By Jean H Charles
On June 12, 2014, the Haitian National Police force will celebrate its 19-year anniversary. As such, I thought I should take time to visit with the Haitian police for an update on its strength and its weakness and whether it is mimicking the old Haitian armed forces that left no room for a Haitian police force. It is my opinion, the new Haitian National Police are so busy trying to survive and grow that it leaves no room for the hatching of its brethren, the Haitian armed forces.
In a meeting with the director of the Haitian National Academy, I told the director, Divisionary Commissary, Francene Moreau, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I am a fan of the old Haitian army; I am no friend of the Haitian police. This sentiment is due to the fact that I have grown up under the Haitian army when the feeling of security was a normal way of life in the country. The Haitian armies were national and patriotic, while I, along with a large portion of the population, have found this Haitian police neither patriotic nor national. It is just benefiting for the time being from the much higher disdain of the MINUSTHA by the population.
The Haitian police are consuming much more funding from the state than the old Haitian force, yet the feeling of insecurity is widespread. It is always demanding more toys with fewer results. The old captain of the army was the definite leader of the community, setting a high standard of behavior that called for self-discipline from the population. This high standard of behavior was also extended into the rural world through the strong leadership of the rural police auxiliary force.
The new Police Commissary in the town is a ghost individual unknown to the population. The new recruits are there for a nine to five job, with no attachment to or interest in a vague mission of the police force.
I was pleased and impressed to receive a magisterial rebuke from the director of the National Academy. Haiti, like the United States, was built on the same foundation of a revolutionary army but has taken a different route than the United States. General Washington at the end of the colonial war submitted his shield to the civilians that swore him as the first president of the United States.
While Haiti with Jean Jacques Dessalines or rather his successors, as Cromwell of Britain, told the population we have the arms and the means, the Haitian Revolution was for us not for you. The Creole society became the new colonists that inherited the colonial patrimony. The generals of the revolutionary wars replaced the colonists with a culture that the elite, mulattoes, and their black sons and daughters are different from the rest of the society. (Strangely, the same trend has been repeated in Africa, centuries later, when decolonization happened there.)
The Haitian army, before and after the American occupation, was an army at war with the population that kept the Bossales at bay against the Creoles. The Haitian army was not even on a par with its colleagues in Latin America. For a long time it did not participate in the international conventions that provided respect for human rights and submission to the civilian authority as a policy. Brazil, Argentina and Chile went through that process.
The Haitian army that took the driving wheel of the transition from a dictatorship to a democracy in 1986 did not respect democratic values. It violently repressed the ballot box and the voting process. Its lifeline was in danger of being cut off, which finally happened under the presidency of Jean Bertrand Aristide, who suffered a coup fomented by the Army. It was then disbanded and the National Police took birth on June 12 1995.
According to the Canadian Immigration Board, whose government is the main incubator of the Haitian force and its academy, the Haitian police has now a contingent of 10,000 officers, with only 8% female and 80% deployed either in the capital Port au Prince or the West Department. The majority of the rural counties (565) or rather all of them have no police presence. Its aim is to reach the level of 15,000 officers for a population of 10 million inhabitants.
It has been my observation, as well as the confirmed report of the International Crisis group that the Haitian police force has a “serious supervisory handicap because of a lack of managerial staff and personnel.”
To face the problem, the Haitian police academy under the direction of Commissioner Moreau will graduate its second class of trained officers with the education and the training equivalent to a major of the armed forces. They are the leading stars of the new Haitian police force dedicated to create a true culture of service and protection.
I am a favored student of Ernest Renan; as such I believe there can be no nation without its own armed forces that instill the love and the admiration of the founding fathers. It must be an army that promotes the common vision of the future, which represents the cement to solidify the legs of the patrimony. It is my observation that this present police force is guilty of the arrogance of the old Haitian army that did not let the police force take birth.
To confirm my observation, I visit the panoply of some of nine books written by the former strong man of the disbanded Haitian army, General Prosper Avril. I could distill the following conclusion in his writing.
The left has infiltrated the Haitian army in its rank and file, facilitating as such its explosion. It has also infiltrated the national press (with the exception of Radio Metropole) that labeled suspect anyone or any opinion that is not rooted in the leftist ideology.
The result is clear for all to see, the parity of the gourde to the dollar that was five to one in 1990 is now 45 gourdes to one US dollar now. The strict surveillance of the borders that was done even by mules by the Haitian army is now a free for all for drug dealers, contraband and even malevolence by the Dominican Republic army. The Haitian armed forces would not support the building of a gang culture that endured for 20 years in one of the largest slums in the Caribbean, Cité Soleil.
The beginning the Haitian army was the desire of the Haitian people to live free and independent from slavery. Through the years, the army may have been guilty of its hegemonic nature because the Haitian government trusted most of the tasks of nation building to the Haitian army, tasks such as national security, national air transport, communication, and control of the borders and maritime navigation. The army might have become arrogant but it was effective. The sentiment of security in rural as well as in urban areas was pervasive.
In spite of the fact that the Haitian ethos does not condone criminality and violent behavior, the world community has consistently labeled Haiti for the past 20 years since the demise of the army a failed state not worthy of global investment. In addition, the destruction of the Haitian army has contributed to the loss of the Haitian soul and the erosion of the national conscience, a sentiment that has not been build up by the Haitian national police force.
The Haitian Constitution of 1987 a product of the Haitian Army (National Council of Government) is clear and neat on the obligation of building two forces with different but concurrent missions.
The Armed Forces and the Police Force
The "Public Forces "la Force Publique) are composed of two (2) distinct bodies:
a. The Armed Forces of Haiti, and
b. The Police Forces.
No other armed corps may exist in the national territory.
All members of the police and armed forces shall take an oath of allegiance and respect for the Constitution and the flag at the time of their enlistment.
The present police force along with the international community is inimical or at least has taken no steps to support the rebuilding of the armed forces.
Haiti at this crossroads needs both the National Police Force as well as the National Army. The latter will boost the national feeling of security, will hasten the departure of the MINUSTHA, the despised international force and it will help the police force achieve its mission faster.
The building of a true national police force as well as a national army will need all the support of the Haitian government. Some of the teachers at the National Academy have not been paid since January. I had to give the return bus fare to a cleaning lady at the Academy. In spite of her resilience and her being at work every day, she has not been paid either since January.
Haiti needs only to revert to the international system of ROTC, enrolling the students in rhetoric and philosophy, the two terminal classes of formal academic course of study into a military formation to build up its army.
Will the high echelon in the Haitian police force become mature enough to breed the inclusion of its twin brethren, the Haitian army, as prescribed by the Constitution and as the state interest requested to construct a Haiti that will leave the crawling from a failed nation to an emerging one?
It is my hope as it cuts its anniversary cake on June 12, 2014, on its 19th anniversary!
Related article: The structural underpinning of the Haitian ethos