The 1987 Haitian Constitution outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the Government and citizens and serves as a social contract between them. It establishes the framework for a democratic system of Government, with clearly defined branches of power and protection for individual rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. The Constitution also sets out the duties of the Government to provide essential services, such as education and health care, to its citizens. This social contract between the Government and citizens is meant to ensure that the Government is accountable to the people it serves and that the people have a voice in how they are governed.
Certainly, the 1987 Haitian Constitution outlines the basic principles of democracy and serves as a cornerstone of the country’s political system. The Constitution establishes the Government as a democratic republic and divides power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. This system of checks and balances is meant to prevent any one branch of Government from becoming too powerful and ensure that all components of Government are accountable to the people.
The Constitution also sets out the rights and freedoms of citizens, including freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution to protect citizens from government abuse of power and to ensure that the Government is held accountable to the people.
In addition to these rights, the 1987 Haitian Constitution also outlines the responsibilities of the Government to provide essential services to its citizens. For example, the Government is responsible for providing education and healthcare and maintaining a safe and healthy environment. These responsibilities are crucial in establishing a social contract between the Government and citizens, as they represent the Government’s commitment to serving the needs of the people.
Overall, the 1987 Haitian Constitution plays a crucial role in establishing a social contract between the Government and citizens by setting out the rights and responsibilities of both parties. By doing so, the Constitution creates a framework for a democratic system of Government that is accountable to the people and protects the rights and freedoms of citizens. It’s important to note that the 1987 Haitian Constitution is not just a symbolic document but has real-world implications for the country and its citizens. The Constitution serves as a blueprint for the governance of Haiti and is the basis for all laws and policies in the country. The Constitution also provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between the Government and citizens, such as through the judicial branch. This allows citizens to hold the Government accountable for its actions and ensures that the Government operates within the bounds set by the Constitution.
However, despite the provisions of the 1987 Haitian Constitution, the country has faced challenges in realizing its democratic potential. For example, Haiti has a long history of political instability, including coups and periods of military rule. This has made it difficult for the country to adhere to the principles outlined in its Constitution consistently and has resulted in a lack of trust between the Government and citizens.
Despite these challenges, the 1987 Haitian Constitution remains an important document that is a foundation for the country’s political system. By setting out the rights and responsibilities of both the Government and citizens, the Constitution provides a framework for a democratic and accountable government that serves the needs of the people. For Haiti to realize its full democratic potential, the Government and citizens must adhere to the principles outlined in the Constitution and work together to build a more just and equitable society.
HAITI: PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY
On September 19, 1994, a 21,000-person strong U.S. military force invaded Haiti under cover of “Operation Uphold Democracy.” It was the concluding act of a three-year worldwide campaign to overthrow the de facto regime installed on September 29, 1991, following a military coup. Instead of failing, it was successful. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president-in-exile, returned to the National Palace on October 15, 1994, after the leaders of the régime had fled the nation. Almost quickly, American troops started to leave the area.
The President’s return could not solve Haiti’s issues overnight, and he faced the demanding responsibilities of restoring democracy and rebuilding the nation’s economy. A country already the poorest in the area had become even poorer during the last three years of military rule. The fragile civil society that helped pave the path for democratic elections in December 1990 had been largely decimated. The following are the challenges, as stated in a document by the U.S. Army War College and the Strategic Studies Institute:
How can one “repair” a lack of wealth? How can one instill in Haitian troops raised in a violent, corrupt, and authoritarian culture the values of human rights, democracy, tolerance, and the rule of law? The problem is more about beginning again than “rebuilding” or “restoring.”
Recent events in Haiti illustrate this concept. Except for the nine months that followed President Aristide’s inauguration, the country hasn’t experienced much economic advancement, democratization, or the rule of law since François Duvalier took office in October 1957. The methodical eradication of all social and political opposition and the development of repressive machinery to uphold power defined the “Duvalier era,” which was headed by François (Papa Doc) Duvalier and later his son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc). This apparatus was centered on the Volontaires de Sécurité Nationale, a new militia.
(Tontons Macoutes) was a group of armed Duvalier-supporting peasants. Because of their adamant anti-communist attitude, which was seen as helpful in halting the spread of communism throughout the Caribbean after the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Duvaliers were accepted internationally. A popular rebellion that began in 1985 and concluded in Jean-Claude Duvalier’s flight from the country in February 1986 on a U.S. Air Force jet marked the end of the period.
Armed sabotage of attempts to impose democracy and ongoing repression have defined the post-Duvalier era. The military, whose influence had been restrained by the Tontons Macoutes under the Duvaliers, now holds the balance of power. The army strengthened national control over the nation when the popular uprising overthrew the Tontons Macoutes system. But when it served their needs, the army command had no problem using the Tontons Macoutes. Elections were attempted but failed because Tontons Macoutes were permitted to attack voters with the help of the army in November 1987. On one occasion, armed men opened fire on a line of 1,100 waiting voters, leaving 14 people dead. Robert White, a former American ambassador to El Salvador and election observer, stated: “The army utterly abandoned its job. It left the streets over to the Macoutes.”
A second election attempt was successful in December 1990, with Father Aristide receiving more than 67% of the vote. But with only seven and a half months in office, he could only start the democratization and demilitarization process that the 1987 constitution had called for before being overthrown in the September 1991 coup d’état, which caused the work to be undone.
- THE FAILURE OF THE RULE OF LAW AND OPPRESSION
The 1987 Constitution of Haiti, primarily due to the post-Duvalier euphoria, includes the standard protections for human rights in the current state. In addition, Article 276.2 stipulates that any foreign treaties approved by the United States must respect the rights to life, freedom of expression, association, and assembly Haitian law incorporates the laws of Haiti.
For instance, Jean-Claude Duvalier accepted the American Convention on Human Rights in 1977, and it is now incorporated into Haitian legislation. The Code of Criminal Procedure, which was first adopted in 1835 and still serves as the theoretical foundation for Haiti’s criminal justice system today, is based on the Napoleonic Code, which is the legal code that governs the country’s courts. But this justice system needs to work more effectively.
Philippe Texier, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Haiti, came to the following conclusions: The traditional justice system failed to fulfill its function. The judicial authorities’ independence needs to be better protected, and their power is severely constrained. They have failed to solve any of the countless crimes perpetrated over the previous few years. Dr. Bruni Celli, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Haiti, made a similar point in his 1994 report to the U.N. General Assembly. The numerous additional reasons for this failure, such as the inadequate education and training of judges and the low pay that promote corruption, disguise the practically absolute lack of independence of the court and the police from the Haitian military forces. Only the two largest cities, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitian, have a theoretically distinct police force. In these police units, both the commanders and the agents are military personnel. The nation lacks a police academy.
