GOFAD joins in expressions of sadness and dismay at the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Our deepest sympathy is extended to First Lady Martine Moise with wishes for a speedy recovery from injuries she sustained during the dastardly attack by gunmen at the President's private residence caused by the assassins.
President Moise's death comes as the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince faced extreme violence. Notwithstanding that independent Haiti's first ruler was assassinated in 1806, this level of violence is a new phenomenon in modern Haitian politics. GOFAD’s major concern is how and what can the Caribbean Community do to salvage this low point in Haiti’s modern history. It is Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the black Haitian revolutionary who defeated the French to free Haiti from colonial rule in 1804. It is ironically the memory of Dessalines, that the Haitian protesters summoned to implicitly contrast the achievements of that revolution – freedom, universal citizenship and racial equality with their grievances against the regime of President Moise Dessalines wrote a radical constitution that eliminated racial hierarchy, established equality before the law and instituted freedom of religion in Haiti.
It is heartening to note that the statement issued by Hon. Gaston Browne Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda, Chair of the Caribbean Community highlighted “Haiti’s Membership of CARICOM and the family ties that bind the people of Haiti and CARICOM together". He expressed CARICOM’s willingness to "play a lead role in facilitating a process of national dialogue and negotiation to help the Haitian people and their institutions to craft an indigenous solution to the crisis”. This provides the hope that CARICOM is intent on preempting the long history of intervention of the USA there: It occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. It sent marines twice in the past three decades to restore order, under President Bill Clinton and then again under President George W. Bush.
CARICOM has a credible basis for depending on the support of the UN system. On July 1, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement expressing "deep concern regarding deteriorating political, security and humanitarian conditions in Haiti." Following the assassination of President Moise on July 7, it affirmed the determination of its members to monitor the ongoing situation in Haiti, the essential need to respect the rule of law and continued security of and solidarity with the people of Haiti.
CARICOM in Haiti
When in 1997, CARICOM announced that Haiti would be admitted as a member of the Community, it was clear this was a more a political than economic decision. Haiti's population, at over 7 million, is greater than the combined population of all the CARICOM countries; its environment has been devastated by the sustained economic crisis; and its French- and Creole-speaking population has a political and socioeconomic history very different from the rest of the CARICOM membership. Yet the decision to embrace Haiti as a partner in CARICOM, despite the political and socioeconomic differences, implies that the region has taken an important step in the direction of greater regional cooperation.
Some Lesson about CARICOM Realities of Haiti
CARICOM has had to deal with this reality on several occasions since Haiti’s accession into the regional organization.
CARICOM, whose Member States, deeply affected by the Haitian political crisis during the Presidency of Rene Preval, dispatched a Special Mission to Haiti, which took place January 28-31, 2002 under the leadership of the Hon. Julian R. Hunte, Minister of External Affairs of St. Lucia. The purpose of the visit was to assess the situation and report to the Thirteenth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government, in Belize, February 4-5, 2002. The following recommendations by the Special Mission were adopted:
In January 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser on Haiti, Reginald Dumas, engaged in trying to reconcile conflict that preceded the 200th anniversary of the independence of Haiti in December 2021. Dumas’ intervention was instrumental in guiding the 15-member CARICOM, of which Haiti is a member, to work out a compromise between then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his opponents. A CARICOM plan was established with commitments by both America and Canada to providing resources to strengthen the policy capacity of the OAS special Mission in Haiti. According to an insightful commentary in his biography My Political Journey, P.J. Patterson then Chair of CARICOM revealed that with American troops stretched to the limit with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, France offered to help. This he concluded was when everything changed. “The French never forgot their grudge against Haiti and saw it as an opportunity to pay back Haiti for its audacity in successfully challenging French dominance 200 years earlier". That Aristide rubbed salt into the wounds by declaring that it was France that owed Haiti reparations, changed the whole picture and the resolution on the CARICOM plan which would have otherwise passed in the security Council, did not. Contrary to the expectations of CARICOM, Mr. Aristide eventually left Haiti apparently under duress from the Americans for the Central African Republic. P.J. Patterson’s outrage was not disguised “We had been meticulous in keeping the United States informed every step of the way and we were outraged that it should remove a democratically elected leader in this way".
Some high level interventions led by CARICOM nationals.
There are many Caribbean nationals in the contemporary period who played important roles.
Ambassador Colin Granderson assumed the position of Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations at the CARICOM Secretariat on 1 May 2002. His experience proved to be vital to the discussions about integration of Haiti into CARICOM. He was Ambassador at Large of Trinidad and Tobago in 1993, Executive Director of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH), a human rights observation mission, February 1993 to March 2000; and served as Coordinator of the Organization of American States Civilian Presence in Haiti during the period October 1992 to February 1993. He was also designated head of mission of the OAS election observation mission for the December 1995 presidential elections and also for the partial legislative and local government elections of April 1997 in Haiti.
