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Commentary: Haiti edges towards chaos on the eve of its independence anniversary of January 1, 2017
Published on December 31, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

Haiti’s transition from one government to another has been a difficult caesarian operation since its very early age. Indeed, after its epic story of January 1, 1804, when it unleashed the Haitian and the global black population from the yoke of slavery, it sank into ignominy by savagely murdering its founding father Jean Jacques Dessalines on October 17, 1806.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at
Henry Christophe, the next general in line to become the ruler of Haiti, was sidestepped by Alexander Petion, who organized the first gerrymandering exercise in the Western Hemisphere to dilute the power of the incoming president. Dejected, Henry Christophe returned to the north of Haiti where he installed his kingdom that instilled the seedlings of nation building for the new country. He promoted education; inspired by Wilberforce of England he made public instruction a requirement for all children under his jurisdiction followed by professional training at the end of the course curriculum. He also enriched the territory under his dominion with an active export business of coffee and cocoa to the United States and to England.

Alexander Petion established his republic in the western and southern part of the country. By contrast, his style of governance that remains until today in Haiti has been one of laissez faire, turning a blind eye to corruption and the dilapidation of the state coffers to the profit of the few against the interests of the many. He impoverished the countryside under his governance, as such in Haiti we have today a land where the institutions are fake and the infrastructure medieval.

Petion remained in power for almost 25 years, followed by another general, Jean Pierre Boyer, who continued for another 25 years the sad policy of ignoring the needs of the population. It has been as such for the ensuing governments until the American occupation in 1915 that nailed the coffin further by favoring the concentration of power in the capital. It did bring, though, rudiments of public health and some road infrastructure, mainly the road linking the capital to the second city, Cap Haitian, towards the north of the country.

The end of the occupation in 1934 did not bring solace to the masses of Haitians. It led to the revolution of 1946 that should be labeled a counter-revolution because it favored the taking over of the reins of power by the black elite over the mulatto one, continuing with the same rigor upon and the same disdain towards the majority of the population.

Haiti’s most admired president, Dumarsais Estimé, might have caused the most harm to Haiti’s rural land. Haitian peasants were gradually enriching themselves with the banana exports to the United States when Estimé decided to channel the contracts to politicians who destroyed in a few months the golden goose, rendering the Haitian masses poorer since.

The false promises of a better life by Duvalier père and fils in 1957, as well as by the ghost of democracy under Jean Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval after the dictatorship of Duvalier in 1991, have made life a nightmare for all classes in Haiti. They left in droves to the United States, Canada and Europe, the middle class first depriving the country of the intellectual elite that could make a difference. The poor ones followed with illegal border crossings to the Dominican Republic and dangerous sea crossings to The Bahamas and Florida.

The lifeline promised by the United Nations under its stabilization program named MINUSTHA did not resuscitate Haiti; au contraire, it brought in cholera with a host of NGOs, with some descending like predatory animals on the remains after the many disasters that hit the country such as the earthquake of January 2010 and the hurricanes that hit harder a fragile land devoid of its trees.

The Martelly regime was seen as an avenger to make good on the fake promises of the previous governments. It has been nothing but status quo after its five years in power.

We are again at the time of transition where the stakes are high for a country that has been always a top prizewinner for whatever nation or group controls the wheels. Will it be five more years of the same where, during the colonial era, France extracted 60 percent of its national budget from Haiti?

The elections have been postponed twice. Once because of irregularities and frauds that were flagrant; the second time it was postponed because of the damage by Hurricane Matthew. The elections finally took place on November 20, 2016. In a preliminary finding, Jovenel Moise, the candidate created by the Martelly government, has been declared the winner. Three of the losing candidates, Jude Celestin, Jean Charles Moise and Maryse Narcisse, have challenged the findings of the electoral council, the CEP, demanding a copious verification of a statistical count of the ballots.

We are at this juncture where all hell can break loose. A hiatus has been declared to celebrate Independence Day and Founders Day that take place on January 1 and January 2. The results will be proclaimed on January 3 and, whatever the outcome, there will be disturbance in the country. There are sufficient supporters on both sides of the aisle to challenge the legitimacy of the winner. Only 20 percent of the electoral pool went to vote.

And again, strong suspicion arose that there was plenty of vote buying and selling by the winner from a populace that receives nothing more from the transition of one government to another. It is ready to sell its vote for a token of $20 per elector on Election Day. There are even rumors of influence buying with the electoral council to have a biased result in favor of a first count win without a second run.

President Jocelerme Privert promised to leave power on February 7, 2017, leaving a caretaker government run by the Prime Minister Enex Jean Charles. Haiti has a tradition of winner take all, with no win-win culture. A political solution, where the so-called winner would work with the alleged loser to form a coalition government where the rudiments of building a good nation would be the leitmotiv, seems the appropriate solution.

Jean Jacques Dessalines, on January 1, 1804, 213 years ago, told the Haitian people assembled like the ones on this coming Sunday, January 1, 2017, in Gonaives: “Haitian men and women, I have spent countless nights without sleep to forge you this nation. Take good care of it; make it a jewel for yourself and for the rest of humanity.”

Will the Haitian people heed to this call of the founder and avoid the forthcoming chaos to create a government of unity? It would for the first time in 200 years reunite the children of the former slaves under the same roof to build a vibrant nation out of the island that was once the pearl of the Antilles during colonial times!

May the Almighty, who inspired and guided the founders in perfecting his creation in making this world better, endow the Haitian people of today with wisdom and magnanimity to transcend themselves and gravitate to this call of unity for a better Haiti and for a better world!
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Mhed Charles:

There it is. Narcolepsy is the name of the game. All the countries of the world go to their Universities to find their leaders. In Haiti, we go to our bars and dance floors. Firmin, Rosalvo Bobo, Edmond Paul and later Mr and Mrs both Doctors Manigat were passed over for what you are witnessing today. It is ashamed for me to declare: We are weaker today than we were yesterday.


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