By Kevin Pina
On March 20, 2008, the United Nations announced that Gerard Latortue, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, was appointed to go to Guinea to conduct a social and political dialogue that will lead ultimately to national elections.
Many in Haiti question the choice of Latortue to broker a settlement in Guinea given his lack of democratic credentials and involvement in mass human rights abuses in Haiti.
In January 2007, in response to deteriorating living standards in Guinea caused by wholesale corruption by officials of the administration of President Lansana Conte, unions called a national strike. Massive numbers of Guineans demonstrated in the streets throughout Guinea and were met with brutal violence by Guinean police and military; on several occasions the police and military opened fire on crowds of unarmed demonstrators. While a final tally is not available, close to 1,000 marchers were killed and hundreds injured according to estimates on the ground.
Through a plan worked out in mediation between the government and the unions, a Prime Minister was appointed in March 2007, to oversee a dialogue by which the concerns of the people of Guinea would be reviewed and an investigation into the state-sponsored violence during the national strike would be pursued.
After a few months, it became apparent that the new Prime Minister of Guinea, Lansana Kouyate had lost the confidence of the people of Guinea and neither their concerns about living conditions nor the violence against the demonstrators would be addressed.
It was Lansana Kouyate who pushed the UN for Haiti’s former PM, Gerard Latortue, to broker a dialogue between so-called sectors of ‘civil society’ that would lead to new elections.
Lack of democratic credentials
There is absolutely nothing in Latortue’s history to indicate that he is qualified to broker an inclusive settlement in Guinea based upon democratic principles. Latortue became Prime Minister of Haiti through an extra-constitutional process where the U.S., France and Canada circumvented the law of the land. They appointed a so-called seven member Council of the Wise who in turn selected Latortue as Prime Minister following the ouster of Jean Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004. Nothing in Haiti’s constitution ever allowed for the empowerment of such a body or the process that led to his subsequent appointment. Haiti’s constitution calls for the Prime Minister to be appointed by a duly elected president and ratified by Haiti’s parliament to govern. He was selected to assume the office by virtue of foreign parties outside of the law and contrary to the popular democratic choice of the Haitian electorate.