In 2007, Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, in collaboration with Ambassador Granderson was pivotal to the reopening of the CARICOM Representational Office (CRO) with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), three years after it was closed following the interruption of democratic governance in 2004. The office was then located in the Embassy of The Bahamasand had been established at that time with the support of the government of the Kingdom of Norway, Ambassador Earl Huntley, a diplomat and administrator with wide experience including St Lucia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador to the Caribbean Community and head of Saint Lucia’s Foreign Service. The CRO was established to facilitate more speedily the integration of Haiti into CARICOM, with particular emphasis on the Single Market and Economy; identify and mobilize domestic, financial and other resources; promote relations with the media; and undertake public education programmes.
Secretary-General Edwin Carrington in expressing his pleasure at the re-opening of the office said: “The ratification by the Haitian Parliament of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas including the Single Market and the Economy and the re-opening of the Representational Office within two weeks of each other, augur well for the quickening of the pace of the fuller integration of Haiti into CARICOM.”
Among the goals of the project financed by CIDA was to assist Haiti to prepare itself for full participation in the CSME. This was to be done within the context of the wider goal to provide more and better opportunities for the people of CARICOM to participate in and benefit from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It also should enable all CARICOM citizens to understand, participate and actively engage in economic activities,”
MINUSTAH and the CARICOM Input
Sandra Honoré Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago who served as the United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH’s) from May 2013 until its mandate expired on October 15, 2017. She reported optimistically on the result of the successful holding of elections on 20 November 2016 and 29 January 2017, and the significant political outlook the opening of a crucial window of opportunity to address the root causes of the political crisis that preceded the polls. The elections provided for the installation of all directly-elected officials at all levels of Haiti’s governance structure for the first time since 2006, including the peaceful transfer of power to the third democratically-elected President since MINUSTAH’s deployment to Haiti in 2004.
By 2020 , the situation had all but deteriorated. According to reports, lacking the trust of the Haitian people, President Moïse relied on hard power, ruling by decree to remain in office. He created a kind of police state in Haiti, reviving the national army two decades after it was disbanded. He created a domestic intelligence agency with surveillance powers. He effectively shuttered the Haitian legislature by refusing to hold parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2020 and summarily dismissed all of the country’s elected mayors in July 2020, when their terms expired.
In 2018, CDB established a country office in Haiti. In collaboration with the Government it developed a country strategy plan for the period 2017 to 2021, with an indicative resource envelope of USD100 million to help Haiti meet its development priorities. The strategy focuses on three main themes: agriculture and community development, sustainable energy development and education and training. According to the IDB Caribbean Regional Coordinator, Ms. Therese Turner Jones, "we expect that this will lead to the development of closer relationships with the Government and the people of this country, enabling CDB to be a more proactive, responsive development partner,” she said.
CARICOM was involved and abreast with the outpouring of international support for the country in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many Haitian Americans, optimistic that political and social unrest in the country would improve, moved back. CARICOM was also a broker in the subsequent U.N. apologies for its role in the cholera outbreak in 2016. Still people were not compensated for the loss of their family members.
Meanwhile, despite the interventions of PAHO and CARPHA, the coronavirus pandemic has been worsening in Haiti. According to a recent report from UNICEF (July 1), Haiti was the only country in the Western Hemisphere to not have received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Last month, the Pan American Health Organization warned that the response in the country must be scaled up dramatically to cope with sharply escalating cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Haiti has reported more than 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 467 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. UNICEF also reported that more than 1.5 million children are currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Haiti: acute childhood malnutrition among children under five increased by 61% last year and admissions of severely malnourished children in health facilities across Haiti jumped by 26% in the first three months of this year, it added.
At the same time, the country is facing a dire economic situation. Its economy had been contracting even before the pandemic and shrunk further 3.8% in 2020, with about 60% of the population now living in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Throughout this Blog, GOFAD has highlighted a series of lessons learned and CARICOM professionals who have been engaged in the Haiti imbroglio. Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community seem resolved to assert the Region's role in fashioning meaningful integration of Haiti into CARICOM. A well-structured engagement must include these experts with actual experience in its trials, tribulations and prospects. It would focus on identifying what worked? Why or Why not? How to revamp the basic ingredients of change to achieve social and political development? What kinds of partnerships are required to generate sustainable development? To what extent is civil society a viable resource for building a cohesive esprit de corps? Answers to these issues may yet provide some modicum of hope to restore the virtues of the Black Jacobinsto which the Caribbean political historian, CLR James so elegantly extolled in his epic book. Both CARICOM and Haiti stand to gain.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.