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6894: U.N.'s Haiti Mission Ends (fwd)
From: nozier <email@example.com>
U.N.'s Haiti Mission Ends The Associated Press, Sat 3 Feb 2001
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — In the peak years of the U.N. presence in
Haiti, hotel verandas were packed with diplomats, white U.N. all-terrain
vehicles lined the crumbling streets and impoverished Haitians imagined
things might finally be getting better. But as the United Nations
prepares to fold up its latest mission on Tuesday, the cast of thousands
has dwindled to fewer than 200. At the Hotel Oloffson, the gingerbread
house made famous in Graham Greene's novel ``The Comedians,'' the wicker
chairs stand empty and forlorn. Those who hoped the mission's one-year
mandate would be extended are disappointed, believing they never had
enough time to make an impact.
After the U.S. military intervention and the deployment of U.N.
peacekeepers in 1994, the U.N. International Civilian Support Mission in
Haiti was supposed to promote human rights, reform the judiciary and
build an effective police force.
Instead, one year after the mission opened, many would write off the
nation of 8 million as one more country where a well-intentioned U.N.
operation ran afoul of impossible conditions on the ground.``I'm still
waiting for things to get better,'' says 45-year-old Gladys Metellus,
who sells charcoal by the tin can in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
``I don't know what the United Nations has done, but I still struggle
Economic growth plummeted to 1 percent last year, down from 4.5 percent
the year U.S. troops arrived. The gourde, Haiti's currency, has lost
more than half its value, while the minimum daily wage has stayed the
same for six years and is now worth just $1.45 a day. Steady population
growth has worn down an already tattered infrastructure.
The U.N. mission came from 20 countries as disparate as Cameroon and
Colombia, Britain and Rwanda, Barbados and Norway. The 120-strong
contingent was backed up by 130 Haitians, who are now joining the
two-thirds of the population who are jobless.
The problems soon became apparent. As the mission unfolded, the Haitian
government was preoccupied with parliamentary and presidential
elections, which ultimately soured Haiti's relationship with the
international community. Foreign governments suspected irregularities
in the May parliamentary balloting that gave the party of Jean-Bertrand
Aristide a majority. They demanded a recount and were rebuffed.
Aristide, whose ouster as president in 1991 led to the U.S.
intervention, was elected to another term, virtually unopposed, six
Then there was the money. The United States, which has poured $2.3
billion in aid into Haiti since 1994, held up the mission's $24 million
budget, of which it provides nearly $14 million. That prevented U.N.
advisers from deploying until months after the mission started. And the
lawlessness. In August, the U.N. transport chief, a Barbadian, was
dragged from his car by a mob and shot to death. In November,
U.N.Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended closing the mission.
``A combination of rampant crime, violent street protests and incidents
of violence targeted at the international community could severely
limit the ability of'' the mission ``to fulfill its mandate,'' he wrote.
Annan said Friday the United Nations would continue its efforts in Haiti
through development assistance and other U.N. projects on the ground.
``I wish the new government and the people of Haiti every success,'' he
said, ``and I hope that all the efforts that have been made to install
democracy would not be for nought, and that the government will respect
the rights and the will of the people.''
The Haitian government seemed eager to see the United Nations leave.
President Rene Preval was reluctant to extend the U.N. mandate, saying
he didn't want to burden the new administration with old baggage.
Aristide takes over Feb. 7, the day after the U.N. mission ends. Citing
preparations for the inauguration, the government declined to comment
on the U.N. departure.
``We needed more time,'' says Sandra Beidas, who directed the human
rights pillar of the mission. ``You can offer seminars on building a
culture of peace but if you don't have time to follow those seminars
up,you don't know what was accomplished.''
Still, the concept was novel: to transform a peacekeeping mission into
a ``peacebuilding'' one, and Beidas said progress has been made.``From
1993 to 1994, repression was systematic. People were scared to walk
around at night and you risked your life if you even mentioned
Aristide's name,'' she says. ``Now, even though there is still sort of
an institutional dysfunction, the climate for human rights has
improved.'' Beidas said the U.N. mission has improved prison conditions
and sponsored a writing contest that encouraged children to promote
peace. Haitians have been taught through seminars how some cultural
practices violate basic human rights — such as having a family member
arrested on suspicion of using black magic.
But corruption is rife in the police force and justice system. ``If you
are going to have a good judiciary or police force you have to pay
them,'' said Yves Bouchard, who led the police section of the mission
and will soon return to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. ``But the
problem is that the Haitian National Police don't have the support of
the overnment.'' Bouchard said a major accomplishment has been a mission
audit that looked at absenteeism and management problems.
But he added, ``It's sad. I'm not ready to go back and I can't help but
worry about who will take over our documents and implement suggestions
we made.'' It was Canada that stepped in and paid the missing dues when
the United States dragged its feet. ``Haiti has always been very
important to Canada and that's why we really tried to get the mission
off the ground,'' said Bouchard, visibly choked up. ``There are a lot of
people who feel very disappointed.''But some Haitians say the mission's
funds would have been better spent on work done by agencies such as the
U.N. Development Fund, which will stay after the mission leaves. Not
everyone feels that way. Vidal Exentas, a 24-year-old student, wants the
mission to stay because``once they leave, the country will go
backward.'' ``There still is a lot of work to be done,'' the head of the
mission, Alfredo Lopes Cabral of Guinea Bissau, said as workers shredded
papers and packed up offices. ``But democracy isn't an event,'' he
said. ``It can take centuries.''