The Haitian army rules assign the duty of upholding law and order to the section head, the lowest level of the army hierarchy, in rural regions split into 515 communal parts. They understand the army’s influence over Haitian society since the Duvalier’s depend on these section leaders. A section head can decide a resident’s life or death. Hence, they are also essential to studying human rights abuses in that section. He frequently acts as the de facto executive, legislature, and judiciary for the territories under his control. Instead of referring matters to the courts, section heads initiate arrests, hold detainees, hold trials, and arbitrate disagreements.
The chief usually hired several attachés to recuperate the initial expenditure because Bribery was frequently employed. To find employment. The attachés paid the section chief in exchange for the opportunity to work for him and then benefit from the position of power it provided.
Extortion networks, accepting money in exchange for the release of prisoners, and imposing arbitrary penalties all became accepted methods of income generation for the attachés and the section chief.
President Aristide was able to appoint the end of the section chief system during his limited time in office. It would be replaced by a rural police force governed by the Ministry of Justice. However, he was deposed before Parliament passed the statute establishing the new system. The de facto Government had reinstated the section chiefs by November 1991. The section chiefs then gradually expanded their role. The attachés were frequently involved in the killings, disappearances, rapes, and other human rights violations that characterized Haiti after the coup.
After the coup d’état, tens of thousands of attachés, frequently ex-Tontons Macoutes, reportedly joined the 7,000 members of the armed forces. When the Constitution suspended three years ago, the army and the Macoutes effectively merged to create a single apparatus of repression. Previously, the military and the Macoutes were pitted against one another to maintain the dictator’s control. They were effectively brought together by their opposition to President Aristide. In the final year of the de facto Government, a political branch of repression emerged. The U.S. position’s ambivalence before the military participation in September 1994 appears to have played a significant role in this, at least in part. Despite the U.S. government’s broad commitment to maintaining democracy in the region, President Aristide was not a friend of the Bush administration. Most notably, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency were highly critical of President Aristide (CIA).
The United States educated the leaders of the coup d’état in addition to aiding in the establishment of the FRAPH. The fact that Emmanuel Constant, a general’s son, created The Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (Front pour advancement et le Progrès d’Haiti, FRAPH), a self-described autonomous political movement. Three people allegedly commit the 1987 election massacre: François Duvalier, Tonton Macoute, and Jodel Chamblain.
Additionally, “FRAPH publicly promotes François Duvalier, including public marches, violent thuggery, and assassinations; the army tolerates and even encourages its actions,” according to the report. However, the political opposition, particularly those who backed President Aristide, was not permitted, giving FRAPH an uncontested platform in urban and rural regions. Small parties that supported the de facto Government were crushed. Many people joined FRAPH as a paramilitary defense because it is present in every public area nationwide. Although it was obvious that the situation for human rights had deteriorated since the coup, the Aristide administration’s record on the issue was the focus of U.S. criticism at the time.
The post-coup d’état human rights issue was tricky for the American administration to comprehend. The embassy has been charged for distorting evaluations of the situation provided by ICM members. In the end, the CIA, supported by some Republican senators, attacked President Aristide. Even though These assertions were debunked, he was purportedly given a mental disorder diagnosis and sent to a Canadian psychiatric hospital in 1980. The majority of the members are former attachés and Tontons Macoutes.
- The Impact on Human Rights
There are no precise numbers available for the number of people who experienced severe human rights violations during the military régime. The UN/OAS International Civilian Mission’s (ICM) departure in October 1993 ended a time when There had been authoritative national assessments of the state of human rights. Despite being granted permission to return in January 1994, the Mission could only do so partially. Only the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region could get a good picture of the situation using a smaller workforce. The Mission was expelled by Haitian military authorities in July 1994, leaving another gap in the documentation of infractions. The persecution made it difficult for Haitian human rights organizations to do their work.
However, certain inferences about the timing and scope of the post-coup human rights crises can be made. Hundreds of people died in the immediate aftermath, and the massacres continued into 1992.
Before the ICM’s arrival in April 1993, Haitian human rights organizations believed 3,000 people had died. Ian Martin, the Mission’s director for human rights, said that “this is not an exaggeration.” several of the supporters of Father Aristide’s loosely coordinated Lavalas organization were the focus of the persecution (meaning “flood” in Creole). After the Mission was deployed, there was initially a decrease in the severity of the violations. Still, as it became clear that there was not enough international support to overthrow the military Government, the breaches grew more egregious, and their political nature became more evident. An attaché attacked Evans Paul’s supporters at his installation as mayor of Port-au-Prince, and the army publicly executed a businessman. The FRAPH and increased arming of attachés outside of Port-au-Prince, a supporter of President Aristide named Antoine Izméry, respectively.
The ICM was evacuated the day after Guy Malary, President Aristide’s Minister of Justice, was fatally murdered in his automobile. There was a concern for the Mission’s security. The most frequent human rights violations during this time included torture, arbitrary arrests, and unlawful detentions. More than 300 instances of arbitrary detention were documented by the ICM between June and August 1993 alone. Numerous of these violations were connected to victims’ attempts to exercise their right to free expressions, such as handing out pamphlets, hanging up posters, or planning and participating in pro- Aristide demonstrations. Those detained frequently endured more effective forms of torture than regular beatings.
When the ICM revisited Haiti in January 1994, they saw that the situation had gotten worse since they had last been there in 1993. 296 killings were recorded to the ICM between January 31 and May 31, with 254 occurring in Port-au-Prince alone. 91 forced disappearance incidents and 66 rapes were reported. This would seem to imply a significant escalation in the scope of the repression, especially given the comparatively insignificant presence of international monitors during this time.
- The Effects on Civil Society
The vibrant and diverse civil society that had developed in Haiti after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s escape in 1986 was one of the main targets of the military-led repression.
Political parties were among Haiti’s least established facets of civil society, in contrast to many other nations escaping totalitarian rule. Instead, outside the constrained spheres of electoral politics, Haitian civil society’s strength relied on its breadth and diversity.
One of the many ironies of recent Haitian history is that the Tontons Macoutes monopoly was broken by the army in the middle of the 1980s thanks to this network of farming cooperatives, grassroots churches, community organizations, trade unions, and student and women’s groups. Six soldiers suffered injuries, and three soldiers lost their lives during it. This made the Government’s commitment stronger. The Ministry of Justice gave power to the army, which joined the temporary police force. The majority of the military was subsequently effectively dismissed by the panel established to assess the future of the Haitian military. President Aristide disbanded Haiti’s armed forces in a series of remarks. Officers in the officer corps at a significant level or higher. Major Toussaint was the highest-ranked military official in Haiti as of February 20, 1995.
