Sunday, January 24, 2016

Haiti dances nervously towards bitterly contested presidential election

Thursday 21 January 2016 13.54 GMT

Haiti dances nervously towards bitterly contested presidential election

Carnival begins on 7 February, the same day it is set to swear in a new leader – unless the vote is delayed. But a mood of foreboding dogs Haiti’s murky politics

Michael Deibert in Port-au-Prince 

The Guardian

(Read the original article here)

They marched in their thousands to the throb of drums and the incantatory wail of the long bamboo wind instruments Haitians call vaksin. Joyously waving flags and chanting, the multitude surged from the wealthy suburb of Pétionville down the traffic-clogged Route de Frères, where phantasmal swirls of dust were illuminated by the lights of cars and the kerosene flames of women selling patties.

Haiti is days away from a bitterly contested presidential election, but this was no political rally. The crowd was following a rara band, street musicians whose appearance marks the run-up to carnival, which this year begins on 7 February – the same day Haiti is slated to inaugurate a new president.
Just hours later, however, the peaceful revellers were replaced by an angry rock-throwing mob protesting against alleged vote-rigging by President Michel Martelly on behalf of his designated successor Jovenel Moïse, an agribusinessman from the country’s north.

Opposition parties and local observers have also charged that the election’s first round in November was marred by fraud. The leading opposition candidate, Jude Célestin, has said that he will not compete in the second round this Sunday and legitimize a “farce” (which the United States spent $30m supporting).

Late on Wednesday night, Haiti’s senate voted to recommend that Haiti’s electoral body, known as the CEP, should delay the vote, though it was unclear if this will happen.

A sense of dread and foreboding has settled on Haiti’s political elite.

“Between now and 7 February we are on a razor’s edge and anything can happen,” said a former Martelly adviser.

Despite a lower rate of violent crime than many other countries in the region, elections in Haiti are often fraught affairs. In 1987, during the first election after the fall of the Duvalier family dictatorship, voters were massacred by Duvalierist forces. During the 2000 elections that brought Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power, opposition politicians were killed.

In the 2010 elections in which Martelly triumphed, only mass street protests (and, some charge, international pressure) saw him advance to the second round past Célestin, the former head of the state construction company, after the first round was allegedly rigged by the outgoing president, René Préval.

Since his inauguration in 2011, Martelly, a former singer turned rightwing populist with political links to the Duvalier dynasty, has overseen many carnivals but held no elections. He seemed at times unsure if his place was among competent public officials or shady cronies both within and without the political arena.

Nevertheless, under Martelly, and his former prime minister, the telecoms mogul Laurent Lamothe, Haiti appeared to be inching forward after years of decline. Roads were paved, investment began to return, and an international airport was inaugurated in the country’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, opening the historical treasures of the north to tourism.

Haiti’s political opposition consists of an assortment of career politicians, ideologically promiscuous opportunists and occasional true believers whose commitment to democracy is questionable.

Along with Célestin – who has long been dogged by dark rumours connected to the 2009 disappearance of a government official – the best-known candidates are a former senator, Moïse Jean-Charles, and Maryse Narcisse, who is seen as a stand-in for Aristide.

“This is not my struggle, but the struggle of the Haitian people,” said Jean-Charles, who has been one of the government’s most vociferous critics. “We will modify our strategy, continuing our mobilisation with strikes, civil disobedience … We need good governance, political and economic stability.”

(One of Jean-Charles’s entourage was more explicit, confiding that Martelly and Jovenel Moïse would be dechouked, a reference to the violence directed at Duvalier’s supporters after the fall of his regime. At protests this week, marchers chanted for the deaths of Martelly and the CEP president, Pierre Louis Opont.)

But many Haitians are not inclined to take to the streets to support either Martelly or his opponents.

“I didn’t vote. Vote for who?” asks Louino Robillard, one of the leaders of Solèy Leve, a collaborative social movement founded in the capital’s Cité Soleil slum. “Look at all of those politicians and all of those rich people and all of those organisations here. What have they done?”

Those who have appeared at political events do little to allay fears for Haitian democracy: one participant in recent opposition rallies is Franco Camille, an Aristide loyalist who was indicted for his alleged role in the 2000 murder of Haiti’s most famous journalist, Jean Dominique.

