[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#137: Officials seek formula for stability in Haiti (fwd)


Published Saturday, July 10, 1999, in the Miami Herald 
Officials seek formula for stability in  Haiti
By DON BOHNING Herald Staff Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- As Haiti heads into an uncertain election period,
foreign diplomats are scrambling for a formula that would maintain a
permanent international presence in the country beyond year's end.
The current foreign presence includes three special international
missions,numbering more than 800 personnel in all. None is expected to
survive in its present form into next year. Keeping a significant
international presence is considered essential for practical
and psychological reasons. The country faces the prospect of rising
political tension leading up to legislative elections late this year and
a presidential election in December 2000; a new police force is still in
an on-the-job training mode; and a virtually nonexistent justice system
is struggling to deal with a growing security problem. The three
existing missions expected to end this year are:   A joint Organization
of American States/United Nations human rights monitoring mission known
by its French initials as MICIVIH. Its mandate expires Dec. 31, but a
hold put on funding by U.S. congressional Republicans forced it to
reduce its personnel from 80 to 40 and close several offices July 1.
   A United Nations civilian police mission, with 147 police advisors
from 12 countries and a special 133-member Argentine police unit to
protect them. Its mandate expires Nov. 30. Haiti has not asked for its
extension.  A 500-member U.S. Military Support Group -- including a
175-member Marine contingent for protection -- which rotates stateside
units in and out for humanitarian training exercises including school
construction and medical assistance.

Pressure for withdrawal 

The support group's mandate is open-ended, but there is pressure from
Congress and the Pentagon for its withdrawal. It has no security role in
Haiti, but the Clinton administration considers its presence a
psychological contribution to stability.``We are moving into a
transition in the way the international community deals
with Haiti, which will mean more responsibility for Haiti,'' said a
senior foreign diplomat in Port-au-Prince, regarding the anticipated
changes. ``What we have now are residues of a different international
presence.''That presence began with a U.S.-led military intervention in
September 1994 when 20,000 troops ousted a 3-year-old military
dictatorship and restored democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to power. The U.N.peacekeeping mission that followed was
gradually transformed into the civilian police advisory mission. The
U.S. Military Support Group, the only remaining and probably last
vestige of a foreign military presence, began operations in 1996.

Washington would like to see a continued U.N. presence for such things
as police training, human rights monitoring and aid to the justice
system currently being done by the U.N. police advisory mission and
MICIVIH.The U.S.-led effort is focusing on the U.N.'s Economic and
Social Council (ECOSOC), a largely dormant organization in recent years.

U.N. fact-finding mission 

Five U.N. ambassadors visited Haiti last month to look at the way aid is
coordinated, the effectiveness of aid and the possibility of ECOSOC's
providing the umbrella for continued U.N. operations. The ambassadors
are to report to the U.N. in Geneva later this month. Meanwhile, the
joint OAS/U.N. human rights monitoring mission has dwindled as
the result of the hold congressional Republicans put on a $1.6 million
contribution to the OAS to finance its portion of the joint mission.
The Republicans say the hold is designed to pressure the mission, headed
by Trinidadian diplomat Colin Granderson, to put greater emphasis on
developing indigenous Haitian human rights groups. Privately, however,
congressional staffers complain that the mission's human rights reports
have not put enough emphasis on pro-Aristide violators.MICIVIH announced
the dismissal of about half its 80 members and the closing of
five of its nine regional offices as of July 1. The offices closed were
in Fort Liberte,Port-de-Paix, Hinche, Jacmel and Jeremie. The four
remaining offices are in Gonaives, Cap-Haitien, Les Cayes and
Port-au-Prince.The mission cutback comes at a particularly inopportune
time, say U.S. officials,because of pending parliamentary, provincial
and local elections hoped for later this year. They say present
conditions call for effective international monitoring. ``MICIVIH is
playing a role that can't be replaced right now,'' Mark Schneider,
head of Latin American and Caribbean operations of the U.S. Agency For
International Development, said on a recent visit to the country.
``Its presence is a preventive deterrent,'' Schneider said. ``There is
no one to replace it in the election time frame, and we think they have
been doing a good job in a very difficult situation.''