As part of the Easter Sunday wishes to the nation, President Jovenel Moïse and Interim Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin called for unity among Haitians. In a statement directed at his detractors, the President stated that “Easter time is always an invitation for sacrifice and forgiveness, this moment should inspire in us a spirit of tolerance and the desire to live together”. It’s not known if the recalcitrant opposition will heed the call of the President or accept the olive branch he has extended. Opposition leaders are expected to go to Washington on April 30, 2019 to meet with US officials and legislators. These same opposition leaders have rejected any attempt made by the president for peaceful to dialogue. PM Lapin also echoed the President in his statement on Easter, calling on all actors to come together to help build the nation. As a bureaucrat with no political affinity, it is expected that his government will bring together people from all parties to calm things down a bit. The legislature is set to review his documents and policy proposals in order to vote on his nomination and allow him to form a new government.
If the government is hoping that things calm down and that the opposition comes to the table for the national dialogue, it seems others are thinking differently still. According to the commission that help formed the movement, Nou p ap dòmi there is a sit-in planned for Friday April 26, 2019 in front of the premises of the Administrative court (CSCCA) to call for the court to publish the final report on the PetroCaribe embezzlement scandal in its entirety. According to Salvatory Saint-Victor, only a full audit and report can address the level of injustice perpetrated by those embezzling the funds, because a partial report in which some names are included, and others not included looks like a political verdict. More pressure needs to be brought to bear upon the state actors so that those found culpable are made to pay for their crimes, in a way are the precursors to the financial hardships people are facing today with the gourde depreciating against the dollar and inflation inching upwards above 17% as of this writing.
The UN mission currently in Haiti, the MINUJUSTH has just clocked 18 months and proceeded to release a report on their achievement in the country. With decreasing staff across all departments, the mission proceeded to cite their accomplishments across four (4) key areas: professionalism of the police force; restoring the rule of law; encouraging human rights and reducing community violence. With regards to the police, the mission supports the national police, PNH, in all their programs and undertakings including increasing the force by 19% and also increasing the number of women on the force by some 44% (from 1,028 female officers to 1,483 in April 2019. And during this 18-month period, the police were able to undertake 95% of their operations without the active participation of the MINUJUSTH, while some 150 senior officers received mentoring, training and skills transfer as part of the 2017-2021 five-year strategic development plan. To fight against sexual violence, the mission aided in the creation of a specialized unit within the judicial police (DCPJ) and helped train over 500 people in this area.
In the other areas, the MINUJUSTH encouraged the judicial authorities to fight against arbitrary prolonged preventive detention resulting in the decrease in the number of cases where the detainees are left in the jails for long periods of time. This number dropped by 8% in the civil jail in Port-au-Prince, by 43% in the juvenile detention in CERMICOL, by 12% in the female jail and 7% in the prison in Port-au-Prince. Regarding human rights, the mission worked to strengthen the citizen’s protection office, l’Office de la protection du citoyen (OPC), by opening branches in Jérémie and Saint-Marc. The mission also helped train some 157 members of civil society organizations, 30% of which are women, to help civil society understand and report human rights violation across the country.
Beyond these three areas where the mission feels it has made a difference, one of the areas where the mission is proud of their work is in reducing domestic violence. Approximately 75,000 people were able to directly benefit from 39 projects to reduce domestic violence, with 36,900 women and 68 partners, including 60 local, 6 international and 2 UN agencies. 1587 youth and 953 women took advantage of revenue generating activities, vocational training and business management offered by the mission. 400 women from poor neighborhoods were educated on what the national police is all about resulting in some 60 of them being trained to take the entrance exam to the police academy, and 3881 people were involved in Martissant’s community dialogue, capacity building and apprenticeship programs.
Despite the positive report given by the UN mission whose mandate is expected to end mid -October, gang violence is still a problem in the country with many neighborhoods still affected by the high level of violence. Residents in Tokyo and Lasaline neighborhoods in Cité Soleil organized a peaceful protest march on Monday, April 22, 2019 to call for justice and reparations following their homes being burnt down by gangs. In Petite Rivière in the Artibonite department, residents said they have not seen any police presence since the gangs attacked the police precinct and groups such as “Mouvman inite ti peyizan Ayisyen, (MITPA)” are calling on the government to take its responsibility seriously, in the face of such gang violence. The lawyer Patrice Florvilus, member of the law firm that specializes in strategic litigation on human rights also deplores the absence of security forces in these areas, prompting residents to be holed up in their homes, unable to travel or move freely across the country. Meanwhile, the government is denying a report by the human rights network, RNDDH, that the government is imbedded with the armed gangs.
Meanwhile, Haitian doctor Roger Jean Charles has concluded that getting close to petroleum products, especially diesel, can cause high blood pressure. Speaking on Télé Métropole’s Le Point program last week, the doctor decried the increasing number of filling stations propping up across the capital and in residential neighborhoods and condemns the government’s lack of decision or policy to combat the spread of pathogens. In addition, the doctor stated that fumes emitted from vehicles can cause asthma, breast cancer and leukemia, statements coming from a study that was published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension. High blood pressure is the leading cause of death among Haitian adults. The statistics are damning for high blood pressure as the leading cause of cardiac pathologies, and the damage done to the organs are enormous. Hypertension is the leading cause of kidney failure, strokes, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia. Smoke from the diesel engines contributes to the deteriorating health of the population and there is the need to educate the public on the dangers of the fumes.
Finally, the 8th Diaspora Week will be held this week in the Dominican Republic under the theme “For a Culture of Peace at the Bi-national Level”, according to the Executive Director of the Zile foundation, Edwin Paraison. Speaking to AlterRadio, the Director stated that activities will begin on Monday April 22nd with Haitian and Dominican officials present, a cultural display in the heart of Santo Domingo the next day, a baseball match in San Pedro between a Haitian and Dominican teams, an ecumenical service and a host of other activities and workshops are part of the activities during the week. The aim is to strengthen ties between the two peoples and to promote cultural, tourist and commercial exchanges with Haiti. Last Saturday was Diaspora day in Haiti.