Recent Feature Articles

By Ken Karuri, Africa News, March 10, 2017

The United Nations is considering new measures to eradicate growing sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, including freezing payments to the countries of origin of the perpetrators.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday in an annual report that the number of cases of sexual exploitation or abuse involving peacekeepers and civilians employed in UN missions had jumped to 145 in 2016, compared with 99 the previous year.

The increase, according to the report, is explained by the fact that more victims are speaking out. The secretary general said that the reports in 2016 had emanated from 311 people, mainly women and minors.

Mr Guterres suggested retaining funding for countries of origin that would not investigate their accused soldiers deployed in peacekeeping missions within a “reasonable time”.

The funds would then be redirected to a fund for victims.

This measure already exists on an individual basis when an employee is involved. UN officials said at a press conference that US $ 49,000 had already been retained.

Mr. Guterres’ proposal would seek to widen this blocking of funds to a whole contingent when one of its own is accused.

The international organization has been shaken by a wave of accusations of sexual abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers deployed on civilian protection missions.

‘Not enough pressure’

Guterres, who assumed command of the UN in January, acknowledged that the organization “continues to face the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse, despite significant efforts over the past several years to address it “.

The largest number of cases have been recorded in four missions: Minusca in the Central African Republic, Monusco in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Minustah in Haiti and Minuss…

By Travis Ross, CHAN co-editor, March 12, 2017

A recent article by David McFadden of the Associated Press reports that the UN's military occupation force in Haiti known as MINUSTAH will "downsized in the near future". The UN plans to send 2,358 soldiers from 19 contributing countries over the next few months, according to the article. 

This comes as welcome news to Haitians, who have been demanding that MINUSTAH leave Haiti for over a decade. Despite McFadden's claims that MINUSTAH has "provided the only real security", the majority of Haitians have a different view of MINUSTAH's role in their country. 

Since arriving, MINUSTAH soldiers have been accused of multiple human rights abuses, including rape, child molestation, and murder. 

 

MINUSTAH is also responsible for the cholera outbreak that has killed over 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000 Haitians. Ban Ki-Moon, the ex Secretary-General of the UN, only recently took responsibility for the outbreak before retiring. The apology came years after scientists established that the cholera strain came from UN soldiers who dumped their waste into the Arbonite river, a waterway frequented by Haitians. 

McFadden's article has many inacurate statements. He describes MINUSTAH as a "peacekeeping force" brought to Haiti to "stabilize" the country after a "rebellion" that removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004. MINUSTAH was…

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, March 3, 2017

The evening before he died, two-time Haitian President René Garcia Préval, who led Haiti during food riots and its worst natural disaster, called his wife, Elisabeth, who was visiting Coral Gables. He had just returned from paying his respects after the passing of a friend, and had discovered a new restaurant, he told her.

Préval, who had come to prefer the quiet of home to public restaurants in his post-presidency years, was excited about his new Italian find, and he couldn’t wait to take his wife there, Elisabeth Delatour Préval said to the Miami Herald.

On Friday, she remembered the conversation: “He asked, when am I coming home?”

Préval died Friday at their home in Laboule, a neighborhood in the hills of Port-au-Prince. He was 74. The cause of death has not been confirmed but friends close to him, many of whom gathered at the hospital where his body lay on a metal gurney, say it was likely the result of a heart attack.

“I refused to believe it. I cannot believe it,” said Delatour Préval, who was in Coral Gables when her husband died, though she had spoken to him three times Friday morning. “He was in excellent humor.”

Préval’s unexpected death shocked not just family and friends but also a broken nation that believed he still had unfinished business. And it came as Haitians and historians are still trying to define his role in history. Through two presidential terms, 1996-2001 and 2006-2011, Préval brought a steady hand to Haiti in some of its most difficult periods.

Though he was criticized for his handling of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and for failing to strengthen political institutions, he was lauded in his second term for stepping out of the shadow of his former political mentor, ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and bringing back…

By Carol Gunesburg & Ronald Cesar, VOA News, March 2, 2017

Late last year, the United Nations vowed to intensify the fight against a deadly cholera outbreak its peacekeepers inadvertently carried to Haiti.

To date, however, the UN has raised just a small fraction of the estimated $400 million needed over the next two years to wage that campaign, according to a letter from the new secretary-general.

“The voluntary contributions that have been received are not yet sufficient and constitute only 2 percent of the amount," Antonio Guterres wrote in the letter sent last week to permanent representatives of the international body.

That would mean about $8 million. The letter said that as of February 8, five member states -- Chile, France, India, Liechtenstein and South Korea -- collectively had pledged almost $2 million to a U.N. multi-partner trust fund. Outside of that fund, Japan has promised $2.6 million and Canada has committed about $6 million.

