Haiti still needs a reset

Alas, the Republic of Haiti is again on the edge of a precipice, the consequences of which are anyone’s forecast.

Haiti has no sitting government and no constitutionally recognized leader to depend on in real time. Law and order are nonexistent everywhere.

The 100 or so notorious gangs of Haiti rule the day despite the urgent calls and communicated concerns from provincial organizations like CARICOM, OECS, and other regional authorities anxious for a speedy and protracted resolution.

Amid all the turmoil and uncertainty, many thousands are leaving this enraptured country by any means available, which has given rise to another dilemma — illegal migration. And Haiti’s closest neighbor, The Bahamas, is ground zero, even more than the US mainland.

As a result, a current crisis is looming in The Bahamas due to an unprecedented upsurge in illegal Haitian migration, which (more and more) is of grave concern to many Bahamian citizens and lawful residents.

Clearly, and as much as the concern is more on humanly solving the migration catastrophe, there is a political pragmatism that is regarded as something other than the most urgent worry: law and order.

Sadly, Haiti, which got its independence from France in 1804, is broken and needs to be fixed if this 219-year-old country is to have any chance in hell for stability and a promising future for its citizens.

Haiti needs a reset in a way that only the United Nations, with its vast experiences in resolving country and people dilemmas of this sort, can render.

Thirteen years ago (November 20, 2010), I wrote a commentary published by Caribbean News Now titled: “Should Haiti Become A UN Protectorate?”

The article was penned against two significant happenings in Haiti at the time: Firstly, and six months earlier (January 12, 2010), Haiti had just experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killing more than 250,000 and leaving 1.5 million of its people homeless.

And secondly, Haitians were in full gear during a much-anticipated national election to elect a new president that year. And with an all-out humanitarian effort to help Haiti after the earthquake, all eyes in the Western Hemisphere were undoubtedly on this ravaged country and the promises of what new leadership might mean for Haiti.

Either way, despite the outcome of the national elections that year, the new president (many felt) would have quite a challenge ahead, bringing this ravaged nation into the 21st century.

Thus, my 2010 Caribbean News Now commentary follows:

Should Haiti become a UN protectorate?

Caribbean News Now (November 22, 2010)

With presidential elections to be held in Haiti on November 28, if there was ever a time to revisit the concept of Haiti becoming a UN protectorate state is now. And why not? There is no other nation in the Western Hemisphere that has endured the adversities and misfortunes as that of the Republic of Haiti and its people. No other country!

Haiti’s problems and the problems of the Haitian people, however, did not start on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at 10:53 p.m., when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, killing more than 250,000 and leaving 1.5 million of its people homeless.

Haiti’s problems started more than a half century ago under a merciless dictatorship, a poorly planned economy, greed, corruption, isolation … and the list goes on and on for this long-neglected nation, which achieved its independence in 1804.

Fast forward all this now to 2010 (as Haiti is finally the focus of the world’s attention) and just one week shy of national elections there to elect a new president. There are undoubtedly more questions than answers by all concerned (Haitians included) about Haiti’s future and (perhaps) more suggestions than ever before as to how the new leaders might proceed to bring this ravaged nation into the 21st century.

The question of a UN protectorate status for Haiti is relatively old news, but one that shows promise for Haiti in the long run. In fact, some in the international community have already called for the creation of a UN protectorate for Haiti to provide this already fragile nation with stability and leadership as they recover and rebuild from the devastation of the last eleven months.

Others, of course, are strongly rejecting this option, viewing it as a threat to Haiti’s autonomy and sovereignty. What autonomy, one might ask? How is the current situation in this island nation benefiting the republic and its people? How long must the Haitian people continue to suffer while we intellectualize their future?

Before the January earthquake, Haiti was still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Given what has happened since (an assault last month by Hurricane Tomas and a deadly cholera outbreak that followed) the people of the Republic of Haiti are worse off now than ever before. The people of Haiti are hurting as never before.

Haiti needs help. Haiti needs guidance. Given the republic’s present dilemma, Haiti needs to be taken care of as a parent would take care of a child until that child is in a position to take care of himself.

CARICOM, France, the United States, and the future president of Haiti need to come together in early 2011 under the auspices of an UN-sponsored conference (now that Haiti is finally the focus of the world’s attention) to review Haiti’s future and the future of its people.

Critical to that review should be to assess the short, medium, and long-term impact on Haiti under UN protectorate status similar to that (perhaps) of the Kosovo model.

To this end, it might be a good idea for the special envoy to Haiti (President Bill Clinton) to invoke the fundamentals of the UN Charter and let this world assembly take serious charge of Haiti’s monstrous predicament.

It is not unusual for the United Nations to play a significant role in matters of this kind.

Although the circumstances vary in each case, take a look at protectorates under direct UN administration since the early 1960s: (1) United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA), 1962-1963; United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), 1992-1993; United Nations Transitional Authority for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), 1996-1998; United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), 1999 – current, and United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), 1999-2002.

This is not the time to talk of Haiti’s autonomy as a sovereign entity. This is the time to talk of Haiti’s survival and the survival of its industrious and hardworking people who deserve, like other people, the opportunity to live and to be recognized and treated as human beings. (November 22, 2010)

Fast forward to 2023. Sadly, I still believe, like many, that the Republic of Haiti, perhaps now more than ever, remains broken and needs to be fixed or reset, perhaps under a UN protectorate model especially devised for Haiti and its peculiar circumstances.

The people of Haiti deserve better. The United Nations is best equipped with assistance from regional organizations like CARICOM and the OECS to aid Haiti and the Haitian people in this respect.

Also, given its accepted and recognized position as the leader of the free world, the United States, with its vast resources, can play a significant role (as it has in the past) in continuing to assist the Republic of Haiti and the Haitian people toward a more progressive country and a more stable political future.

• Winston D. Munnings is a retired Bahamas consul general.

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