By Ernesto Cooke, St. Vincent Times, Sept. 11, 2023
St. Vincent’s Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says CARICOM is disappointed that the prime minister of Haiti has not taken action towards broadening the governing coalition and has not taken other agreed actions.
According to Gonsalves, CARICOM believed that the Haitian government needed to take more action after agreeing to some of the decisions made at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Caribbean Prime Minister said there is a need for CARICOM to play a more proactive role at the political level in discussions in Haiti organized by the various interest groups, and in this regard, CARICOM has to be very involved in the drafting of the resolution on Haiti to be tabled at the United Nations Security Council.
Gonsalves stated that the Haitian government must confirm in writing that it wishes CARICOM success in finding solutions to the deteriorating political and security situation, which has contributed to the collapse of all functions and structures of the government.
“The view was held that it was important to acknowledge the fund, the funding requirements associated with support for Haiti, and the resource constraints affecting member states of the Caribbean community. Consequently, it will be important to engage with the US, UK, Canada, France, and other international partners to ascertain from them what their commitments to this effort will be”, Gonsalves said.
What is the security situation like currently in Haiti?
There are an estimated 162 heavily armed gangs, with 9000 members in control of as much as 80% of the capital city, Port au Prince. The gangs have been responsible for a sharp increase in kidnappings, killings, and violent assaults, resulting in internal displacement. The Haitian National Police is struggling to maintain law and order, and the government has called for international security assistance.
The governments of the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Kenya have expressed their willingness to contribute security personnel to a multinational mission. I should point out that a year ago, the Haitian police force, the national police, had about 14,000 members. They are now down to about 10,000.
The political situation
Gonsalves told Parliament that the multifaceted crisis in Haiti includes collapsed institutions, a political impasse, and a deteriorating humanitarian, economic, and security situation.
“The political situation is deeply polarized and volatile, fueled by criticisms of the lack of legitimacy of the government and its inability to address security and socioeconomic problems. National and international efforts to find solutions have not been successful due to the unwillingness of the parties involved to compromise, and this is the first thing that has to be addressed. You have to have a political solution. There has to be a government of national unity. And that is where CARICOM is using our best efforts so that that government can prepare the way”. Gonsalves said perhaps in a year and a half, Haiti will hold general elections. He said it must be remembered that the Haitian government, which currently exists, has no legitimacy.
“The Prime Minister hasn’t come from an election. He wasn’t properly appointed. None of these things occurred subsequent to the assassination of President Moise a few years ago. There is no parliament, and there are dozens of political organizations and thousands of civil society groupings. And we are seeking to see if we can get a consensus so that a government of national unity can be Put together, outsiders may be able to help facilitate something, but it is left to the Haitian people, through their leaders of political parties and institutions and civil society groupings, to take hold of this and make the requisite compromises so that you can have a consensual government, a government of national unity”, Gonsalves stated.
Gonsalves said part of the issue and part of the problem with the security situation is that some of the gang leaders and members have connections in the police force, and they have morphed into people inside of political groupings as well. It’s a complicated situation, he said.
Food insecurity is widespread. Some 50% of the population has little access to food, potable water, and humanitarian relief. Large numbers have little access to food, potable water, and humanitarian relief. Malnutrition has tripled over the past year, with access to basic medical services posing an extreme challenge.”
Gonsalves told parliament that every effort should be made on the part of CARICOM to demonstrate its leadership by engaging the international community, including the USA, France, UK, Canada, and African states, with a view to restoring peace, security, and political stability in that CARICOM member state.
“I just want to say that it is important that CARICOM has leadership and has been engaged with other countries, as we have been engaged in Canada, which has its own set of challenges, and we’ve been engaged in the United States, which has its own set of preoccupations around the world, including in Ukraine and elsewhere. CARICOM has to be very careful not to be led by the nose by any entity or any country”.
Gonsalves said his government received a couple of weeks ago a diplomatic note from the US government asking how many police officers or soldiers from other countries would be put in a force to go into Haiti or how much money the nation could put in.
“Now, the United States of America is not a member of CARICOM; Haiti is a CARICOM member state. So sometimes these things happen, and hopefully we get over that kind of misunderstanding. If it is a misunderstanding”.
Gonsalves said in addition to the offers from the Bahamas and Jamaica, Kenya has offered to send a thousand personnel to Haiti to assist in the security efforts. Rwanda, he said, has signaled to CARICOM its willingness to respond positively to an invitation to contribute about 500 troops to support the efforts on the ground.
“It was felt that given the language, capability, and experience of Rwandans, they would be in a position to assist. At the last meeting, the July meeting of CARICOM, questions were raised. Who will pay for the troops? Rwanda is not a developed country, and are we going to get a Security Council resolution? Mapping out a political basis for a government of national unity And then the United Nations says that there’s this security problem here that we need to have as a security matter in the world. We need to have some approach, but you just can’t go in there. You need cover from the United Nations and authority from the United Nations Security Council. And you need a consensual government in Haiti to say, Yes, it’s fine. And then you need that entity inside Haiti that will be able to give any visiting troops the requisite immunity legally in respect of any actions taken”.
Gonsalves said whatever solution you have, it has to be Haitian-led and devised with support from the international and regional community.
“There’s a lot of general talk from members of the international community. I don’t know whether there’s Haiti fatigue. It is absolutely necessary for Haiti to establish a government that more broadly represents the majority of its stakeholders”, he said.
Posted Sept. 17, 2023