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9820: Haiti and its problems. (fwd)

From: Carl Fombrun <carlfombrun@iopener.net>

Context: Dissuade Guy Alexandre from representing the government of Haiti in the Dominican Republic. 

By Ray Killick

I concur wholeheartedly with Charles Manus. 

Although, I have grown increasingly detached of Haitian politics, I reflect once in a blue moon on the problems plaguing the nation. One day, probably some 6 years ago, as I was debating the Haitian question with a friend of mine, he got upset and countered my arguments with a laconic: "Ki sa ouap di laa, ce oun peyi de grangous." I looked at him perplexed as I struggled convulsively to reply; I could utter no words or form any logical thoughts. Frankly, I was at a loss. "Wasn't he right after all?" I thought for a while. I convinced myself of the validity of the argument for years. I liked and made mine his point of view; it explained everything; suddenly, everything became clear. We became better friends. I then hung up on the Haitian tragicomedy. I stopped buying Haitian newspapers. My friend was a genius. He had found the cause of Haiti's quagmire and frantic demise. 

After all, how can you build any institution with a rapacious political class? How can you ever built with people of such shallow faith? How can you build a nation when the rise to power begets immediate financial stability? How can you build when the government is the only "industry" in the nation? I surmise that some people out there may have the answers to these questions. I surmise that intelligent people who chose to participate in any government without a vision for Haitian society, a will, deeds and a plan for development have satisfactorily answered or otherwise cynically ignored these questions. The comedy will continue unabated as the comedians come and go, precipitating the nation into the sinking hole of darkness and bigotry. It's not funny! 

Comedians after comedians will come under the guise of democrats or saviors to lure the people for their votes, their daily bread and their last breath of hope. Where does this class of men come from? Is there something so flawed with the already tragic picture that it projects itself rosier in the collective mind of the Haitian political and economic elites? Isn't it already blatantly clear that the people of Haiti needs hope, openness, compassion, and leadership? Ah, leadership! 

Eureka! Leadership! Ah, it took me six long years to search and find a counter-argument to my friend's plausible and convincing point: "Ce oun peyi de grangous." Yes, my friend, "grangou" is an attitude that impedes the burgeoning and nurturing of solid institutions and values, but it is not the problem. Haiti's problem has solely been one of leadership and this, ever since the beginning of time, January 1, 1804. A leader is someone that can rally people of different social and economic backgrounds and political inclination toward some common and greater good. A leader is someone that rejuvenates a nation by his or her approach, the energy and compassion he or she displays in engaging everyone irrespective of their political beliefs. A leader rallies around a vision and a solid core of values. Leaders live their beliefs and exemplify them every step of the way on the way to accomplish the vision. A leader knows when to adjust course and steer the nation to destination. A leade!
r is 
 always open to change. A leader is a listener rather than the beginning and the end of everything. 

Let's look for leadership in nearly two hundred years of existence of Haiti as a nation! I can only discern one distinct and impressive example: the regime of Henry Christophe in the North of Haiti. Christophe was a leader, a builder; he had dreams and a clear vision. He communicated it through laws, his tough retributions -- possibly necessary for the time -- his palaces and the citadel perched at the top of his pride. The Haitians from the North still exhibit their Christophian pride. It is nice to see. I enjoyed discovering it from their attitude although I am not from the North. 

Yes, my friend, Haiti's problem is one of leadership. Take de Vastey, "le grand argentier" (finance minister) under Dessalines ("Plimen poule la, min pa kitel rele"). De Vastey is one of the founding fathers of Haiti's demise. He was in essence a sinking hole for the Treasury. In spite of his well-earned reputation, Christophe called upon de Vastey to manage the finances and assets of the kingdom. De Vastey becomes an exemplary finance minister under Christophe. The difference in behavior stems from a difference in leadership not a mutation in de Vastey's values. 

You can participate in any Haitian government you want but you won't make any goddamn difference in the life of the nation because you don't know where you're going. A vision must first be clearly elaborated before any development plan can be fashioned. Weather it be fighting illiteracy, building and maintaining roads, taxing, providing electricity, stopping erosion -- is it too late for this one? -- you name it, you've got to have a vision, a message to rally and permeate every mind; a message to galvanize and unleash positive but not destructive energy. Leaders must live their values and come down from their ivory towers and show the way by their very actions and purpose. Every function must converge to support the vision, weather it is representing Haiti in the Dominican Republic or heading the department of public works. 

Leadership must galvanize for positive change. Leadership cannot polarize to divide. A leader shows the way to the "promised land". A leader makes palpable his message. Perhaps, that's why he not only has a following but also ultimately achieves success. Martin Luther King was a compassionate and vigorous leader, able to galvanize a people and muster the greatest non-violent movement for equality and justice of all time. 'I have a dream..." coins the great communicator in his most memorable speech. We're living part of his dream in America today. America has changed albeit with some remnants of the time of institutionalized racism. King was not only talking for the black man of America but for all humanity against evil forces, injustice and bigotry. Why do I feel more at home here than in my own country of origin? Why do I feel valued here more than anywhere else? King has a lot to do with how I feel today in America for America. 

Leadership must be energetic but humble and open to the idea that a leader does not and cannot have all the answers. Let's recall Jack Welch, the recently retired CEO of GE (General Electric Inc.), the most valuable or best-capitalized company in the world. Jack is deemed the greatest CEO of all time. His style, approach and strategies are studied everywhere. He is not only an American icon but also a treasure for humanity. I listened to him talking on CNBC recently. His style is contagious. His life and his recent book (Jack, Straight from the Gut) are an inspiration for all leaders regardless of their turfs of influence. At the pinnacle of his career, for example, he admits he doesn't care about the Internet revolution but is nonetheless interested and open to be swayed by his wife Jane that leads him into the discovery of the Internet. A few months after having been under the caring guidance of his wife, Jack embarks on his final act to rejuvenate GE by way of the Internet.!
 GE is an Internet company and an unbeatable one at that. Jack Welch admits his failures and knows that he is not perfect. His greatest strengths reside in his ability to listen and readily change course when he has clearly erred. Recommend his book to Haitian leaders when you see them. There are lessons for you, everyone and me. 

My friends, I've enjoyed reading your contributions to the debate about "save a friend" but I never felt more compelled to jump into the fray until Charles Manus elevated the debate to what it ought to be about. About a nation not a single man! About the fate of Haiti, not of an ambassador to the Dominican Republic! 


Ray Killick