the effectiveness of his presidency.
Now, more than a year and a half following what must have been Haiti’s
fairest election in decades, it is time to take a look at what has transpired
on the island in the intervening period. Was democracy as practiced
by Préval to be just a calling card for international respectability,
or was it intended as a constant thread of President Préval’s
time in office? Following the period under Aristide defined by its endemic
corruption and the equally rocky interim period under Alexandre when
hundreds—if not thousands—of opposition party members were
murdered, only a true, stable democracy, it was believed, would be able
to start a long and difficult healing process.
Past and Present
Six years ago, President Aristide appeared to have relegated to second
place any determination to rule the country with intense energy, constitutional
devotion, or a tireless commitment to building democratic institutions.
Perhaps due to the attempted coup in late 2001—or, just as likely,
his own insensitivity to inclusive rule—Aristide seemed to manifest
a show of lassitude to the rule of law as well as indifference to democratic
institution building. He encouraged citizens to use violence when needed
to fight the nation’s armed opposition, and civil liberties and
political/human rights were in short supply. For all intents and purposes,
there was a constitution in name only, something which newly elected
President Préval, whom it should be noted was a close friend
and political comrade of Aristide, promised to change.
At the time of Préval’s inauguration, the situation on
the ground did not look entirely different than it did in 2001. But
within a few months, some significant steps were taken in order to implement
a series of necessary changes geared toward getting closer to the ideal
of creating a democratic, law-abiding society and a fair-minded administration.
The most important step taken was the first one—the implementation
of free and open balloting, whose results no one contested. As much
as that might be scoffed at due to Préval’s overwhelming
popularity—he won with 51% of the vote, while runner-up Leslie
Manigat obtained only 12% of the vote—it was an important signature
that put Haiti back on track to democracy. Most importantly for average
Haitians, this meant the reestablishment of much of the international
aid that had been cut off during Aristide’s time in office; Préval’s
government was earmarked to receive an additional $750 million in assistance
from donor nations, to be dispensed to Haiti’s population, indicating
a major vote of confidence in his government by the world community.
Baby Steps for Democracy
With Préval’s decisive victory in the election, many analysts
expected his Lespwa (Front of Hope) Party to also carry the day in the
two legislative bodies, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (or lower
house). Lespwa’s opponents shocked Préval and his backers,
as his party was able to win only 13 out of 30 Senate seats and elect
23 out of 99 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. Thus, Préval
was thrown a curveball at the outset of his administration. Whereas
the margin of his personal victory in the presidential race might have
been enough to give him a mandate to rule as a strong leader, the disappointing
results of the parliamentary elections were a stark reminder to him
that, even if he wanted to introduce dramatic reforms, he would face
major obstacles and likely would have to reach a variety of compromises
with the Haitian parliamentary opposition. In addition, while Préval
has gone some length to shape the legislature to cooperate with his
agenda, he was unable to generate a working majority on day-to-day voting.
Préval’s Powers Are Less Than Monarchic
As a result of this early check on Préval’s power, few
major pieces of legislation have been passed as of yet. In addition,
since no other party held more seats than Lespwa, coalition building
was, during much of the period following the election, a slow and laborious
process, as in each instance Lespwa’s elected members tried, with
little success, to achieve a working majority coalition. To a large
extent, this was another important sign that, although the legislative
accomplishments might be slow in coming due to the lack of a working
majority, it would, at least, be democratic.
In 2000, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party had “won”
26 of 27 senate seats and 73 of 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies,
leading to distrust of both the president and his agenda inside and
outside the country. On the other hand, in 2006 and early 2007, individual
Haitian political thinkers and international observers alike expressed
their confidence that Préval, after he was elected, would have
no choice but to govern democratically. While political developments
and the policies that he wanted to push through the National Assembly
have been slow in coming, the respect that he attracted and his acknowledgement
of constitutional guarantees, which he freely offered to respect (unlike
both authoritarian and professed democratic chief executives) were attributes
that had been ignored for decades.