The army was swiftly dismantled, leaving a security gap that made creating a police force more difficult. At a brand-new police academy, the retraining of members of the Haitian security forces got underway on October 24. They spent a week getting classes from foreign instructors before going out on the streets to patrol with foreign police monitors. This resulted in the establishment of a temporary police force of 3,000 individuals, which was later increased by over 900 recruits from the Guantanamo naval base’s refugee camps, who international police monitor also educated. The long-term objective is to replace the current police force with recruits who will receive more rigorous training.
The temporary police force has run across several problems. First, due to the difficulties in carrying out exhaustive background checks, many security forces members suspected of abusing human rights were accepted into the service. This issue was made worse by the widespread integration of the remaining soldiers from Haiti into the force. The public’s trust in the new police has remained relatively high due to these individuals’ street patrols. In addition, after the U.S. handed over control to the U.N. international mission, the interim force took over responsibility for the paramilitaries’ disarming.
It is “impossible to imagine the interim police will be able to successfully take on their old associates… who remain armed and dangerous” because former attachés are still on the force. Another problem is that the International Criminal Investigation, Training and Assistance Programme (ICITAP), a U.S. government agency operated by the Justice and State Departments and founded by the FBI, supplied the training. The Haitian Government has fought the United States monopoly on police training ever since President Aristide requested Swiss police to train a new palace guard in 1991. On October 31, over 100 prisoners broke out of the jail in Port-au-Prince, exposing the inadequacies of the temporary police force. It is believed that the convicts’ escape was made possible in part by the correctional officers.
- The Repercussions for Haitian Asylum Seekers
In 1972, the first Haitian immigrants arrived by boat in Miami. The régime first supported the migration covertly, and the Macoutes and sector head benefited by taking bribes to let individuals leave. When the Government was forced to negotiate an agreement with the U.S. administration authorizing the U.S. to stop new immigration arrivals, the departure was discontinued in 1981. This resulted from the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act, which established a difference between political refugees and economic migrants. As economic migrants, the Haitian boat people were deemed ineligible for asylum. While a thorough analysis of this choice is outside the purview of this paper, there are a few things to consider.
First, this dangerous type of emigration had much more to do with political persecution than economic deprivation, as seen by the significant decline in the number of boat people during President Aristide’s administration, followed by a massive spike again following the coup d’état. Second, the extortion, corruption, and Bribery that reached even the tiniest village in the nation were part of the system of repression and a factor in the country’s economic hardship. In such circumstances, it would seem that the distinction between political refugees and economic migrants loses much of its significance.
The U.S.-Haitian interdiction agreement authorized the U.S. Coast Guard to halt and board ships on the high seas to determine if its passengers were illegal aliens heading to the United States and, if so, to deport them to Haiti.
Between 1981 and 1991, 22,716 Haitians were imprisoned in this way and sent home.
The system was challenged in court after the coup d’état in 1991, and the United States’ Guantanamo Naval Base began evaluating the status of refugees. Those who didn’t fit the criteria for U.S. asylum were forcibly removed. The continued detention of immigrants with HIV who had satisfied the requirements for asylum at the Guantanamo camp alarmed human rights organizations. The situation for people seeking asylum in Haiti quickly deteriorated when President Bush issued the Kennebunkport Order in May 1992, which required that all Haitian boats are captured. Their passengers are transported back to Haiti without being checked for asylum seekers.
The only alternative open to Haitian asylum seekers ultimately ended up being the U.S. in-country processing program (ICP) in Port-au-Prince. ICP program applicants were in danger while doing so, and they commonly experienced repression if their applications were rejected:
Some of the victims of political killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture whose cases have been investigated and recorded by the ICM are among those who’s in-country applications had previously been rejected. The probability that asylum seekers who have left Haiti by boat and been returned may face persecution has increased due to the illegitimate President Jonaissant’s assurance that anyone fleeing the country illegally will be punished under a Duvalier mandate from 1980.
According to the 1951 U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees, No Contracting State Shall Expel or Refouler a Refugee in Any Manner to The Frontiers of Territories Where His Life or Freedom Shall Be Threatened. The American non-governmental sector opposed this move with a lot of clamors. Fifty-three thousand seven hundred thirty-five refugees were detained and sent back to Haiti two years following the coup d’état. In comparison, as a result of the Kennebunkport Order, sure passengers on almost every boat the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted were detained as they were returning to Haiti and transferred to the headquarters of the Immigration and Identification Police. Haitian police questioned every returnee on the dock. After February 1994, Haitian authorities made it impossible for U.S. and ICM representatives to visit jailed returnees and assess their situation.
- Internal Migration’s Effects
The boat people and in-country processing applicants were just the beginning. The Haitian Association of Voluntary Agencies estimates that 300,000 people out of a total population of 7.5 million were forced into hiding due to the coup. The phrase “internal displacement” (also known as “marriage”) derives from the term “marrons,” which describes escaped slaves who deserted the farms in the 18th Century and sought safety and community in the hills. Marronage was a response to the fear of repression following the coup. It is a complex phenomenon, and many people in Port-au-Prince spend each night in a different home as they flee oppression in one rural area and move in with family in another. There was a shift in population from rural to urban and urban to rural areas. For fear of being detected by the local section chiefs, FRAPH members, or attachés, those in marriage were also used to moving around constantly and avoided remaining in one place for a lengthy time.
People imprisoned by the military and freed on the condition that they leave the region made up many of those in hiding, along with activists and members of social groups. The problem of marriage was made worse by the introduction of FRAPH. Increased FRAPH network coverage allowed for new types of operations, such as assaults on the relatives of those killed in accidents and solitary waves of repression that resulted in substantial additional displacement. Examples of the latter are Le Borgne, a rural district in the Northern Province, and Raboteau, a slum in the Gonaves municipality. Marronage has played a significant role in the decline of civil society since it has dispersed organization members around the nation, leaving them in locations where they are utterly unable to carry out any activity.
- MOVING PARTICIPANTS IN PRESIDENT ARISTIDE’S RETURN
While the Organization of American States (OAS) immediately denounced the coup d’état in Haiti and imposed an economic boycott, it is essential to contrast it with the response to the coup d’état in Guatemala in May 1993. Within a week, constitutional rule was reinstated in that situation, partly due to diplomatic intervention by the OAS and intense pressure from the U.S. Government.
In the instance of Haiti, it took three years until international intervention led to the reinstatement of the President who the people had chosen. In both cases, strong nationalist Although military and commercial forces had supported the coups d’états, in Guatemala, the coup d’état leaders showed signs of being vulnerable to what at first glance appeared to be the same amount of international pressure.
