President Aristide’s most popular decision while in office was to abolish the Haitian army. With no foreign enemies and a ridiculous drain on Haiti’s precious annual budget, getting rid of the army was a wise fiscal decision. But, the decision’s popularity was because the primary source of state-sponsored repression against the Haitian people would be shut down.
In the superb documentary, “We Must Kill the Bandits,” by journalist and filmmaker, Kevin Pina, Ira Kurzban, attorney for Aristide, describes the insidious manner in which the Haitian military tried to make a comeback. After Aristide was kidnapped by the US in 2004, the de facto government which replaced him, welcomed a contingent of former Haitian military soldiers which marched into Port-au-Prince. The soldiers were received by de facto Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. He promised back pay and gave them a salute, as if they were real soldiers and Latortue was their commander-in-chief.
But, it was not possible to bring back the Haitian army because the memory of its abusive and repressive conduct was still fresh in the minds of Haitians. Instead, the de facto government and the US-France-Canada cabal that hatched the coup, decided it was best to incorporate former army soldiers into the Haitian National Police. As Kurzban said, “you can’t send the army into neighborhoods, because its purpose is evident — to kill people.” A police force can enter a neighborhood because it is pursuing criminal activity. The incorporation of soldiers into the HNP was overseen by Herard Abraham, de facto Minister of the Interior, and a long-time ally of US Defense Intelligence Agency. Canadian personnel serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, were given the responsibility to train former soldiers for integration into the HNP.
Prezy Martelly plans a “new” Haitian army which will be used for a variety of national projects, including humanitarian efforts during the hurricane season. He also says that having an army will allow MINUSTAH to withdraw from Haiti because the army can be used for “crowd control” and general security which can mean only one thing to Haitians — they will continue to be hunted down by their fellow citizens.
Bringing back the army is an awful, controversial idea and something Martelly would not have debuted on a trip to Washington at a news conference at the National Press Club unless this it is an integral element of the US’ long-term plan for Haiti.
The de facto government ruled from 2004 to 2006. The publication, “The Lancet,” estimated that at least 8,000 people died during this period at the hands of the Haitian National Police and MINUSTAH peacekeepers. It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than adding an army to this horror story.
New Haiti leader vows to create ‘modern army’ AFP/Washington
Incoming Haiti president Michel Martelly has vowed to create a “modern army”, saying that the violence-prone Caribbean nation could not rely on UN peacekeepers forever for its security.
After decades of political interference and dozens of coups, Haiti disbanded its military in 1995 and has become reliant since 2004 on a UN stabilisation mission, MINUSTAH, which was authorised to disarm and demobilise remaining militias.
“The presence of MINUSTAH on Haitian soil means that there is a force needed down there to maintain peace, unless someone suggests that MINUSTAH remains forever,” Martelly told journalists in Washington.
The new security force would focus on the quake-hit nation’s reconstruction and wouldn’t need “warships or fighter jets” as Haiti is not going to war with other nations, the president-elect said.
“It needs to be a modern army, have an engineering core, and will be ready to intervene” in times of chaos and catastrophe, like after earthquakes or hurricanes, Martelly explained. Pressed for a time-frame, he said: “I became president-elect last night. Give me a few days to answer these questions.”
Patrolling around in their dozens on the back of trucks, the heavily-armed UN blue-helmets are despised by the urban poor, who view them as an occupying force serving only to keep an entrenched elite in power.
MINUSTAH’s popularity in Haiti nose-dived last November when peacekeepers from Nepal were accused of bringing cholera into the country and targeted in deadly riots. The cholera epidemic has now killed almost 5,000 people.
The UN Security Council renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate for another year in October, but mission chief Edmond Mulet told reporters the following month that he would be looking at drawing up possible pull-out plans.
“If we have good elections now and if there is a democratic transfer of power… and the installation of a new national assembly next year, then we will analyse the security situation in the country in April and May 2011.”
That process could see a return to “a plan that we established at the end of 2009 for the reduction and eventual departure of the mission,” he said.
MINUSTAH had been on track to finish its work in 2009 but was forced to extend its term following the January 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 225,000 people, including almost 100 UN staff.
MINUSTAH, which has a particularly heavy presence in the teeming capital Port-au-Prince, numbers some 9,000 troops and 4,400 police – an increase of 2,000 and 1,500 respectively after the quake.