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The United Nations has failed Haiti once again, renewing its occupation force for another year

On October 14, the United Nations Security Council met to “debate” the extension of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) which has acted as an occupying force in the country since the summer of 2004. The meeting lasted 25 minutes and approved a renewal of the mandate of MINUSTAH for another year.

MINUSTAH replaced the Multinational Interim Force of U.S., French, Canadian and Chilean troops in June of 2004. That earlier force intervened in support of a paramilitary coup d’état which ousted the elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party from power on February 29 of that year.

During the ten years since, MINUSTAH has compiled a horrific record of human rights abuses, including, but not limited to, extrajudicial murder, an epidemic of sexual assault against Haitian men, women and children, the repression of peaceful political protests and unleashing cholera through criminal negligence causing the death of over 9,000 people and infecting nearly a million more. Despite these well documented abuses, the Security Council will mostly likely renew MINUSTAH’s mandate for another year without any thought to damage being done to Haiti. As evidence of how little resistance exists in the United Nations to renewing the mandate, MINUSTAH’s budget was extended on August 21, to June 2015, clearly signalling that the occupation is certain to continue.

When one examines the level of instability in Haiti which is used as the justification for MINUSTAH’s continued presence in the country, the United Nations’ argument of protecting the Haitian people from themselves falls flat. Despite mainstream media portrayal of Haiti as a lawless and dangerous country, it had a homicide rate in 2012 of 10.2 per 100,000 people, ranking it as one of the least violent countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Haiti’s number contrasts to Washington DC, which sat at 13.71 per 100,000 in the same year. Furthermore, contrary to arguments that MINUSTAH is a stabilizing force keeping down the rate of violence, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that between 2007 and 2012, Haiti’s homicide rate doubled from 5.1 to 10.2 per 100,000.

For the fiscal year July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, $609.18 million was allocated to MINUSTAH. In the ten years in which MINUSTAH has been operational, its total budget has been more than $5.5 billion. If this same amount had been applied towards human development in the form of investments in clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education, Haiti would have the potential to reclaim its sovereignty and self-determination.

We must be clear, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti is not based on any principles of humanitarianism. It is an imperialist occupation seeking to ensure that the island’s government can implement and maintain repressive policies favourable to international investors. This has confirmed in revelations of diplomatic communications thanks to WikiLeaks. One of the boldest, classified cables, from US Ambassador Janet Sanderson on October 1, 2008, stated that, “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years.”

The corrupt and repressive regime of President Michel Martelly – who has routinely worked with MINUSTAH to suppress widespread, legitimate dissent against the government for ignoring repeated calls for elections and is now ruling as a virtual dictator - has proudly boasted that “Haiti is open for business”.

Indeed, this is true. However it is the people and the land that are being sold. Canadian mining companies St. Geneviève Resources and Eurasian Minerals have taken advantage of weak laws to prospect new sites covering enormous swaths of territory (an estimated one third of northern Haiti has been granted to companies via permit), setting up the potential for substantial displacement through forced evictions and environmental destruction. Montreal based Gildan Activewear ,the world’s largest manufacturer of blank T-shirts, has routinely pressured the Haitian government to block an increase in Haiti’s abysmally low daily minimum wage and have undermined unionization efforts in their plants. 

MINUSTAH has carried out a series of human rights violations resulting in a loss of Haitian sovereignty, stability, dignity and life. Its record is more than enough grounds to revoke its mandate. Yet for geopolitical and economic reasons, this does not happen.

As people of good conscience and principled internationalists, we collectively have the capacity and the resources to force an end to the military occupation of Haiti. However, we will not be able to fulfill this potential and stand in solidarity with the laboring classes in Haiti if we don’t organize campaigns in Canada and across the world that pressure contributing states to end their provision of military and police personnel to MINUSTAH’s occupation force.

Our opposition to the military occupation of Haiti ought to take the form of grassroots-oriented campaigns that educate, mobilize, and organize membership-based organizations to add the end to the occupation to their organizational programme. It is critically necessary to reach out to the people in the spaces in which they are present and offer specific actions that they may carry out to force the withdrawal of the occupation troops.

We have a moral and political obligation to support the struggle for self-determination by the popular classes in Haiti. The Haitian Revolution of 1804 eliminated the enslavement of Afrikans in Haiti and lit the fire of freedom in slaveholding states in the Americas.

One incredibly important measure of success has been that Haitian human rights activists and their international supporters are bringing the United Nations, particularly Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and former head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet, to world attention for the force’s reckless and criminal introduction of cholera into Haiti and its ongoing denial of responsibility.  Haitian victims of cholera are suing the UN for damages, including that the agency assist in establishing clean water supply in Haiti. The next step in their legal action will take place on October 23 when a judge in New York City District Court will hear arguments that the court accept jurisdiction over the case and allow complainants to proceed with a lawsuit. Ban Ki Moon and the Security Council are claiming immunity from prosecution before national courts.

The people of Haiti demonstrated their solidarity with the colonized peoples in South America by providing a place of refuge, guns, ammunition, personnel and a printing press to Simon Bolivar’s campaign to liberate the region from Spanish colonialism 200 years ago. The French Revolution and the American Revolution cannot lay claim to being beacons and agents of emancipation in the Americas.

As we work to rid Haiti of MINUSTAH’s occupation forces, we are continuing a long and proud tradition of people-to-people solidarity in support of emancipation in the Americas. Haiti is the architect and pioneer of this principled political tradition. We should remember this legacy as we call for the Security Council to pull out the occupation troops from Haiti.

Kevin Edmonds is a PhD student and member of the Toronto Haiti Action Committee and the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator. He is an organizer with the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti and the Organization of Afrikan Struggles and International Solidarity.

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