Guterres’ letter asks all member states to notify him by March 6 of their intentions to help finance the campaign.

Separately, the U.S. government committed $2.9 billion to recovery and reconstruction efforts after a devastating quake in early 2010.

U.N. peacekeepers arriving from Nepal are believed to have caused Haiti’s current epidemic, which broke out near a U.N. base in October of that year. Since then, more than 788,000 people have been diagnosed with the infectious disease and at least 9,000 have died.

Last December, then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized to Haiti’s people, on behalf of the United Nations, “for the loss of life and suffering caused by the country’s cholera epidemic.”

Ban, speaking at an informal General Assembly meeting then, added, “Eliminating cholera from Haiti, and living up to our moral…

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 1, 2017

Borrowing a practice used by the new U.S. President Donald Trump, Haiti’s new president Jovenel Moïse announced his choice for prime minister via Twitter on the evening of Feb. 22, 2017.

“After a second series of consultations with the presidents of the two chambers, I’ve made a choice of Dr. Jack Guy Lafontant as Prime Minister,” he tweeted in French.

Jovenel Moïse was exasperated after days of wrangling with his putative allies in Parliament, who were jostling and lobbying for various rival candidates, in particular House of Deputies president Cholzer Chancy, a reputed drug trafficker. The in-fighting was intense. The president ultimately decided to choose his own doctor (and that of his wife and father), whom he had been considering for the post of Health Minister.

“Jovenel finally got fed up and decided to choose his own man,” said Dr. Michel José Charles, a New York-based Haitian gastroenterologist who has known the prime minister pick for decades. Dr. Lafontant was a supporter of Jovenel Moïse since he launched his presidential campaign under the banner of the Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) in 2015.

Described by several who know him as soft-spoken, serious, and honest, Dr. Lafontant, 55, is a gastroenterologist who trained in Haiti and Martinique but, as a matter of principle, has always worked in Haiti. In addition to being a well-respected doctor in Port-au-Prince, he is also a medical school professor and hospital administrator. He was the general director of the St. Croix Hospital in Léogâne (as well as the founder of its radio station) and member of the American College of Gastroenterology and the Haitian Medical Association, of which he was once treasurer.

Politically, Dr. Lafontant is the leader of the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Haiti -…

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, Feb. 22, 2017

An obscure physician who heads the Petionville Rotary Club has been designated as Haiti’s next prime minister by President Jovenel Moïse. Dr. Jack Guy Lafontant, a gastroenterologist and member of the American College of Physicians, confirmed to the Miami Herald that he had been tapped and was “awaiting official confirmation.”

That confirmation came after Lafontant’s name was published Thursday in the country’s official publication, Le Moniteur. Now he must convince both chambers of Parliament thatwith his cabinet and political program, he’s the right man for the job.

The choice of Lafontant, 55, came as a surprise to Haitian political watchers and lawmakers. One of them, Sen. Jacques Sauveur Jean, a member of Moïse’s ruling PHTK party, told Magik 9 radio station that he only learned of the news Thursday morning and had no idea who Lafontant was or what he looked like.

Moïse chose Lafontant after two meetings with parliamentarians including an hours-long session on Wednesday with about 40 deputies at the presidential palace. Moïse had hoped to find a consensus for his No. 2, and at one point floated the name of insurance company owner Olivier Barrau. Barrau, however, was rejected by lawmakers, sources close to the negotiations said.

While Barrau’s name had been circulating for weeks as potential prime minister, along with that of Lower Chamber of Deputies President Cholzer Chancy, Lafontant’s had not.

A member of the American College of Gastroenterology and the Haitian Medical Association, Lafontant is a close friend of Moïse and a staunch supporter of the president from the start of his presidential bid. While he heads a small political party, the Democratic Movement of Haiti-Democratic Rally of Haiti (MODELH-PRDH),…

By Marc-Arthur Fils-Aimé, Haiti Liberté, Feb. 22, 2017

Haiti’s Nov. 20, 2016 elections did not live up to expectations. There was great hope that they would enable the country would emerge from its ever-deepening crisis. Instead, the elections were fraught with fraud and irregularities, sometimes similar but often different from that seen in 2015.

Electoral participation was only about 20%, enabling neo-liberal political parties without a proven program to seize power. Many of those elected are rumored to be drug traffickers, smugglers, and perpetrators of other heinous acts, thus depriving them of legitimacy and respect. The nation will suffer for at least the next four or five years.