A closer look at how the National Assembly has functioned will help
shed a little light on the status of democracy in the country. Its first—and,
in many ways, most important—function was to approve Préval’s
cabinet choices. Due to the nature of the competing political factions,
this became a somewhat complex process. In the end, however, a cabinet
that included members of six political parties was approved in a near
unanimous vote; this was considered by both Préval’s supporters
and opponents alike to be a vote of confidence for Préval’s
rule. This process protected Haiti from the one-sided rule that had
dominated the country for so long, and most importantly, it demonstrated
Préval’s willingness to strive for consensus and govern
in a democratic fashion.
Soon after the cabinet was formed, the Assembly began taking a few of
the necessary baby steps to effect political changes of its own. Many
of the elected officials in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies
have begun to craft pieces of legislation that would help curb corruption
in the courts.
Although they have been far from entirely successful, the National Assembly
is still trying to push legislation through in a democratic manner is
an encouraging sign. This is something for which, in a recent visit
to Port-au-Prince, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was
moved to praise the National Assembly, as he encouraged lawmakers to
adopt legislation reinforcing—if not establishing for the first
time—the rule of law in the country. In previous years, the combination
of corrupt, strongman presidents and the powerful influence of neighborhood
gangs and association of elites, have made doing so all but impossible.
However, as the UN secretary general’s confidence in the National
Assembly suggests, Haiti has a unique opportunity to change course.
This is an opportunity that cannot be squandered, a fact which is recognized
by both Préval and the opposition members of the legislative
branch. When, in 2008, one-third of the Senate seats will be contested,
the continued strengthening of the legislative process will likely be
at the forefront of many candidates’ platforms.
Many Problems Remain on the Road to Democracy
Although the current state of president-assembly relations might suggest
that all is well with democracy in Haiti, there are still significant
problems that remain, suggesting that the island’s political process
has traveled only a few miles on the long road to democracy. With the
lack of a standing military force and the systemically problematic Haitian
National Police, Haitians who oppose the government, or voice thoroughly
popular opinions defaming the police force (which was founded only when
the military was disbanded) for being unreliable and corrupt, the law
has not always proven to have been there to protect them.
Even when the law does come into play, its inefficiencies and unreliability
usually don’t allow it to do much public good. The court system
is weak, outdated, and just like the tainted police and other fouled
Haitian organizations, corrupt.
Prisons themselves are old and unspeakably bleak. Prisoners live in
overcrowded jails with only scraps of food; according to an Amnesty
International report, more than 2000 prisoners are being held in Haitian
jails without ever having been charged. At least 100 of those detained
are said to be political prisoners.
Furthermore, because there is a lack of resources to properly train
personnel and provide decent conditions for the inmates, a significant
turn of events would be necessary to allow for a truly democratic judicial
and penal system to emerge.
The old-fashioned, poorly managed, and chronically venal judicial system
is not the only aspect of Haitian society that suggests that Préval
and his legislative associates have a long way to go if they are intent
on ensuring the establishment of a long-lasting, genuinely democratic
state. Labor conditions in Haiti continue to reflect a disdain for human
rights and general democratic principles. For example, Haitian authorities
have done little to change the old Haitian tradition of restavec, in
which young Haitian children are sent away from their parents to work,
for all intents and purposes, as domestic slaves for wealthier families
in often far off communities.
Although one can very well make the case that cultural traditions and
values should be upheld whenever they can, such archaic practices do
little to boost Haiti’s quest for a genuine democracy or a caring
society. Meanwhile, along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic,
little has been done to reinforce border security, with the illegal
trafficking of Haitian laborers continuing to be a chronic problem with
which the Port-au-Prince government has ineffectively dealt. To date,
Haiti has done little to project its demands to implement border reforms
with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. This may prove to be a significant
challenge in the next few years, given the troubled history that the
Haitians have had with the Dominicans, as well as the array of problems
that Haitian refugees have brought upon its neighbors, including fighting
for access to the resources that can be found there.