The ambiguous U.S. posture before the military action in September 1994 appears to have contributed significantly to this, at least in part. Despite the Bush administration’s broad commitment to preserving democracy in the region, President Aristide was not a friend of the White House. Most notably, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency both gave President Aristide scathing criticism (CIA). The United States not only assisted in the formation of the FRAPH but also educated the leaders of the coup.  The Aristide administration’s human rights record was the focus of U.S. criticism at the time, even though the situation worsened following the coup. The American Government also found it difficult to admit the gravity of the post-coup d’état human rights crisis. The embassy has been accused of inflating assessments of the situation given by ICM members. Ultimately, President Aristide came under fire from the CIA, backed by some Republican senators. He was accused of having a mental illness and spending time in a Canadian psychiatric facility in 1980, but these accusations were later refuted.
Additionally, the embargo had gaps in it, particularly across the land border with the Dominican Republic, which might have been a sign of hesitation on the part of the U.S. government. Six separate versions of the embargo were in place between the day of the coup and May 22, 1994, when the U.N. Security Council strengthened it with Resolution 917. However, it might be shown that:
Even after the so-called “strong sanctions” of October 1993, which included gasoline and firearms, trade between the United States and Haiti was booming. Even more so, the U.S. has grown in exports. During the same period in 1994, they made $31 million as opposed to $26 million in 1992.
The embargo had little impact on the Haitian military, which controlled the black market and benefited from the high costs of items like gasoline. The Haitian poor, who were also affected by the coup d’état, bore the brunt of the embargo’s effects.
The domestic concern about the refugee problem and the effects of the presidential elections, which resulted in a change in the administration, can be linked to the earliest indications of a shift in the U.S. Government’s posture. Haitian refugees and the Kennebunkport order turned into a political issue when Bill Clinton, then a presidential candidate, pledged to change the Government’s policy on refugees to secure the support of the black community, members of humanitarian organizations, and churches. The post-coup d’état human rights crisis was similarly complex for the American administration to comprehend, and the embassy has been charged with distorting ICM members’ opinions of the situation. As a result, the CIA, which had the support of several Republican senators, began to criticize President Aristide. In 1980, he was purportedly given a mental disorder diagnosis and sent to a Canadian psychiatric hospital. These claims, however, were later denied. Former Tontons Macoutes and attachés make up the majority of the membership.
The Governor’s Island Agreement (January To October 1993) The International Civilian Mission in Haiti was established in February 1993 due to a series of diplomatic efforts by the OAS and the U.N. The Mission’s goal was to “assist in ensuring respect for human rights, thereby establishing an environment conducive to the achievement of a political settlement for the restoration of democratic constitutional governance in Haiti.”  This was a significant step forward, and political negotiations that followed resulted in the signature of the Governor’s Island Agreement by President Aristide and Commander-in-Chief of the army, Raoul Cédras, in New York. The accord laid forth a plan that would ultimately result in President Aristide’s return to Haiti on October 30, 1993. An amnesty was announced, the embargo was suspended, General Cédras was to retire, and a law establishing a new police force was passed to separate the military forces and the police. These items were all on the agenda for President Aristide to pick a new prime minister.
General Cédras signed the pact and returned to Haiti to the excitement of his supporters, hardly the appropriate reaction to a deal that would have overthrown the de facto regime. A paper from the American Army War College highlights the challenges:
The July 1993 Governor’s Island Agreement to restore Aristide was inherently unworkable. By providing for the lifting of sanctions before Aristide returned and at a time when General Cédras, Colonel François, and their allies still occupied critical positions of power, the accord enabled the latter to obtain short-term relief while they restocked supplies and protected foreign financial holdings. Nor was there any provision for purging the Haitian military and police of corrupt or abusive elements … the signals that were sent were interpreted to mean that the international community was not severe and that the accord could be sabotaged with minimum risk or cost.
On October 11, 1993, four days before General Cédras resigned, the USS Harlan County carrying 193 U.S. and 25 Canadian troops arrived at Port-au-Prince harbor. The troops were an advance force for a U.N. military and police mission intended to train the Haitian police and army, as agreed on Governor’s Island. As the ship approached the docks, it was met by a chanting crowd of about a hundred supporters of FRAPH. Some small boats blocked the port, and the car of the U.S. chargé d’affaires was surrounded and hit by the chanting crowd. The diplomats fled, and the following day, the ship was ordered by the Pentagon to leave Haitian waters without any consultation with the U.N. A day later, the
U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to reimpose the oil and arms embargo. On October 15, after President Aristide’s Justice Minister, Guy Malary, was shot dead in his car, the International Civilian Mission was evacuated to the Dominican Republic. The international strategy for President Aristide’s return had failed: The Haitian military régime had tested the international community’s resolve and found it wanting.
3.2 From Embargo to Occupation (October 1993 to August 1994)
The failure of the Governor’s Island agreement was followed by a period of recriminations and failed negotiations. Attempts by UN/OAS Special Envoy Dante Caputo to advance the talks were met with hardline responses from the military and rejection by President Aristide.
In the process, President Aristide publicly fell out with his Prime Minister, Robert Malval, and stripped him of his powers. The negotiation strategy remained within the framework of the provisions of Governor’s Island. Mr. Caputo attempted to secure an agreement with President Aristide to form a power-sharing government, including members of the opposition and, possibly, members of FRAPH. The so-called “Parliamentarians’ plan,” made public in February 1994, was rejected by President Aristide and finally had to be abandoned in April. Among the problems with the plan was that it still needed to set a date for the return of the President. The turning point in the resolution to the crisis came after the U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti, Lawrence Pezzullo, resigned on April 26, 1994. His replacement, William Gray III, was a former Congressman and President of the United Negro College Fund. The administration reiterated its resolve to unseat the military régime through better enforcement of economic sanctions. On May 6, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 917, which broadened the sanctions imposed on Haiti. This was implemented on May 21, 1994. Most commercial flights were suspended on June 21, and the only exception, Air France, suspended flights on August 1. During this period, the U.S. Government blocked all financial transactions with Haitians living in Haiti.
The change in U.S. policy following the resignation of Mr. Pezzullo was also apparent in
U.S. policy toward asylum seekers. At the end of April, it was announced that two new refugee processing stations would be set up in Haiti to process asylum applications. In early May, a more significant policy change allowed Haitian boat people to present asylum claims aboard U.S. vessels in the Caribbean or the territory of third countries. The shift involved an overt recognition that the Kennebunkport Order was not sustainable, given the level of violence in Haiti. Even though the acceptance rate of refugees was expected to remain at a group of five percent, President Aristide welcomed this policy change. UNHCR, in accepting the new policy, offered to help U.S. officials process Haitian boat people by persuading other Caribbean countries to allow the U.S. boats to come ashore, training U.S. Immigration officials, and providing a team of monitors to the region. The policy shift resulted in an immediate increase in boat people. Between 13 and 18 May, the number of people picked by the U.S. Coastguard approached the total numbers for the year’s first four months.
This dramatic rise provided a further impetus for the U.S. to resolve the crisis in Haiti since it appeared that the return of President Aristide was the only available means to end the refugee crisis and its domestic political implications.
