[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
8484: The Complete Article by Ambassador Marville (fwd)
The complete article by Marville follows.
I want to remain anonymous.
The Nation (Barbados)
Haiti: What Now?
by Ambassador Orlando Marville
Head of the OAS electoral observation mission in Haiti, 2000. With part 2
I have always recognized Haiti's paramount role in the political liberation
of the hemisphere. The overthrow of the French in that country marked a
turning point in the history of African enslavement in the hemisphere; Simon
Bolivar learnt his craft there, before proceeding with the liberation of
most of the South American continent.
For one glorious moment in time, it seemed that the downtrodden had risen to
take on their rightful roles as free men. But the powerful nations
surrounding Haiti would never let that happen.
Today, we are faced with a phenomenon that in itself grew out of that Haiti,
as it turned upon itself and found not only its artistic and cultural
flowering of the past, but also the darker side, bred of the brutality of
slavery under the French.
This is not recognised by some of our leaders, who mistakenly believe that
the president of that country is a messiah come to lead his country out of
the wilderness. Their vision is clouded by sentiments sprung from what that
country has done for us, rather than from the reality of present-day Haiti.
Haiti, under Aristide I was a democracy. Haiti under Aristide II is anything
but a democracy and we cannot be facetious about it, or the lot of the
common Haitian will never change. The present government is the result of an
election, which was manipulated in a way that none of us would accept as
normal in our own country. It became a farce after a day when ordinary
Haitians had gone out in their millions to vote. In spite of the
difficulties surrounding an election in such a poor country, unaccustomed to
proper elections, the population went out in earnest to make their voices
Most recently, Aristide has promised the Organisation of American States
Secretary General, Dr Gaviria and former Dominican Prime Minister Dame
Eugenia Charles that he would re-run the eight senate seats contested (I
believe the number was nine) and all would be well again.
His spokesperson in the Senate indicated that the population was being
squeezed as a result of an international blockade of aid to Haiti.
Interestingly, Aristide was informed that this would happen if he did not
observe the propriety of having a run-off in a number of elections where,
after the vote count, his minions had changed the numbers first and then
miscalculated the numbers so as to gain a 50 per cent plus one majority for
In all probability, Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, would have won that
election, if there had been no fraud and no deliberate miscalculation of the
vote. The fact is that the Opposition was not much of an opposition, even
though they were numerous. Indeed, they form more of a serious opposition
now as the so-called Convergence than they did during the elections, when
they were little more than a large number of splintered parties.
Why should anyone believe that Aristide or, for that matter his spokesperson
Yvon Neptune, is any more serious now about a fair rerun of that part of the
election? What about other elements of the election clearly fraudulently
won, like the Mairie of Petionville? Are we prepared to let that slide?
And how will he obtain an independent electoral council? Will it be like the
last one where one member ran to the president to brief him on each and
every word said in the council or elsewhere in the society for that matter?
That is not all. The United States had poured millions into the country to
improve the justice system. Not much improvement or even change resulted
from this input, which was generally inept. Prisoners still languished in
prisons waiting for their case to be heard for year after year.
In the midst of this, the poor village priest, who had risen to save the
masses, had amassed a fortune for himself and lived on his estate near the
airport. He was surrounded by security and he received visitors in his
anteroom, which was decorated by photos of Presidents Clinton, Carlos Andres
Perez of Venezuela and Preval, his own lackey.
The room was also adorned by a splendid collection of Haiti's best painters.
It was a lavish setting. Yet no one dared to ask how the poor priest now
owned all of this. No one even suspected that Father Arisitide had got into
bed with a large United States telephone company to increase his wealth. The
poor priest had been converted to a money-grabber.
There was indeed one man who questioned this. His name was Jean Dominique.
He is no more. Jean Dominique was an unapologetic leftist, who genuinely
cared for Haiti's masses. Like everyone else of his political leaning, as
well as a great deal of the Haitian middle class, he supported Aristide.
Indeed, he was forced into exile by the military soon after they had deposed
Aristide. He was a superb journalist. His command of French, Creole and
English were exemplary and he could influence a crowd almost as easily as
the charismatic Aristide could. His radio programmes kept alive some hope
that there would be justice for Haiti's poor. He was, for a long time, in
constant touch with Aristide. Then things changed.
I met Jean Dominique less than a month before he was gunned down outside the
gate of his radio station. That was over a year ago. His murderer has not
yet been identified, even though the assassination took place in broad
daylight. He spoke openly about his dislike of the French and his love for
He also spoke about Aristide and the last occasion on which the former
president had visited his radio station. On that occasion, Jean Dominique
had questioned him about several millions of dollars that had been subverted
for someone's personal use. Aristide had replied in one of his usual
parables, saying that he was only the driver of the truck and that sometimes
things happened on the back of the truck without the driver knowing.