In recent years, Haiti’s gangs have posed serious problems for
the country’s political leadership, and Préval, too, has
not escaped from this problem. However, instead of choosing to let them
dominate various street corners of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti,
Préval recently decided that he would take the matter into his
own hands, something that Aristide (who chose to negotiate with the
gang leaders) never did. Due to the lack of an efficient police force,
Préval has had to rely on the current contingent of 7500 U.N.
troops stationed in Haiti to do his bidding. Although this has brought
about some success, the impaired state of the country’s judicial
system means that many of the gangsters who have been arrested might
not ever face justice. This series of recent actions concerning gangs
raises a number of important questions that are likely to be resolved
only after significant time has elapsed. Certainly, negotiating with
the heads of brutal and power-hungry gangs has not advanced a society
hoping to be orderly, exemplified by the ineffective results in Aristide’s
dealings with the Cite Soleil gangs. However, with corruption abounding
in the courts, with the gang leaders’ pockets running deep, and
with the jails already overflowing with citizens who haven’t even
faced a trial, Préval’s does not have a wide range of choices.
A Long Road Ahead
Faced with the aforementioned gang problems, the acceleration of drug-related
issues, and the ongoing practice of media self-censorship, Préval
and the National Assembly have much work to do in shaping how the first
elected government following Aristide’s ouster will ultimately
be perceived by the public.
However, if the recent is any indication, there is some ground for hope.
Certainly, the government has quite a bit on its plate—passing
legislation that might lead to an improvement next year of the country’s
last-place finish in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions
Index, might not be a bad place to start. But at least the Préval
government is doing things democratically. In both the executive and
legislative branches, the signs are there: there is a growing respect
for the law and the democratic process that were first spelled out in
the country’s nearly 20-year-old constitution but never really
honored until now. Democracy is not a word that should ever be toyed
with, and we should not expect Haiti to turn into a shining model of
democracy overnight. What we can expect, however, is that the country’s
modernization and humanization will continue and that Préval
and the Assembly will be respected as they try to repair the nation.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent,
non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization.
It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the
nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.”
For more information, visit www.coha.org or email email@example.com
Visit of Mrs. Rama Yade to Haiti (September 14-15, 2007)
Edwidge Danticat reads an excerpt from her new memoir 'Brother, I'm
of Neocolonial Journalism on Haiti
“Be true to the highest within your soul and then allow yourself
to be governed by no customs or conventionalities or arbitrary man-made
rules that are not founded on principle.” Ralph
from the HLLN pamplet
"...HLLN dreams of a world based on principles, values, mutual
respect, equal application of laws, equitable
distribution, cooperation instead of competition and on peaceful
co-existence and acts on it. We put forth these ideas, on behalf of
voiceless Haitians, through a unique and unprecedented combination of
networking, sharing info on radio interviews, our Ezili Danto listserves
and by circulating our original
"Haitian Perspective" writings. We make presentations
at congressional briefings and at international events, such as An
Evening of Solidarity with Bolivarian Venezuela.
With the Ezili
Danto Witness Project, HLLN documents eyewitness testimonies
of the common men and women in Haiti suffering, under this US-installed
regime, the greatest forms of terror and exclusion since the days of
slavery; conducts learning forums on Haiti (The "To-Tell-The-Truth-About-Haiti"
Forums), and , in general, brings the
voices against occupation, endless poverty and exclusion
in Haiti directly to concerned peoples worldwide - people-to-people
and then to governments officials, international policymakers, human
rights organizations, journalists, the corporate and alternative media,
schools and universities, solidarity networks. We are often quoted in
major alternative and even the corporate papers and press influencing
the current thinking of readers today."
HLLN, November 9, 2005.
See, The Nescafé
machine, Common Sense, John Maxwell Sunday, November 06, 2005 , quoting
HLLN's chairperson, Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Dantò's Note: Bwa Kayiman 2007 and the case of Lovinsky Pierre