A clear indication to outside observers that, this time, the international community was serious was the reaction of the Haitian military authorities. On May 11, following the strengthening of sanctions, the military named former Supreme Court Judge Emile Jonaissant as provisional President. His administration began to prepare for elections in November for a new president who could have claimed international legitimacy. However, the new régime was immediately condemned as illegitimate by the U.N. Security Council. Following the ban on commercial flights, it seems as though the military attempted once more to test the international community’s resolve. On July 5, the authorities demanded the removal of the International Civilian Mission, which was again evacuated to the Dominican Republic.
The stage was set for confrontation. The Pentagon’s selection of a commander for the invasion and military exercises organized by U.S. marines and paratroopers in the Bahamas and the U.S. were further public demonstrations of resolve. The legal framework for a U.S.-led attack was created on July 31 by U.N. Security Council Resolution 940, which authorized. Member States to form a multinational force under unified command and control and, within that framework, to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure from Haiti of the military leadership… the prompt return of the legitimately elected President and the restoration of the legitimate authority of the Haitian Government, and to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment that will allow the Governor’s Island Agreement to be implemented.
The question was whether the apparent change in U.S. government policy would waver in the face of the need for an invasion. The only option remaining would be to remove the leaders of the coup d’état. Opinion polls in the U.S. showed a majority against a military attack: a growing isolationism in U.S. domestic opinion was bolstered by much talk in the U.S. media about the last time the U.S. military intervened in Haiti, which had resulted in a 15-year occupation from 1919-1934.
In addition, most Latin American countries expressed reservations about such an operation which they regarded as a breach of the principles of self-determination and sovereignty. While supporting resolution 940, France and Canada stated that they would not take part in the military invasion phase of the operation.
3.3 The Carter-Jonassaint Agreement and the Occupation (September to October 1994)
While an invasion did take place, it is essential to note that it was not according to the terms of the U.N. Security Council Resolution but based on a last-minute agreement negotiated between a U.S. delegation led by former U.S. President Carter and the military authorities in Port-au-Prince. The terms of the deal were worked out without consultation with the Security Council, the UN/OAS Special Envoy, or President Aristide. In a televised speech on September 15, President Clinton declared that General Cédras had to leave Haiti and that all diplomacy was exhausted. Two hours later, he contacted former President Carter to ask him to launch a final diplomatic peace mission. The two-day Mission, composed of Mr. Carter, General Colin Powell, and Senator Sam Nunn, was negotiated for two days over the weekend of 17-18 September. Unknown to Mr. Carter, a U.S. invasion was planned for midnight on September 18, and the agreement was achieved as 61 planes carrying paratroopers were flying to Haiti. The aircraft were recalled as the Clinton administration accepted the Carter-Jonaissant agreement. Following the agreement, the military operation was renamed Operation Uphold Democracy (from Operation Restore Democracy), and on September 19, 21,000 U.S. troops arrived in Haiti without a shot being fired.
The Carter-Jonaissant agreement provided for the cooperation of the Haitian military with the U.S. occupation force, the retirement of Haitian military officers, the lifting of economic sanctions, and the allowing of free and fair legislative elections. However, it was a highly controversial document. Its status was in doubt since it was signed by a former U.S. President and an internationally unrecognized Haitian President. It did not refer to the restoration of democracy, legitimate constitutional Government, or the names of military officers due to step down by October 15 under the agreement. More seriously, it provided for a general amnesty to be voted into law by the Haitian Parliament.
While the Governor’s Island agreement provided for a political amnesty under the terms of the Haitian Constitution, a general amnesty would take impunity much further, pardoning military members for the thousands of atrocities committed since the coup d’état.
Initially, while the troops were welcomed in the streets, it was unclear whether there would be a repetition of the previous year’s disaster. President Aristide was due to return to Haiti on October 15, the same day when in the last year, General Cédras had been owed to resign under the terms of Governor’s Island. The troops in Haiti seemed reluctant to intervene in any conflict or act to end any violence.
The turning point came on September 30, A massive march in Port-au-Prince by supporters of President Aristide to commemorate the third anniversary of the coup d’état was attacked by attachés and members of the FRAPH. An estimated five people were killed, and scores were wounded. The most significant part of the U.S. force of troops and tanks was kept away from the demonstration, and those troops present did not intervene. It was clear that a decision had to be made. If the invasion force continued to refuse to intervene, there was little doubt that the FRAPH and the leaders of the coup d’état would have been able to exploit the lack of resolve of the international community as they had the previous year. A change in military strategy became immediately apparent. The day after the massacre, troops moved to arrest members of paramilitary militias.
On October 3, over 100 U.S, troops forcibly entered the offices of the FRAPH in Port-au- Prince and removed all weapons, documents, and people found inside. The building was looted and destroyed after the troops left. A day later, Emmanuel Constant, leader of the FRAPH, announced that the FRAPH would accept President Aristide’s return with order and discipline and called on members of the Group to lay down their arms.
Although the violence did not end, and there were some incidents outside Port-au-Prince, In the two weeks before Aristide’s return, the occupying force had proven its resolve in areas with minimal American presence, and the Carter-Jonassaint agreement’s stipulations had been implemented. Colonel François, the head of the police, fled to the Dominican Republic on October 4.
The Haitian Senate passed the amnesty for military officials on October 6. General Cédras resigned on October 10, and President Jonassaint resigned two days later. General Cédras left Haiti on October 13 for Panama, and on October 15, 1994, as planned, President Aristide returned to the White House. After President Aristide’s return, the legislative and executive institutions of a democratic government were quickly established. Despite not being President Aristide’s first choice, the new prime minister, Smarck Michel, appointed a large cabinet that included ministers who supported the coup d’état, as demanded by U.N. negotiators in 1994. This helped maintain stability between the President and the financial elite. Still, it also raised concerns about how it would affect his relationships with the social movements starting to reemerge following the repression.
- PROSPECTS FOR THE RETURNED GOVERNMENT: A SECOND CHANCE?
As President Aristide approaches the end of his first year back in the presidential palace, it is now possible to assess both the impact of the U.S. intervention and the prospects for Haiti’s stability in the future. Long-term stability can be evaluated by looking at the ability of the restored Government and the international forces to create the conditions for democratic institutions to replace the rule of power. However, the work to make this environment has only just begun. While President Aristide is back in the office, the range of political, military, and economic forces which removed him in 1991 is still largely intact. The departure of the leaders of the coup d’état still leaves tens of thousands of armed paramilitaries and many more thousands of FRAPH members who could potentially be mobilized to remove him again. A significant difference this time is that he enjoys the full support of the U.S. Government, although this is likely to be subject to U.S. economic interests. In turn, this is dependent on the encouragement of external investment in the country, likely to invest in the only resource in which the Government is abundant – cheap labor.
