Commentary: Haiti a la une!

March 14, 2009
By Jean H Charles
Caribbean Net News

Haiti this week was the theater of several engagements by the United Nations. On Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon flanked with President Bill Clinton visited the country. Two days later a Security Council delegation led by the Costa Rican delegate paid a four-day visit to the poverty stricken country. It is an unprecedented event for the Security Council to travel en group to bring support to a nation that is not at war but has recently suffered heavy damage due to three successive hurricanes.

While the visit is not ordinary, Haiti has been under the watchful eye and the tight governance of a UN mission for almost twenty years. The Security Council has been delivering a blank check of some 600 million dollars per year to facilitate the mission of the troops. Before I review the results of this funding, it is important to retrace the timing and the name of these deployments:

* Starting in 1991 the United Nations was solicited to supervise the elections
* There was later the MICIVIH called on by President Aristide, February 1993- May 1998
* Then a UNMIH military Mission from September 1993 to June 1996
* President Rene Preval, in his first mandate requested the UNSMIH Mission from July 1996 to July 1997
* Another Mission was again requested (UNTMIH) August 1997 – November 1997 by President Preval.
* It was followed by MIPONUH another UN Mission from December 1997 to March 2000.
* President Preval requested the UNSMIH mission from March 2000 to February 2001
* Finally Jean Bertrand Aristide demanded the present UN- MINUSTAH mission that started in April 2004 and is still in the country today.

Yet, Haiti in comparison to the other islands of the Caribbean that did not benefit of such attention does fare much poorer than any other country of the region. Quoting a report from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, on the state of the Missions, “Without mincing words all branches of the UN in Haiti have been a qualified failure”.

Brazil that occupies the lead role in this intervention has exhibited poor leadership at best in helping the country to achieve nation building status. Haiti could be labeled the Brazilian Waterloo for this vast country in its quest to be seen as a major superpower.

While the comparison seems unfair, the true question of the day is: who was minding the store? Akin to the SEC (Security Exchange Commission) that let Bernard Madoff swindle some 65 billion dollars from ordinary citizens and foundations. I had one year ago in one of my columns, America and the age of innocence, before the Madoff debacle foreseen and forewarned the raiding of the non profit organizations’ funding by the financier speculators;

“Under the principle laid down by Edward Abbey, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm; it follows that all unused wealth will end up into the charitable kitty. I bet the next stop for the hedge fund managers will be to take over the charitable and the pension funds.”

One should ask why the Security Council from its seat in New York has not found the time and the necessity to pay a field visit to Haiti in the last twenty years while authorizing the spending of some 11 billion dollars with no apparent result in the country.

It is certainly not too late to correct the error of the past. The Council plans to visit the city of Fort Liberte in the northern part of Haiti. En route to that city it should pay a visit to the Archbishop Louis Kebreau in Cape Haitian who now represents the true moral conscience of Haiti. As the President of the Council of Catholic bishops of the country, the prelate would share with the august members of the United Nations the story of the young men of his city returned by the US marines from an illegal and dangerous trip to Florida. They told him they preferred to be eaten by the sharks in the open sea than continue to confront the daily life of misery in Haiti.

He would also visit with the delegation the hamlet of La Bruyere a rural village of some 15.000 people, where an engaging priest, Father Abraham, is scouting the whole world to find resources to build a model rural village. He has started the construction of a school (stopped now because of a lack of funding). He has just received the go ahead from a German cooperation agency to start the building of a hospital. He does not know yet where he will go to get the assistance to pay for the medical staff and the equipment to furnish the hospital.

Haiti has 565 rural villages like La Bruyere. They have not received for the past two hundred years of the country’s existence any significant financial assistance to build an infrastructure that will make life bearable for their residents.

As such they have internally migrated into the cities, creating shantytowns that compromise the urbanization of the metropolis. They have also externally filled the Bateys of the Dominican Republic, reporting to work in inhuman and degrading conditions. They have also taken the chance to negotiate an illegal and dangerous trip to Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Florida. They are the ones who have been deceived not only by the Duvaliers and Aristide alike but also by the United Nations Missions.

Yet each one of these rural villages could become a haven of peace and prosperity where the villagers with grooming and support could grow nostalgic produce for export to the expatriates in New York, London and Toronto, gradually enriching them. In addition, Haiti, with its thousand sites of mountains after mountains has views for all the aficionados of good living wanting to escape the thaw of winter and the stress of modern life. Haiti is still a raw replica of the hills of Hollywood or Acapulco where the sea and the mountains are always close to each other. Surrounded by the warm incubator of the Haitian ethos and its strong culture, visitors and locals would soon recreate the Pearl of the Islands or a larger model of St Lucia up north of the Caribbean.

As with Bernard Madoff, a minimum of attention and scrutiny on tracing the money along with true caring will go a long way in building a world where lives are not destroyed, dreams are not deferred and the pursuit of happiness is the lot of each citizen of this world.