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Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
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By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” June 14, 2024)

Guest column by **Dr. Ron Daniel

The blood and ghastly gore of the horrific crisis in Haiti is no longer making headlines on mainstream media outlets. The First Black Republic is out of sight and out of the minds of the masses of people in the U.S. and the world. But Haiti is still on fire with ruthless gangs, some posing as “revolutionaries”, consolidating and intentionally striving to morph into armed paramilitary militias linked to and supplied by drug cartels in Central and South America. Thus, Haiti is not only in danger of becoming a failed state; it is on the verge of becoming a full-blown narco-state where unbridled corruption and terror are the order of the day.

Haiti’s long-suffering neglected, and impoverished masses will continue to live in unspeakable, unconscionable and unacceptable poverty, misery and pain. But Haiti’s parasitical, callous elite of oligarchs could care less. They have their own hired militia-like henchmen to provide a precarious state of “security”. And, under the new narco-state normalcy, they will enter into a mutually beneficial truce with gangs turned quasi-cartels, and it will be “business as usual”.  The wealthy and the powerful always manage to thrive, even in the midst of misery. Indeed, they exploit it and profit from it.  Recall that the elite did extremely well in accumulating enormous wealth under the terroristic regime of Jean Claude Duvalier.

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On the political front, despite the depths of the current protracted crisis, the great hope for rescuing the First Black Republic from the abyss has been the Montana Accord Movement, which in coalition with Fanmi Lavalas, the political party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, devised a comprehensive, people-based plan for re-engineering democracy in Haiti.  The promise and power of the plan is its broad-based, inclusive character, patiently crafted over months of engagement and consultations with hundreds of civil society organizations, influencers, faith, business and political parties and leaders. 

Recently, an Interim Presidential Council was installed with the blessing of CARICOM, the U.S. and the CORE Group of nations with a mandate to guide the nation for the next 22 months in preparation for the election of a new president. The Council has nine members, seven voting members and two observer members. Herein lies the danger of bad outcomes for a potentially promising Plan and Process. The Montana Accord, the broadest-based movement in the nation, was only afforded one member on the council, which means that in combination with Fanmi Lavalas, which has one member, the most progressive, pro-democratic forces can only reliably count on two out of seven votes on the Council. Regrettably, some of the other members are likely to take their directions from the local and foreign elite or are known to represent organisations and leaders that have a history of corruption. 

However, this does not mean that all is lost. Despite these circumstances, after some tense internal bickering, the council was able to reach a consensus on the appointment of Garry Conille as Haiti’s new prime minister. However, the prospect and hope of moving beyond ‘business as usual’ to achieve a people-based democracy as envisioned by the Montana Accord Plan and Process is still daunting. The entrenchment of the paramilitary gangs and potential control of the Presidential Council by corrupt anti-democratic forces are major obstacles which must still be overcome.  But, the challenge for those who wish to support the First Black Republic in the quest to build an authentic democracy is to keep hope alive for the masses of the Haitian people.

This means redoubling our solidarity and support for the Montana Accord Plan and Process by pressing the Biden administration to sanction actors who support the gangs, commit or are complicit with acts of terror, or engage in corruption. Bad actors, including those who may be represented on the Presidential Council, must know that a return to unsavoury business as usual is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

Second, the U.S. and the CORE Group must invest substantial resources to build a national consensus on the people’s wishes and practical and aspirational policy goals for a people-based democracy. This should include resources for town hall meetings, rallies, forums, local and regional agenda conferences, and a national people’s conference, which may be akin to a constitutional convention. Participation and engagement by and for the people must be the order of the day in an unprecedented commitment to create a new people-based democracy in Haiti.

Third, the U.S. Government must make a “Marshall Plan” level of investment in transforming an impoverished nation of 10-12 million people into a peaceful, prosperous, and powerful people-based democracy. This investment will aid the First Black Republic in fulfilling the vision of the Haitian Revolution as a beacon of hope for marginalised and oppressed people everywhere!

Progressive activists have long advocated for a Marshall Plan for Haiti, correctly contending that the USA owes a massive debt to Haiti. The Louisiana Purchase would have been highly improbable without the stunning victory of the Haitian revolutionaries over the military forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. And even prior to this gift to America, Haitian troops under the command of General Henri Christophe played a major role in defeating British troops in the decisive battle of Savannah in the Revolutionary War, a gift that is memorialised by a monument in Savannah.

A massive investment in Haiti should include public service jobs for hundreds of thousands of young men and women whose human power could productively be utilised in labour-intensive projects to improve Haiti’s infrastructure. Such an investment should be coupled with job training for career and entrepreneurial development to prepare large numbers of Haitian young people who are now unemployed or underemployed to participate fully in the prosperous economy, which will be a hallmark of Haiti’s new people-based democracy.

Currently, paramilitary gangs control huge swaths of the capital. Liberating Haiti from the grip of the gangs is imperative, an inescapable precondition for the Plan and the Process to move forward.

To assist with this essential mission, the Presidential Council has agreed to receive the Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS) led by police units from Kenya. The MSS Kenyan contingent will soon be augmented by police units from Caribbean and African nations. The MSS faces major obstacles to fulfill its mission. A guns-blazing approach is not only unacceptable; it will ultimately not achieve the desired objective. The MSS mission must be undertaken with great caution and care, informed by best practices on conflict de-escalation and conflict resolution. 

Haiti is on fire. But, out of the ashes of the extinguished flames, forging a new people-based democracy in the First Black Republic is possible. 

**Dr. Ron Daniel is the head of the Centre for Constitutional Rights and a long-standing activist on Haiti, Africa and the African diaspora.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “Haiti on fire ”

  1. Anointed one says:

    Let us not allow SVG to become like Haiti. Act now before it’s too late. Let the seed of a woman bruise the head of the government of darkness. Do not be bias about this if you care about your people and the land.

  2. Haiti is proof we are in a war with the West. A war that has been happening a long time. Forces around we. A war many cannot see.

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