- The Continuing Power of the Paramilitaries
While in the first few days after the return of the President, there were a few cases of mob violence against attachés, the message being preached by President Aristide of reconciliation and justice, but no violence soon took root, and these attacks rapidly ceased.
A more long-term problem has been the continuing violence and abuse of power exercised by attachés, members of the FRAPH, and section chiefs. Most of these abuses occurred in the country’s rural areas outside the high-profile capital and the second city, Cap Haitian, where most of the international troops were based. Although the Haitian military outlawed the section chief system on October 30, 1994, the means of enforcement were limited. Global military presence outside the core areas has been restricted to 1,100 members of U.S. Special Forces who have worked mainly with their military counterparts.
In addition, U.S. practice was to detain suspected attachés. Still, in most cases, the prisoners were subsequently handed over to the Haitian police and quickly released since the police were as implicated in the violence as the attachés themselves. By December 2, 1994, of 90 people detained by U.S. troops in September and October, only 20 were still in custody, and, on one occasion, troops had to return to the homes of a released suspect to protect him from an angry mob. The role of U.S. troops in siding with the Haitian military and attachés in conflict situations was criticized in December 1994 by a U.S. delegation led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark.
Two months after the invasion, the situation around the country was highly varied. In some areas, the U.S. troops were welcomed, and the attachés fled into surrounding hills in the belief that otherwise, they would be arrested or killed by the soldiers. Political repression has ceased mainly in these areas. In other areas, the section chiefs remained in power, and there was little change, particularly in remote parts of the Artibonite and the Central Plateau, where the U.S. troops rarely patrolled. Even where the attachés fled, many people fear that they will return after the multinational forces leave. There is considerable skepticism about the retraining of Haitian soldiers organized by U.S. Special Forces. In some areas (Hinche, Les Cayes), attachés have reportedly returned to the towns after initially fleeing the U.S. occupation. On November 3, Colin Granderson, the Director of the International Civilian Mission, noted that the attachés linked to the military junta “have gone to ground, but they are still there.”
Perhaps the most serious of the reported violations was the ambush of Cadet Damzal, the Deputy Mayor of Mirebalais, who had come out of hiding after the U.S. occupation. U.S. Special Forces found his headless body in a river on November 5, 1994.
As troops had been stationed in the town since early October, the killing sent a message all over the country that even U.S. Special Forces could not guarantee security in rural communities to those returning from forced displacement or exile.
The continuing power of the attachés in many areas and the large number of weapons believed to have been hidden away by private individuals was a contentious issue between the U.S. administration and the U.N., who were due to take over the operation under the terms of Security Council Resolution 940. The discovery of a large cache of weapons on October 29, hidden in an underground tunnel in Port-au-Prince, illustrated the problem. Security Council Resolution 940 determined one of the roles of the invasion force as “to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment.” For the U.N., the specter of Somalia, where the withdrawal of U.S. troops had left the U.N. force vulnerable to paramilitary attacks, meant that they wanted the U.S. to adequately disarm the paramilitaries in Haiti before they were prepared to take over the operation. On October 20, unnamed U.N. officials warned that the U.S. forces must thoroughly disarm paramilitaries before the U.N. takeover and declared that disarmament efforts were inadequate. U.S. officials acknowledged the concern though Defense Secretary William Perry rejected a call by President Aristide for the U.S. to disarm opponents of his government, comparing the difficulties to those that would be involved in disarming the state of Maryland.
Political violence in the run-up to local and parliamentary elections has been one effect of the absence of disarmament. Two political leaders were killed in March 1995. On March 3, Mr. Eric Lamothe, a former member of the Chamber of Deputies who planned to compete for the North-East Department in the next elections, was discovered dead in Port-au-Prince. On March 28, an assassin shot and killed Mireille Durocher Bertin, the founder of a new opposition political group and the former chief of staff of Emile Jonassaint, the de facto President. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating this incident (FBI) became involved in the investigation, and one person was arrested in connection with the killing. On May 26, a mayoral candidate was shot and wounded. In addition, there were several incidents of intimidation, arson, and sabotage around the election days.
The failure to disarm the paramilitaries in Haiti can also be seen as a reason for the rise in common crime over the last year. On January 17, 1995, the U.N. Special Rapporteur, Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, noted the population’s concern at the presence of armed bands which have still not turned in their weapons. In the capital, murders are reported daily, and criminal groups are setting up roadblocks to stop vehicles and rob passengers, while in the countryside, there are reports of violence by bands of former attachés:
There is no evidence so far that these criminal acts are politically motivated. However, they are often committed by gangs armed with high-caliber firearms, including automatic weapons, which indicates a probable link to former paramilitary networks. So many weapons seem to have been responsible for the first U.S. casualty of the intervention.
On January 12, U.S. Special Forces were observing the operation of a toll booth in Gonaïves when they were shot at by a car whose driver refused to pay the toll. One soldier died in the incident, which U.S. officials denied had any political motivation. Despite the limited levels of disarmament, the U.N. took over the multinational operation. As part of the new U.N. mission, the International Civilian Mission returned to Haiti as early as October 22, 1994. By December 5, with U.S. forces down to less than 10,000 troops and scheduled to drop to 6,000 by the New Year, U.S. and U.N. officials began to discuss the transfer operation. On March 31, 1995, in a ceremony presided over by President Clinton and the U.N. Secretary-General, the formal handing over of authority took place. The Mission, with its 7,000 peacekeepers, of whom 2,500 are U.S. soldiers, is expected to remain in Haiti until March 1996. Some U.S. military observers anticipate the need for international military presence to stay beyond that date as a security guarantee.
- Weak Institutions in Democracy
Since the change in power, criminal violence has remained an issue. The criminal justice system is in charge of investigating serious crimes; the U.N. does not have that authority. The political institutions in Haiti are in shambles after three years of military dictatorship.
Building a robust criminal justice system was a top priority for the new Government to meet President Aristide’s appeal for “justice yes, violence no” before people took matters into their own hands as they did when François Duvalier’s regime was overthrown. Many others also thought a Truth Commission was necessary to examine the violence during those years. Following the coup, d’état was vital in cleaning up the security forces and fostering an environment of peace.
At first, emphasis was placed on the police department. With the formation of a new civilian police force of around 4,000 members and the reduction of Haiti’s army from 7,500 to 1,500 soldiers, President Aristide promised to separate the police and the military. The Senate authorized the division of the army and police on November 30, and several military commanders were sent to other positions as the first step in the military’s downsizing. Who was predicted to be against it for diplomatic postings abroad? With the demobilization of troops in December, further extreme measures were implemented. This occurred so unexpectedly that it sparked a protest against their termination on December 26. It saw the death of three soldiers and the injury of six others. This appeared to strengthen the Government’s resolve. The army became a part of the interim police force and was handed control by the Ministry of Justice. The commission appointed to evaluate the Haitian military’s future subsequently sacked the majority of the army. President Aristide removed all of Haiti’s armed forces in a series of statements. Major-level or higher officers in the officer corps. As of February 20, 1995, Major Toussaint held the position of highest-ranking military official in Haiti.
