Haiti needs stability to remove threat from ex-soldiers, says UN
In the following article, we learn from the head of MINUSTAH, Mariano Fernandez, that Haitians must quickly accept the nomination of Laurent Lamothe as prime minister or else the paramilitaires that have been parading around Haiti for months under the noses of MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police will become vengeful and violent. We also learn from the article author that the mandate of MINUSTAH is "expected to be approved" by the Security Council and Haitian government when it comes up for annual renewal ... in eight months! See below for a report of a presentation by Mariano Fernandez in Washington DC on March 9, 2012.--Website editors
By Ian Simpson, Reuters, published on Alertnet, March 9, 2012
WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) - Haiti badly needs political stability to help head off potential trouble from military training camps run by disgruntled former soldiers, the head of the U.N. security mission to Haiti said on Friday. The camps that have sprung up around the impoverished Caribbean nation are headed by handfuls of former soldiers looking for pension payments and joined by jobless young people, said Mariano Fernandez, the head of the U.N. force known as MINUSTAH.
Political stability depends on parliament confirming President Michel Martelly's nominee as prime minister in order for the government to move ahead with measures to boost security, pay pensions and provide jobs, he said. "We have growing violence each time you don't have a government," Fernandez said at a discussion at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank.
The biggest camp is at Lamentin, about 5 miles (8 km) west of central Port-Au-Prince, the capital. About 1,000 men are training there with a core of 20 to 30 former soldiers, Fernandez said.
The groups at the camps have little more than old handguns and rifles and T-shirts, he said. "Nothing that can challenge the 10,000 professional soldiers (and police) that we have in Haiti," said Fernandez, a former Chilean foreign minister, referring to the military contingent of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
The former soldiers have ignored government pleas to put down their arms and last week Martelly, a popular singer known by his stage name Sweet Mickey, asked police officials and lawmakers to find ways to clear the sites.
The camps' emergence comes against a backdrop of international concern over a push by Martelly to revive Haiti's army, which was disbanded in 1995 after brutal military rule. Haiti has a woefully under-manned police force of about 10,000, which is expected to grow to 15,000 over the next three years under a U.N. training program.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission comes up for annual renewal at the Security Council in October. It is expected to be renewed (sic) despite its reputation being tarnished by accusations that Nepalese U.N. troops were responsible for a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 7,000 Haitians since October 2010. Martelly has named Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe to be prime minister and parliament needs to confirm him quickly to fill the political vacuum, Fernandez said.
Lamothe would replace Garry Conille, who resigned after four months on the job. The political paralysis comes as Haiti is still recovering from an earthquake two years ago that killed more than 200,000.
Mariano Fernandez speaks in Washington DC
By CHIP News Service
Below is a summary of someof the points made in a 90-minute presentation (in English) by Mariano Fernandez, heaad of MINUSTAH, to the 'Inter American Dialogue' in Washington DC on March 9, 2012. http://www.thedialogue.org/page.cfm?pageID=32&pubID=2893&s=
Fernandez states that Michel's Martelly's accession to the presidency of Haiti was a "perfect, impeccable transfer of power to a new president, Mr. Martelly, the first time in history." He then speaks at length of the current political situation. He dismisses the threat of the paramilitaries who are presently running training camps, saying the numbers are "very small" and that President Martelly is moving quickly to resolve the issue by offering "pensions" to members of the disbanded armed forces.
Fernandez decries the Constitution of Haiti for its requirement that the nomination of the prime minister of the country be agreed by Haiti's Parliament. He urges support for constitutional ammendments by President Martelly that will concentrate more power in the office of the presidency and for Martelly's nomination of Laurent Lamothe as prime minister.
Fernandez reports progress with the situation of internally displaced persons. He says the number of residents of camps of internally displaced persons has declined from "1.8 million" in 2010 to 515,000 today. An unnamed and unexplained 'progress' is reported. "Things are slowly improving."
Fernandez is asked about the presence of Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide in the country. He says he "has the impression" that Aristide is a more popular and important figure in the country. He notes that "8,000 or 9,000" people marched in Port au Prince to commemorate the events of "February 29" (2004), but he thinks the concerns of the protesters are "not relevant" to the current political situation. He draws a parallel between the "financial crimes" of which Aristide stands accused (an utterly false statement, repeated legal efforts against President Aristide have amounted to a fat zero) and the human rights accusations against Duvalier. On the latter, he states blandly that a Haitian judge has said that Duvalier will not stand trial for human rights crimes.
Fernandez criticizes 'irresponsible journalism' that is reporting on the cases of sexual violence by MINUSTAH soldiers against Haitian citizens. He says such reports are interfering with the tremendous progress that MINUSTAH is achieving with security provision. He says "for the first time in history in Haiti," police are answering complaints from citizens received in the middle of the night. He also says that the recent report authored by Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah reporting a rise in criminal violence since the summer of 2011 is false and inaccurate. It is, "Completely out of reality," he says.
Fernandez was asked to comment on Bill Clinton's recent acknowledgement of the responsibilityof MINUSTAH soldiers for the introduction of cholera into Haiti. He says that that no UN representative will henceforth issue any statements on the origin of cholera due to the legal action that has been undertaken by victims.
Mr. Fernandez complains of the continuing weakness of the judicial system in Haiti. The Canadian and other international governments have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into funding and training for 'security' in Haiti over the past eight years. Apparently, this hasn't provided much 'justice.'