Martelly’s own orbit consists of men like Woodly “Sonson La Familia” Ethéart, the accused head of an organised crime ring freed under questionable circumstances last year, and Daniel Evinx, a resort owner and suspected drug trafficker who disappeared in early 2014. According to a source familiar with the investigation, police subsequently found a body near the northern town of Anse-Rouge they believed to be that of the missing hotelier, though the discovery was never made public.

Despite all this, the UN and the “Core Group” of international actors in Haiti (Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US, the European Union and the Organization of American States) appear convinced the elections should go forward.

“Proceeding with the electoral calendar as provided by the Haitian constitution will avoid going into an extra-constitutional, de-facto government leadership crisis,” Kenneth Merten, the United States’ Haiti special coordinator wrote in an email.

The capital’s restless slums dot Port-au-Prince like a living reproach to the lack of vision of Haiti’s political leaders – and the international community upon whose support they depend.

Martelly’s predecessor Préval launched a disarmament and reintegration programme for the capital’s gangs, but after several years of calm, Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s biggest slum, has begun to bleed again. Leaders of armed groups with alleged links to the government such as Gabriel Jean Pierre and Ti Houngan appear to be flexing their muscles, although to portray them as strictly gangsters misses that nearly all such leaders have set up “foundations” to aid their communities, and say they are helping the forgotten.

But armed men are not the only face of Cité Soleil. Louino Robillard’s Solèy Leve initiated a Cité Soleil peace prize to honour and encourage young people trying to make a difference, and community groups like the Sant Kominote Altènatif Ak Lapè work diligently to reduce conflict.

“These children need a real school,” says Christly Jackson, the 50-year-old head of a primary school in Cité Soleil that lacks just about everything but rough wooden benches and a blackboard. “And when they become adults, they don’t have jobs and our hunger continues.”

In the capital’s southern hills, the districts of Grand Ravine and Ti Bois are now at peace. A gang war raged between the neighborhoods a decade ago, but the communities, aided by the Irish NGO Concern and the local group Lakou Lapè, have worked to make peaceful coexistence durable.

That does not mean the prospect of violence has disappeared. At the entrance to Grand Ravine, visitors are met by a gang leader nicknamed – like the president – Tèt Kale and about a dozen men with pistols in their waistbands who keep a close eye on visitors.

Up the hill from the improvised checkpoint, in a spotless office, members of a local community self-help group called Plasmagra meet.

“We have been able to put peace in this community, and would like to continue with its development,” says 32-year-old Nicolson Joachim. As he speaks, children play football in the street and a young artist daubs Caribbean beach scenes on to canvases in hopes of selling them later.

Despite the apparent calm, some observers fear that the government and the opposition are playing with fire.

“What the government, the opposition and the international community don’t know is that right now those guys in the slums are thinking they’re always the victims, and if something happens they will be victims again,” says Mario Andrésol, a former chief of Haiti’s national police and presidential candidate. “But they are not just going to stay and die in Cité Soleil and those other areas forever. That’s what the oligarchy also has to understand. Today we’re in a situation that could explode at any time.”

Minustah, the UN stabilisation mission, is drawing down after a dozen years in Haiti, leaving the country much as it found it, amid a government crisis of legitimacy, with a politicised police and a recalcitrant political opposition, and with the added gift of cholera, which UN soldiers introduced in 2010.

Despite the role Haitians have played in their country’s ongoing political trench warfare, many feel this particular crisis has the international community’s fingerprints all over it. Writing in Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste this past week, the author Lyonel Trouillot asked those abroad: “Do you know what they are doing here in your name?”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Questions that should be asked of Haiti's presidential candidates

Questions that should be asked of Haiti's presidential candidates

Who killed Georges Izméry? (1992)

Who killed Guy Malary? (1993)

Who killed Antoine Izméry? (1993)

Who killed Père Jean-Marie Vincent? (1994)?