The army was swiftly dismantled, leaving a security gap that made creating a police force more difficult. At a brand-new police academy, the retraining of members of the Haitian security forces got underway on October 24. They returned to the streets to patrol with foreign police monitors after taking courses from foreign instructors for a week. This led to the creation of a temporary police force of 3,000 people, which was eventually expanded by over 900 fresh recruits from the refugee camps at the Guantanamo naval facility who international police monitor also trained. The long-term goal is to create new police force out of recruits who will receive more thorough training, replacing the existing one. The interim police force has encountered a variety of issues. First, many security forces members suspected of violating human rights were admitted to the service due to the challenges in conducting thorough background checks.
This issue was made worse by the widespread integration of the remaining soldiers from Haiti into the force. The public’s trust in the new police has remained relatively high due to these individuals’ street patrols.
In addition, after the U.S. handed over control to the U.N. international mission, the interim force took over responsibility for the paramilitaries’ disarming. It is “impossible to imagine the interim police will be able to successfully take on their old associates. who remain armed and dangerous” because former attachés are still on the force.
Another problem is that the International Criminal Investigation, Training and Assistance Programme (ICITAP), a U.S. government agency operated by the Justice and State Departments and founded by the FBI, supplied the training. The Haitian Government has fought the United States monopoly on police training ever since President Aristide requested Swiss police to train a new palace guard in 1991. On October 31, over 100 prisoners broke out of the jail in Port-au-Prince, exposing the inadequacies of the temporary police force. It is believed that the convicts’ escape was made possible in part by the prison guards. Will eventually replace the temporary staff, a new national police school was established at the beginning of February 1995. The first two groups, each with 375 recruits, started their four-month training programs.
The new policy will gradually replace the interim force until a unique national point of 6,000–7,000 personnel is constituted. Although the governments of Haiti and the United States do not intend for more than 9% of the new force to be made up of former soldiers, some temporary staff members will be permitted to apply to join the permanent force. The first 408 cadets graduated on June 4 in front of U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. This brought attention to the U.S. sponsorship and partial staffing of the institution. After the new police officers were deployed in the Northern Department, dozens of temporary police officers left their posts, which government officials blamed on a misunderstanding.
The judiciary is still in a condition of collapse, but the civilian police force is at least in the process of being established.
At the highest level, a new Supreme Court comprised 11 members and a new Chief Justice, Clauzel Debrosse, who opposed the military during the coup d’état years, was appointed on December 2, 1994. The lower echelons of the legal system are where the issues lie. The Minister of Justice Ernst Mallebranche instructed judges nationwide to hold court from 9 am to 2 pm shortly after his appointment. He didn’t know how many judges the nation had, so he wasn’t sure where to send it. The necessity to replace more than 500 discredited judges devoted to the previous military Government is an additional issue. Ironically, the inadequacy of Haiti’s justice is demonstrated by the FRAPH leader Emmanuel Constant’s unwillingness to attend court to face allegations of attempted murder and torture because his security could not be ensured.
In response to growing discontent over the sluggish pace of judicial reform, Ernst Mallebranche resigned from his position as minister of justice on January 24, 1995. However, the continuous inertia hasn’t improved despite the most recent appointment of Jean Joseph Exume. The first prosecution for crimes committed during the coup d’état years began eight months after the President’s return. Lieutenant Jean Emery Piram was found guilty of killing political activist Jean-Claude Museau in December 1992, and he was given a sentence on June 29, 1995. By September 1, just four people had been determined to be guilty. Colin Granderson, the director of the International Civilian Mission, criticized the judiciary on August 16 for frequently disobeying the law and the Constitution by ordering arbitrary arrests and detaining people without accusation or trial despite the restoration of civilian authority in Haiti.
An efficient Truth Commission that would expose those responsible for human rights abuses during the coup d’état and its aftermath could help solve some issues with the police and the judiciary. The identified individuals might then be taken out of the criminal justice system. On December 20, 1994, a decree creating the seven-person commission was approved. It has six months to gather data and produce a report. However, there have been claims that the Government lacks the political will to carry out the probe due to delays in assembling a technical team and getting the funding required to start its work. This is not encouraging for the breadth and rigor of the probe, which is now anticipated to be finished by the year’s end.
- What Hope For the Economy?
Democracy is not only about values and ideas. Nothing has been done to provide clean water, electricity, transportation, health care or education.
The more intractable problem is the state of Haiti’s economy. Even before the coup d’état, Haiti had the lowest per capita income (US$ 360), and life expectancy (48 years), the highest infant mortality (124 per 1,000) and illiteracy (63-90 per cent depending on criteria) in the Western Hemisphere. Overpopulation and the consequent deforestation have devastated Haitian agriculture and huge amounts of topsoil have been swept off deforested hills by rains. The state of the country was vividly demonstrated by the effect of Tropical Storm Gordon on the country.
While in neighboring Cuba, the storm caused a good deal of material damage, in Haiti, over 500 people died from landslides and the destruction of poor housing. Three years of military rule, economic sanctions and the consequent unemployment and internal displacement have ensured further decline of an already weak economy, although the full scale is not yet known.
The reconstruction plan was agreed to before the U.S. invasion in a meeting between President Aristide’s advisors and international donors held on 22 August in the World Bank offices in Paris. Under the plan, Haiti agreed to eliminate the jobs of half of its civil servants, privatize public services, reduce tariffs and import restrictions and massively promote the export economy. In return for implementing what is a structural adjustment program likely to have deleterious social consequences, the government was promised US$ 550 million of aid over the remaining months of President Aristide’s tenure.
The quantity of aid was increased after Aristide’s return with the 20 November announcement by a delegation of international donors of US$ 600 million to be made available for the remaining months of President Aristide’s tenure and a further US$ 400 million promised for the subsequent four years. Half of the money will promote institution-building, humanitarian assistance and balance of payments support.
The other half will go towards around 180 individual projects, including the construction of roads and sewerage systems. The plan, known as the Emergency Economic Recovery Programme, was agreed by donors at a special meeting in Paris in January 1995. The promise of over US$ 1 billion in international aid, while a significant sum, is considered by some as “but a drop in the bucket when compared to the magnitude of the problems faced”. Bureaucratic delays in the disbursement of aid led the UN to make an emergency appeal in December for US$ 77 million to provide urgent aid for the following six months.