Aristide never returned to Jean Dominique's.
Jean Dominique was also outspoken about one of Aristide's more prominent
supporters and now a member of his senate. The gentleman in question is
generally held to be a drug-lord, and rumour has it that Jean Dominique had
prepared a dossier, in which he was going to denounce this gentleman. Then
he was gunned down together with the watchman, at the gate of the radio
station. Still no one knows who did it.
How can we run into this mess of a political situation without taking
account of the fact that opposition figures were killed leading up to the
elections and that Haiti's most prominent journalist was killed for what
everyone assumes was political reasons? It was clear that his death silenced
some who had spoken boldly in the wake of his own forthright statements on
anything concerning Haiti and its poor.
The question now is: Assuming that the countries of the Hemisphere believe
that Aristide will carry out the promises he made-and that would be a
first-what will be the role of CARICOM? Are we to rush in and plead with the
international donor community to restore the funds to Aristide? It is now
clear that the Organisation of American States (OAS), which, in its
all-too-familiar style, managed to pass a non-resolution on Haiti, will play
that role. The Secretary-General is asked in the resolution to report on
progress towards the settling of the political crisis in Haiti. One
opposition speaker, Mr Pierre Charles has denounced the OAS action, claiming
that it is attempting to gain legitimacy for the Aristide fraud in May of
last year. It is clear that one cannot therefore expect any co-operation
from the Convergence.
Several very fundamental problems remain. No one in the opposition would
risk his life by going back to the polls. So how will those opposition
candidates who should have been in the run-offs be persuaded to participate?
Aristide himself recognises that if he makes a call for an independent
electoral council, the opposition will also boycott this, since they know
that whomever they put in place, Aristide's candidate will make it
impossible to conduct business in the council in secrecy or independently.
The major question arises as to who will fund the elections proposed by Mr
Aristide. It seems unlikely that the United States and Canada, or for that
matter France, the three countries which bore the brunt of the May 2000
elections, are going to put any money into the kitty. Haiti certainly has no
money to run an election. So, even with the best will in the world, Mr
Aristide cannot hold the elections he has promised. Indeed, this might
provide a good excuse in itself for a man who could easily have held the
same elections when they were demanded by all and sundry. Why would he want
to hold them now? Inevitably he will blame the international community for
not assisting and thus making it impossible for him to keep his promises.
What then? How does one move from here? It was earlier assumed that Aristide
understood that the international community would cut aid to Haiti if he did
not conduct the mandated second round of the senatorial elections. Yet he
insisted that the senators had been duly elected. It was also assumed that
since the bicentennial anniversary of Haiti's Independence would fall within
his period in office, in 2004, he would have done everything to make Haiti a
showpiece for that occasion. All those assumptions were as false as
believing that Aristide would now be the democrat he was in 1990.
As I see it, CARICOM, or at least those leaders in CARICOM who are not
overly swayed by their emotions, must put a foot down. If the Hemisphere is
willing to be lured into awaiting the outcome of yet another Aristide
promise, the Community should wait until he once more breaks his word and
indicate in no uncertain terms that the region has some real values, that
the Charter of Civil Society has some meaning and that we will not admit
Haiti into what used to be a club, very particular about who was admitted.
Please do not forget that Haiti under Duvalier and the Dominican Republic
under Balaguer, as well as Suriname under the army were all refused entry
into CARICOM. It was felt by some of the same people now courting Haiti
under Aristide that the refusal at that time was appropriate. Is it perhaps
that we have lowered our standards?
How will we justify fully admitting Haiti into CARICOM at the present time,
if we refused to do so under Duvalier? What will be the result of our action
on our reputation within the international community? I am not suggesting
that our actions should first take into consideration the reaction of that
group of nations. However, we have had a reputation for a clear interest in
human rights and democratic governance. When we chastised the United States
for attacking Cuba's government on purely political grounds, the great
northern neighbour may not have liked it, but I believe that they understood
our principled stance on that and many other issues. What is our principle
here? Is it that we are so tired of crisis in Haiti that we are prepared to
do anything to put an end to it? How will we be able on our own to bring
some economic prosperity to that country? I doubt that we will be able to
persuade the international donors that they should ease their ban on
non-humanitarian aid to Haiti.
Without the international players returning to support reform of the
internal economy and improve the human rights situation in that country,
there will be little or no foreign investment, little or nothing for the
country to trade. CARICOM cannot correct this situation. Haiti, I am sorry.
I begin seriously to believe what I said in jest to a few of my Haitian
friends: we, in CARICOM, love Haiti more than the Haitians themselves.
Orlando Marville is a retired diplomat and an expert on African affairs.