Haiti is “on the brink of an irreparable humanitarian catastrophe”

Le président élu de l’Accord de Montana, Fritz Jean, lors de son passage à Montréal

By Lise Denis, Le Devoir, April 26, 2023

Haiti is "on the brink of an irreparable humanitarian catastrophe". Both the opposition to the government and members of the diaspora are calling for “concrete” and “urgent” action from Ottawa. Not necessarily to intervene, but above all to dislodge the power in place.

“People cannot live in peace. We rape them, we kidnap them,” says Évelyne. She demonstrated Sunday alongside hundreds of other members of the Haitian diaspora, who all shouted “nou bouke” (“we are tired”).

"If nothing is done, we risk seeing the situation get worse, and then, Haiti will become a pariah state," warns the president-elect of the Montana Accord, Fritz Jean. He recently visited Montreal after being “invited by the diaspora”, and interviewed by Le Devoir.

On Monday, the UN reported that "insecurity in the capital" was comparable to situations of "armed conflict". Since January 2023, more than 600 people have been abducted, according to the United Nations.

During his visit to Montreal, the Montana Accord President-elect Fritz Jean
explained that the diaspora "also suffers psychologically" and financially from this crisis. He explained that, in the event of a kidnapping, it is the family members abroad who must pay the ransom, which can amount to up to $200,000. “As soon as you live here, you are afraid that someone will call you at any time to tell you that one of your people has been kidnapped,” says Évelyne.

Mr. Jean is also “concerned” about the rapes of young girls committed by armed gangs. "Everyone around this table knows women, cousins... I don't even want to talk about them," he said.

An economist by training, the former governor of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti has no power under the Constitution. The Montana Accord was announced after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in 2021 to establish a transitional government. But it is not recognized by Ariel Henry, the de facto Prime Minister.

Ariel Henry remains supported by the Core Group – made up of ambassadors from Canada, the United States, Germany, Brazil, Spain , France, the European Union and representatives of the UN. He is also suspected of being linked to armed gangs and the assassination of Jovenel Moïse.

Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae met with Fritz Jean in December 2022.

Penalties welcomed, but insufficient

Mr. Jean, who was Prime Minister for a brief period in 2016, accuses the Henry government of being responsible for this "chaos", which "did not fall from the sky".

“Ariel is a criminal, an assassin. It was not the people who elected him, ”claims Fifi Fabiola, who attended the demonstration. "He shouldn't stay in power," adds Paul.

Fritz Jean believes that this government cannot be at the impetus for "change". He "does not understand" the "tolerance", even the "complicity" shown by Ottawa with regard to the Henry government. “Somehow, this state [Ottawa] is also responsible."

Since November 2022, the Canadian government has sanctioned 19 people considered accomplices of armed gangs, including former politicians. According to Mr. Jean, these sanctions are not enough as long as Ottawa continues to “ally with this government”.

"When Canada penalizes, it has no impact, as few Haitians have bank accounts in Canada" says Chalmers Larose, professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

In an email, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Jason Kung said "we will continue to put direct pressure on those who foment gang violence. More sanctions are to come."

In March 2023, Ottawa provided $100 million to Haiti for the training Haiti's police force. Something that should be the priority of the Haitian government, says Fritz Jean, who believes that Haiti lacks manpower, and "must rebuild Haiti's police force". For this, Haiti needs "technical support", he said, specifying that he is "not at all" against international aid. "It's to make a qualitative leap", to allow Haiti to "fly with its own wings".

“No legitimate power”

According to Mr. Jean, a “change” of power is necessary. “We have arrived at a state of institutional disrepair, a social tearing apart such that we need a broad consensus […], and this is exactly the origin of Montana."

Since the scheduled end of Jovenel Moïse's mandate in February 2022, Ariel Henry, who succeeded him under the aegis of the Core Group, has refused to leave power. Henry says that he wants to organize new elections. A position in line with Ottawa's wish that “free and credible elections can take place”.

Fritz Jean, meanwhile, “finds it strange that foreign governments say that we need elections now in Haiti. […] This security situation must be corrected to allow candidates to campaign, but also citizens to go and vote”.
Without an election, Montana Accord signatories have three options for gaining power, Larose said. Either by "general uprising", or by "a coup", or by finding a "source of acceptance of power" with foreign powers. During his visit to Canada, Fritz Jean met the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet.

"There is no legitimate power right now in Haiti," said Mr. Larose. Power is found within groups that […] resort to violence, or […] that physically occupy spaces of power. »

Following the appointment of Ariel Henry, "500 organizations, civil figures and political parties" signed an Accord in August 2021 at the Hotel Montana, in Port-au-Prince, with the mission of finding a consensus. After elections held internally in January 2022, Fritz Jean became its president.

Ottawa is calling for “a consensus to arrive at a transitional government, while the Montana group already have a fairly broad consensus,” Mr. Jean claims.

Larose argues that "if this coalition has an “interest in democracy” its capacity for action is limited. “This Accord has reached a phase of obsolescence,” he says, citing “tactical” differences between the members. “The basic unity has been broken."

The Montana Accord is also not recognized, neither by the Constitution, nor by the people, nor by the diaspora. The elections that led to the appointment of Fritz Jean have “nothing to do with popular elections”, Larose explained. 

"The Montana Accord doesn't exist for the rest of us," Paul said. “It is not recognized by Haitians. It's not going anywhere, ”says Max Adolph. “I don’t even know what the Montana Accord is,” adds Évelyne.


Translated by CHIP Editors


Posted May 2, 2023