The new Provisional Electoral Council did not revolutionize the electoral system

In terms of organization, the 2016 elections were not a break with those of 2015, especially with an electoral system which has discrete ways to facilitate or eliminate any candidate at any level. The new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of 2016 was chaired by Mr. Léopold Berlanger, historically a close ally of Washington. Despite the progressive credentials of a small minority of its nine members, as an institution, the CEP did not revolutionize the electoral system, as it should have. On the contrary, it legitimized many of the reprehensible acts orchestrated by its predecessor.

Relentless public outcry and demonstrations had forced the 2015 CEP to discontinue the fraudulent elections then in progress. This led to the 2015 CEP’s dissolution. The new CEP removed some members of the communal or departmental electoral offices (BEC, BED) and replaced them with better trained and possibly better intended people, but this did not have a significant impact on improving the flawed electoral system, now more than a decade old. The illusion that these elections…

By David Mcfadden, Associated Press, Feb. 20, 2017

Dozens of emaciated men with sunken cheeks and protruding ribs lie silently in an infirmary at Haiti’s largest prison, most too weak to stand. The corpse of an inmate who died miserably of malnutrition is shrouded beneath a plastic tarp.
 
Elsewhere, prisoners are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in cellblocks so overcrowded they have to sleep in makeshift hammocks suspended from the ceiling or squeeze four to a bunk. New arrivals at Haiti’s National Penitentiary jostle for space on filthy floors where inmates on lockdown 22 hours a day are forced to defecate into plastic bags in the absence of latrines.
 
“Straight up: This is hell. Getting locked up in Haiti will drive you crazy if it doesn’t kill you first,” said Vangeliste Bazile, a homicide suspect who is among the about 80 percent of those incarcerated who have not been convicted of a crime but are held in prolonged pretrial detention waiting for their chance to see a judge.
Overcrowding, malnutrition and infectious diseases that flourish in jammed quarters have led to an upsurge of inmate deaths, including 21 at the Port-au-Prince penitentiary just last month. Those who monitor the country’s lockups are sounding an alarm about collapsing conditions.
 
“This is the worst rate of preventable deaths that I have encountered anywhere in the world,” said Dr. John May, a Florida physician who co-founded the nonprofit group Health Through Walls to improve health conditions in the Caribbean and several African nations.
 
Prisoners at the crumbling Port-au-Prince penitentiary flocked around a team of Associated Press journalists on a recent…
By Jake Johnston, Jacobin, Feb. 13, 2017

After more than a year of delays, Haiti finally elected a new president this past November. Jovenel Moïse — nicknamed the Banana Man — scored a first-round victory in a sprawling field of twenty-seven candidates, taking over 55 percent of the vote. The banana exporter, who has never held public office, was inaugurated on February 7.

The previous president, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, seemingly plucked Moïse out of nowhere last year, making him the new face of the Haitian Bald-Headed Party (PHTK). Moïse’s win is an extraordinary achievement for a political neophyte, but it has one glaring problem: only 20 percent of Haiti’s voters showed up on election day. Moïse became president with less than 10 percent of registered voters ― only about 600,000 votes — supporting him.

Haiti stands as a stark reminder of the fragility of electoral democracy amid rising inequality and exclusion. After the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti’s poor majority…

by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, Feb. 8, 2017

Former auto parts salesman and banana exporter Jovenel Moïse, 48, became Haiti’s 58th president on Feb. 7, 2017, in ceremonies at the Parliament and a miniature model of the former National Palace, which was destroyed in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

The President of Haiti’s Senate and Parliament’s National Assembly, Sen. Youri Latortue, whom the U.S. Embassy has described as a “Mafia boss,” “drug dealer,” and “poster-boy for political corruption,” draped the ceremonial Presidential sash on his close political confederate, who takes over from interim president Jocelerme Privert.

Indeed, the Parliament is dominated by senators and deputies from Moïse’s Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) and other allied right-wing parties, making the Haitian government look very similar to that of the U.S. where another politically inexperienced businessman promising jobs, Donald Trump,  won power and has a Republican majority in Congress.

A number of the parliamentarians, including Latortue and Chamber of Deputies President Cholzer Chancy, have well-known criminal backgrounds, including some indictments and convictions. Indeed, one senator-elect – former soldier, police chief, and “rebel” leader Guy Philippe – could not make the ceremonies because he is being held on drug trafficking charges in a Miami jail cell, after having been arrested by Haitian police and turned over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on Jan. 5.

Moïse’s inaugural speech was tightly and professionally written (as one would expect from a candidate who spent $4 million for the expertise of the Madrid-based election-engineering firm Ostos & Sola), hitting all the usual notes.