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Haiti : Newsreel by Dela Harlley

In a recent interview with the Associated Press (AP), President Jovenel Moïse stated that he was open to the notion of shortening his mandate and form a coalition government with the opposition. This is if the opposition is willing to work with him to draft a new constitution that will strengthen the powers of the country’s chief executive. This interview comes on the hills of the failed dialogue organized last week at the mission of the papal envoy to Haiti which brought together representatives of the government, the opposition political parties and civil society groups. The President’s decision to ensure that the new constitution gives more powers to the Chief Executive is born out of his concern that the current constitution has been drafted from an emotional perspective, thereby creating roadblocks when a president tries to design policies that address the needs of the people. Mr. Moïse claims that his efforts to improve the living conditions of his people since coming to office has been thwarted by the constitutional requirement that the Legislature has veto power for almost all significant presidential decisions. Some of his proposals include allowing all presidential proposals to pass automatically if the Legislature fails to vote on them within 60 days, and to set a five (5) year term on all electoral positions, parliament and local elections, in order to avoid multiple elections and their concomitant problems.  The President also argues that the country is at a crossroads and hopes that those engaged in negotiations to move the country out of the impasse, are able to come up with an acceptable solution soon. Noting that there will always be some intransigent groups that will oppose any solutions, Mr. Moïse believes that efforts at finding workable solutions to the governmental impasse should go on in spite of the intransigent groups.

 

Beyond the political stalemate is the increasing insecurity that is fast taking hold in the country. Kidnappings have become so commonplace that many people have become so traumatized, they have developed a fear of others, trying to avoid other people, places at all cost, whether at school, church or even on social media. It appears most of these kidnappings are not coincidences, but most of them are not targeted either, because most  are negotiated for small sums of money, while others are taking place thanks to an ever widely spreading phenomenon of organ trafficking in the country in recent times. While this is well known to the people, police spokesman, Michel-Ange Louis-Jeune, is downplaying the severity of the situation by arguing that some people may be spreading false news of kidnapping to keep the population in constant fear. The constant black out at nights also help the kidnappers to commit their crime without being seen, especially in the early evening as people head back home from their daily activities.

 

A recent report by the United Nations (UN), noted that here are some 270,000 illegal arms circulating within the country, which leads directly to high levels of gang violence and crime that is rampant in the country, and little to no control by officials as they are unable to track these arms. The UN created a new bureau in the country with the mission to report on crime, gang violence and make recommendations on how to reduce crime and criminal activity, and manage firearms and munitions.  UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in a statement welcomed the creation of the special unit, Bureau intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti (BINUH) with the mandate to advise on violence and organized crime. Mr. Guterres added that the unit’s ability to report on small caliber arms and munitions as well as crime reduction and violence prevention are all steps in the right direction.

 

Meanwhile, the national police are facing a crisis within its ranks as relations between the rank and file and the police High Command have been strained for quite some time now. A faction of the police force has decided to organize a union to defend their rights and working conditions. Against the wishes of the High Command, the police went ahead to form the union, syndicat de la Police nationale d’Haïti (SPNH) on November 28, 2019. Since then, they’ve been under the watchful eye of the higher ups and on Friday, February 7 of this year, Yanick Joseph, one of the members of the newly formed union was summoned to appear at the police headquarters, and after a three-hour interrogation, her badge and firearm were taken away. When her colleagues got wind of this, they converged on the headquarters in an effort to retrieve their colleague’s badge and firearm, and as they stormed the building, they left in their wake signs of destruction and ransacking of the premises. In a written statement condemning the police officers and their act, the Head of the PNH, Rameau Normil said that the officers’ actions were out of line, and that the force unequivocally condemn such acts of violence and vandalism in a state with the rule of law, and a police force no less. The violence tarnishes the reputation of the force especially at a time when they are doing a lot to address the security problem in the country.  Mr. Normil stated that officers who took part in this action will be disciplined according to the law. Meanwhile, the police officer, whose interrogation and possible revocation caused the problem, said she’s not deterred or scared to continue the work of unionization.

 

In other news, according to the Ministry of Health, acute malnutrition is on the rise to a rate of 2.1 percent which is slightly above the 2 percent threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Chronic malnutrition is at 22.7%, and global acute malnutrition, which include severe and moderate acute malnutrition is on the rise in six departments in 11 areas surveyed, namely the Metropolitan Area (6.5%), the West (6%), the Southeast (5.6%), the North (5.5%), the Northeast (5.4%) and the Grand-Anse (5%).

The metropolitan area is showing a worrying 2.5% acute malnutrition prompting, Greta Roy Clément of the Ministry of Health concludes that the country must work hard to achieve the objectives set by the Sustainable development 2, which requires that by 2030, Haiti eliminates hunger, ensure food security, improve nutrition and promote agriculture. There is therefore the need to coordinate with all stakeholders and develop the multisectoral approach to attack this phenomenon in the short time remaining. The food shortage and malnutrition are affecting the 3610 prisoners in the state prison who are at risk of a humanitarian crisis if their freedom from hunger is not guaranteed. This alert was issued by the office of the Ombudsman, l’Office de la protection du citoyen (OPC), which fears that if the government does not act soon, there might be a humanitarian crisis on our hands. According to Renan Hédouville, the situation in the prisons have been made all the more complex by the political and socio-economic crisis facing the nation. The conditions of the detainees have been deteriorating across the country with grave consequences for those incarcerated.

 

Finally, the December 4 collective decided to call for a protest march on Friday, February 14, 2020 to bring attention to the growing insecurity in the country. Valentine’s Day was chosen as a symbolic day for this march, to turn the page on the insecurity that is destroying the fabric of the nation and to say the people have had enough and want to live in peace and harmony. It will be a day to confront the state to face her responsibility to protect the people, and for the armed civilians to face the impact of their choices.  Under the banner of “nou se sitwayen, nou ekspoze, nou konsène e nou dwe enplike”, the organizers under the leadership of Jean Robert Argant say that this is a citizens’ initiative that is not political or partisan and is expected to be a peaceful march.

Dela Harlley

 

 

 

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