Meanwhile, the U.S. administration has announced a package of measures designed to stimulate investment in Haiti. The creation of a Joint Business Development Council, the sending of a presidential Trade Mission and, most importantly, the provision through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation of US$ 400 million in financing and political risk insurance should help to make Haiti a more attractive proposition for U.S. investors.
Unfortunately for the majority of Haitians, the investment is likely to be in the assembly and handicraft sectors which will do little to raise the standard of living of workers and is more likely to enrich the same businessmen who supported the coup d’état in 1991. In response to rising criticism of the government by social movements protesting against the cost of living (lavi chè in Creole), the government raised the official minimum wage to 36 gourdes per day (around US$ 2.40).
However, the level of underemployment is believed to be over 50 per cent and the cost of living has risen over the last three years by between 65 and 85 per cent. It is estimated that 10,000 jobs have been created since President Aristide’s return. However, it is also estimated that over 50,000 were lost after the coup d’état.
- Refugees and Internal Displacement
The flows of refugees from, and sent back to, Haiti have offered a clear indicator of the levels of stability and repression within Haiti. The high hopes following the return of President Aristide initially led to a rapid and voluntary repatriation of Haiti’s refugees.
By 25 November 1994, 15,199 Haitians had been voluntarily repatriated to Haiti from the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo. Most of the internally displaced had also returned to their homes by the end of the year. However, following the completion of voluntary repatriations, there remained over 4,400 refugees at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo. Refugee advocates cited the continuing lack of security within Haiti and consequent fear of persecution as reasons for the asylum claims.
The remaining refugees at Guantanamo were offered a US$ 80 cash incentive and job opportunities in Haiti if they accepted voluntary repatriation before 5 January 1995. However, only 677 accepted the offer and U.S. soldiers were deployed on 6 January in order to forcibly repatriate the remaining refugees. According to the refugees, hundreds were handcuffed during the operation. The speed and the nature of the forced repatriation drew a great deal of criticism, most notably from UNHCR. Rene van Rooyen, the UNHCR Representative in the Washington Office, told members of the U.S. State Department that forced repatriation “significantly violates international and U.S. laws on refugees”.
A small group of unaccompanied children remained at Guantanamo. Small numbers were allowed into the U.S. after they were found to have parents there and 103 were returned to Haiti for the same reason. However, following pressure from refugee advocates, a decision was taken to allow the remaining 183 children to be granted permanent resettlement with foster parents in the U.S. provided that they had no family in Haiti. By 30 June 1995, 165 Haitians remained on the base, and the Haitian population there was declared to be an irreducible minimum.
In the Bahamas, according to the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, the 60,000 Haitian refugees registered by a census in 1993 were never allowed to apply for political refugee status. While 3,000 Haitians had agreed to go home in a voluntary registration exercise in November 1994, many of those registered went into hiding again in the new year. There are reports that they are frustrated at the lack of change in Haiti since the return of President Aristide. Under an agreement between the two governments in January 1995, 800 were expected to be repatriated monthly with a US$ 100 allowance provided by the Bahamian Government.
However, it seems that this has not been enough to convince the Haitians to return. Nevertheless, around 3,000 undocumented Haitian nationals have been returned to Haiti from the Bahamas since the January agreement.
A further reflection of the lack of stability within Haiti, beyond the reluctance of refugees to return, has been the new outflow of refugees. By January 1995, less than three months after President Aristide’s return, there were reports of makeshift boats leaving the island for Florida and of bodies being sighted in Haitian territorial waters. Before long the U.S. Coastguard cutters were once again intercepting Haitian refugees in boats near Florida, and repatriating them to Haiti. The most serious incident occurred on 20 August when Bahamian authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard removed 450 Haitians from an overcrowded freighter. Around 50 to 100 people died during the four-day voyage and survivors said that people starved, suffocated or jumped overboard after going mad in cramped quarters. One victim drowned after jumping from the Bahamian freighter taking the Haitians ashore. The survivors were flown back to Haiti.
While frustration with the lack of changes since the President’s return may be one reason for the new outflow of boat people, another factor has been the failure to provide any programs for returning refugees. Funding appeals for refugee reintegration programs which were made by UNHCR in November 1994 have not yet resulted in any contributions. An August demonstration by former refugees in front of the presidential palace during which police had to be called to ease the tension, reflected this frustration.
The recent elections pointed to the problems that lie ahead for Haitian democracy. Parliamentary and local elections, held on 25 June, could have been a celebration of a democracy restored by international intervention. However, the process was characterized by considerable technical flaws.
International observers reported cases of ballot burning, ballot box stuffing, threats against electoral officials and a rise in political violence. In addition, the electoral campaign was low key, reflecting a lack of interest amongst voters.
The estimated 25-50 per cent turnout for the first round was considerably lower than the over 80 per cent who voted in the 1990 presidential elections.
Irregularities in the process also resulted in a second-round boycott by the leadership of a number of political parties despite attempts by the U.S. Department of State to prevent it. Cabinet ministers linked to parties other than President Aristide’s Organisation Politique Lavalas (OPL – Lavalas Political Organization) have resigned in protest at the handling of the elections. While it is probably fair to say that the result, a landslide victory for the OPL, reflects what a majority of Haitians wanted, it is hard to see the process as effectively legitimizing the return to constitutional rule.
The President has to mediate between the demands of the people for justice and an end to poverty on the one hand and demands for prosperity and fear of retribution of the economic elite who backed the coup d’état on the other. In addition, he theoretically has only three months remaining of his presidential tenure and the search for a successor who can implement the requirements of structural adjustment programmes without losing the backing of the majority of the people is already well under way. Some commentators believe that President Aristide will be encouraged to promote a constitutional amendment which would allow him to stand for president again at the end of the year. His presence in the National Palace may be the only guarantee of stability following the departure of the international peacekeeping force.
It is too early to predict the outcome of the democratization and reconstruction process in Haiti. At this stage, all that can be said is to point to the magnitude of the problems and the efforts being made to resolve them. There does seem to be a fundamental problem, however. The half year of democracy before the 1991 coup d’état was made possible by a thriving civil society that had developed in the aftermath of the Duvalier era. This civil society was largely destroyed by the coup d’état and yet none of the reconstruction plans or the democratic institution-building seem to contribute significantly to rebuilding it. Unlike in his previous government, President Aristide does not have a single popular movement representative in his cabinet. The economic reconstruction plan is targeted largely at governmental and infrastructural projects. It is a rather sad reflection on the impact of the international intervention that the first anniversary of the U.S. intervention was marked by a protest against the presence of foreign troops in Haiti and the government’s privatization plans.
It is civil society which has proved its ability to breathe life into weak democratic institutions and give them force. Ignoring this fact may ultimately play into the hands of the paramilitaries who may not need much encouragement to try and rule the country again.