Who killed Mireille Durocher Bertin? (1994)

Who killed Marie Christine Jeune? (1995)

Who killed Père Jean "Ti Jean" Pierre Louis? (1998)

Who killed Yvon Toussaint? (1999)

Who killed Jean Lamy? (1999)

Who killed Jean Léopold Dominique? (2000)

Who killed Brignol Lindor? (2001)

Who killed Marc André Durogene? (2002)

Where is Felix “Don Fefe” Bien-Aimé? (2002)

Who killed Amiot Métayer? (2003)

Where is Odonel Paul? (2003)

Who was responsible for the killing of at least 25 people in the Gonaïves slum of Raboteau? (2003)

Who killed Danielle Lustin? (2003)

Who was responsible for the killing of at least 27 people in Saint-Marc? (2004)

Who killed Jacques Roche? (2005)

Where is Robert Marcello? (2009)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lakou Lapè press release regarding Haiti Elections Crisis

Port-au-Prince December 11, 2015    

Lakou Lapè press release regarding Haiti Elections
Lakou Lapè is deeply disturbed to see how political conflicts and violence are spreading fear and mourning among the Haitian people.  What is happening in this generation is the same thing that was happening in previous generations: conflicts over power, conflicts over control of state resources, use of firearms to further the interests of small groups of people, use of state resources for causes that do not serve the interests of the population. All of these issues will not bring about anything good for anyone. When people’s lives do not matter, when tires are burning, when people’s properties are being destroyed in society, the poorest people will continue in deep poverty, the richer people will continue to be handicapped while living in anxiety. In such an atmosphere, economic activity in the country cannot develop itself as it should in order to produce more jobs and create wealth.

Even though Lakou Lapè recognizes the need for good elections in order for democracy to move forward, this is not what will solve Haiti's problems. As long as the Haitian people do not sit together to listen to each other, to discover what makes us one nation, and search for a common vision and principles so that we can function as one people, we are not going anywhere. We must meet by neighborhoods, by communes, by departments, poor, rich, middle class, peasants, light skinned people, black people, whatever might be our identity, in order to talk to each other, understand each other and come to an agreement. If we do not do this, we will keep on digging a hole to bury ourselves deeper.

Violence brings death. Dialogue and reconciliation is the way to life.  Let’s sit and talk.

 Vèsyon kreyòl
Lakou Lapè gen gwo kè kase lè li wè  kijan konfli politik ak zak vyolans ap simaye laperèz ak dèy nan mitan pèp Ayisyen. Sa ki ap pase jounen jodi a nan jenerasyon sa a se menm bagay ki tap fèt nan jenerasyon anvan yo : Batay pou pouvwa, batay pou akapare mwayen leta, sèvi ak zam pou fè avanse enterè ti gwoup moun, sèvi ak mwayen leta pou kòz ki pa sèvi popilasyon an. Tout bagay sa yo pap pote anyen ki bon pou pèsonn.  Lè lavi moun pa gen enpòtans, lè kawoutchou ap boule, lè byen moun ap detwi nan yon sosyete, moun ki pi pòv yo ap kontinye nan lamizè, moun ki pi rich yo ap toujou andikape nan viv kè sou biskèt. Nan yon klima konsa aktivite ekonomik nan peyi a paka devlope jan sa ta dwe fèt pou pote plis travay ak kreye richès. 

Menm si  Lakou Lapè rekonèt fok gen bon eleksyon pou demokrasi ka vanse, se pa sa ki pral rezoud pwoblèm Ayiti. Toutotan pèp ayisyen pa chita youn ak lòt pou tande youn lòt, pou yo dekouvri kisa ki fè nou se yon sèl nasyon, epi chache yon vizyon ak prensip pou nou fonksyone tankou yon sèl pèp, nou pa pral okenn kote. Fòk nou rankontre katye pa katye, komin pa komin, depatman pa depatman, pòv, rich, klas mwayèn, peyizan, moun wouj, mou nwa, kèlkeswa idantite nou pou nou pale youn ak lòt, pou nou konprann youn lot epi pou nou antann nou. Si nou pa fè sa, nap kontinye fouye twou pou nou antere tet nou pi fon. 

Vyolans se lanmò li pote. Dyalòg ak rekonsylyasyon se chimen lavi. Ann chita pale.

