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Commentary: An urgent call for the Haitian people to stay put, a little bit!
Published on January 26, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

I was in the Dominican Republic at the Club Med in Punta Cana. A group of French tourists from Brittany told me they would rather be in Haiti where the cultural experience is stronger, the food tastier and the people nicer, if only the Haitian people would stay put a little bit. The police department in Haiti has started to keep meticulous records of crimes, and other incidents, including the permit for and the containment of public demonstrations. During the year 2012, the policemen had to deal with some 360 demonstrations, remember there are only 365 days in a year.

Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
Coming back from the Haiti International Jazz Festival at the idyllic city of Jacmel, my road companion, a young student from Cornell University majoring in the hotel industry told me the major stumbling block for the policy of Haiti Open to Business is the political instability, not insecurity or the lack of infrastructure. Listening to radio, in Haiti and watching the political landscape, it dawns on me that maybe Haiti is experiencing the theory of the cat holding its tail, what come first, jobs leading to political stability, or political stability leading to jobs?

In a year when the indications are pointing towards a difficult year for Haiti: the dry season is forcing the peasants to abandon the countryside for begging in the city; economic meltdown in the rest of the world is closing the vein of donating funds; donor fatigue due to a lingering malaise where both the NGOs and the government are accused of and guilty to self-serving and lack of coordination in services delivery. It would be wise and helpful if the politicians – pro and con -- could declare peace and start creating a common front to deal first with the endemic problem of misery of the majority of the Haitian population.

Decades, if not centuries old, neglect and ill governance put Haiti in a situation where compounded problems in environment degradation, nonexistent infrastructure, lack of education and no sense of common destiny, aka poor citizenship practice, cause incessant emergencies. Flooding, major destruction due to hurricane or earthquake, public health deficit caused by cholera or AIDS is a constant demand upon the government or donor agencies.

It would have been encouraging if the press, the churches, the legislature, the major political parties, the elite civil society could converge their resources to nurture a climate of stability that could lead to a sense of political stability. Usually the governments upon their inauguration benefit from a honeymoon period before they face the bullet of criticism and assault. The present Haitian government did not have such a wedding gift. It could not institute at three instances a working administration, when it did it was pilloried for a minor infraction as a major affront against the constitution.

The government did not help either, as I have defined in a previous essay, “The Dilemma of Michel Martelly.” Its friends have displayed a keen arrogance in their use and abuse of the state privileges. The sirens on their cars are always on the emergency mode, disturbing peace and tranquility. The expectation of the downtrodden has been put on a high scale for meeting at least and at last hospitality at home. The consensus is it has not been met or the remedies have been cosmetic at best, lacking in structural underpinnings.

Haiti at peace with itself, yet akin to a country where war took place, must be reconstructed from the ground up due to the recent earthquake and century’s old ill governance aggravated by delinquent and predatory governments in the last sixty years.

The Haitian people, because of the culture of tolerance taught by the Catholic Church and the voodoo sect, have a surprising resilience to pain and suffering. It is only when demagogic or well minded leaders test their resilience that the lack of education and the lack of the sense of citizenship prevail where we observe the irrational behaviors that tend to frame Haiti as the poster child of insecurity.

Solving the endemic problems of Haiti is on the ticking time of detonation. Twenty-five years ago, I personally alerted the then government that the rate of the degradation of the environment was alarming. Its quick response that we have no time for such a minor subject reflects the extent of today’s disaster.

The constant attempts by the Haitian poor to leave Haiti in a fragile journey for a better climate in The Bahamas, Florida, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic or Dominica is enough of a signal for the Haitian government and the international institutions, including the US maritime authorities, to devise a solution where Haitians peasants could stay home to enjoy a paradise that most visitors or foreigners refuse to leave.

Nine out of the ten million Haiti population live in a condition of extreme poverty and extreme degradation that requires a common front to incrementally reduce the misery of so many people and stop the intergenerational decadence of the Haitian family. The Catholic Church, a strong tenet of the structure of Haiti, has been since its indigenization a timid conduit for the transformation from and to the middle class status.

The Brittany clergy that precedes the Haitian clergy did stop at the doors of the towns and the cities in its mission of civilization. I have personally written to the two Archbishops of the Catholic Church suggesting a commitment and a policy of systematically covering all the rural counties with a priest or a nun for providing a secure environment of education to the young boy and girl of the countryside; I am still awaiting for an answer. Yet the Church, through the voice of its Archbishop in Port au Prince, is adding its voice in pounding the government for real or alleged expense padding of its foreign trips.

The legislature that recently embarrassed the prime minister through a strident noise making, in front of the foreign dignitaries established in the country, at the opening session of the Senate and the Assembly is guilty of not only bringing in an army of security personnel and political fanatics that often irritate the population at the home base, but it sits rarely to conduct a regular course of business leading to the promulgation of necessary laws and edicts to keep the country functioning normally.

The press, so proud of its so called human rights acquisitions since the end of the Duvalier regime, has not made an accurate balance sheet of the progress since the fastidious day of February 7, 1986. In fact, the dehumanization of the Haitian poor has been so deep that he readily accepts to live in conditions so fragile that one could question the sanctity of the homo haitinis.

The political parties refuse to engage into the enormous task of building the common sense of (le vivre ensemble) living together. The cannibalism is the preferred game in town for any party that seems in front, on the back or in the middle. In a recent declaration in Leogane, the epicenter of the January 10, 2010, earthquake, a coalition of several political parties has declared war against the Martelly-Lamothe government.

The elite civil society has erected the barriers of their domain several inches higher, preferring to escape the Haitian scene on weekends to Miami or Santo Domingo, while at home watching the circus at the national coliseum with a morbid interest that reminds one of ancient Rome.

The international organizations in public or in private are aware they have failed Haiti in the conception and the implementation of policies to bring the beleaguered country into the status of the incremental progress of a nation-state.

Yet changing the face of Haiti is not such a colossal task beyond the means of the Haitian people, the Haitian government and of the international institutions. Kita Pita Kita Nago, the experience of one individual (pushing a mountain) with the support of the population, crossing the entire Haitian landscape from the southern corner to the northern with a piece of a mahogany trunk is a strong indication that the entire country is ready to experience le vivre ensemble.

It must start with empowering the nine million of the ten million population in extreme poverty to be ushered into the middle class status through education, nostalgic and organic agriculture, animal husbandry, art craft and citizenship formation.

Pictures of Kita pita Kita nago crossing Haiti. Courtesy Wesly Deguerre

Note: The “Kita Nago” initiative it involves people from all over Haiti carrying a large, half-ton, polished cedar pole, 700 kilometers (over 430 miles) from Les Irois in the southwest of Haiti, all the way to Ouanaminthe in the northwest. The trip takes days and is meant to be a way to foster unity among Haitians, and make people think of how people of the nation can come together and work as one. Wherever the cedar goes there is a carnival atmosphere, with people pitching in, dancing, and helping to carry it several kilometers, as others take over and continue. Once the wood reaches its final destination, it will be placed in a park to serve as a reminder that Haitians should work together.
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