For Lakou Lapè :
Philippe R. Armand                        
Willhem Lemke                                   
Dominique Bazin
Almiracle Saint Fort                       
Olivier Taluy                                        
Franck Coughlan
Maryse Jumelle                            
Fabrice Burr Reynaud                         
Louino Robillard
Nadège R. Robertson                   
Régine D. Polynice                              
Lutès Célestin
Ernso Désir                                    
Manoune M. Rhode                     
Jean Rony Morisseau
Geneviève Bonny                   
Joram Guerrier                        
Jean-Claude Joseph
Sandra Rémy                                 
Frantz Larosilière                             
Frantz Edouard
Patrick Joseph 
Louis-Henri Mars, Directeur Exécutif

Lakou Lapè
# 23 Rue des Marguerites Turgeau, Port-au-Prince  

Tel : (509) 2811 1804  
Site Web : 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jeune Haiti

On this day in 1964, Louis Drouin and Marcel Numa, the last 2 surviving members Jeune Haiti, a group of 13 young Haitian men who had landed on the island from the United States in hopes of freeing it from the tyranny of François Duvalier, were executed at the wall of the Grand Cimetière in Port-au-Prince. Their comrades who had fallen before them in the Grand Anse were Max Armand, Jacques Armand, Gérald Marie Brierre, Miko Chandler, Charles Forbin, Jean Gerdes, Réginald Jourdan, Yvon Laraque, Roland Rigaud, Gusley Villedrouin and Jacques Wadestrandt. Everyone should know their names. I see a lot of talk about bravery and courage these days but that is what you are looking at right here. Today, Haiti remains in tumult and their dream unrealized. But it's still worth fighting for.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Statement of Haiti Presidentail Candidates Against Results of 25 October 2015 elections

Communiqué de presse en date du 6 novembre 2015, signé par 7 candidats, dont Jude Celestin et Moise Jean Charles, classés respectivement 2e et 3e dans les résultats préliminaires officiels

Nous, signataires de la présente, candidats à la Présidence engagés dans le processus électoral devant conduire à l’installation du nouveau Président élu le 7 février 2016 :

Prenons acte de la publication, par le CEP, des résultats des élections du 25 octobre 2015 sans tenir compte de la demande de formation d’une commission d’enquête indépendante chargée d’épurer le vote des nombreux cas de fraude et de bourrage d’urnes dénoncés ;

Les résultats tels que publiés sont de nature à consacrer le principe antidémocratique selon lequel « ceux qui votent ne décident de rien ». La publication de ces résultats fait penser à la période des élections officielles des régimes dictatoriaux organisés sous la houlette du ministère de l’intérieur et constitue une menace pour la stabilité du pays. Il s’agit là d’un dangereux retour au passé, d’une gigantesque marche arrière susceptible de saper les fondements de l’Etat et de plonger le pays dans l’anarchie et le chaos

Les résultats tels que publiés sont donc inacceptables.

En réitérant notre volonté de tout entreprendre, dans le cadre des droits consacrés par la constitution, pour faire respecter la volonté populaire, nous invitons le CEP, à mettre en place la commission d’enquête indépendante sollicitée dans le communiqué du 3 novembre pour crédibiliser le processus avant qu’il ne soit trop tard.

Suivent les signatures :

Sauveur Pierre ETIENNE



Jean-Henry CEANT

Steven I. BENOIT

Charles Henry BAKER



Friday, October 16, 2015

Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti

10 years ago this month, my first book, Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti, was published by Seven Stories Press. An account of Haiti from 1994 to 2004 and pivotal sections of its history that preceded that time, it was my attempt to tell everything I knew that had happened there to the letter, letting the chips fall were they may, and to give a voice to so many, from the lanes of Cité Soleil to the mountains of the Plateau Central, who had shown me Haiti and helped me begin to understand what the struggle was all about. A decade later, "Notes" keeps popping up in the most unexpected places and pissing off all the right people. Happy 10th birthday, little book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Haïti Littéraire, 1963

De gauche à droite : Réginald Crosley, et puis les membres d'Haïti Littéraire en 1963 : Villard Denis (aka Davertige), Anthony Phelps, René Philoctète, Marie Vieux Chauvet, Roland Morisseau et Serge Legagneur.
Photo prise par Jean-Claude Carrié à la résidence Chauvet au Bourdon Park.
© Photo Mambo Carrié-Phelps