The appointment of former U.S. President Bill Clinton as a special United Nations envoy to Haiti is cause for reflection and analysis. For some like The Miami Herald’s editorialist, it “may be the best thing to happen to that impoverished Caribbean nation in years”. For Orlando radio commentator Robert Benodin, this is “the obvious and unequivocal manifestation of a great worry.”
After the two important visits, in early March, UN Secretary Ban K-moon and Clinton, followed by an impressive delegation of the UN Security Council led by its president. The Haitian intelligentsia should wonder why so much attention to Haiti. History teaches us, however, that such important visits are rarely simple goodwill gestures. They are more like the consultation request made to some colleagues by a medical doctor when all regular treatment procedures don’t seem to improve the patient’s extreme condition.
President Rene Preval and others in the country, are now surprised and even concerned about Clinton’s new assignment. It is reported that Preval has said with astonishment: “Se pa accord sa-a m siyen ! Yo rebat kat-la !” [This is not the accord I signed! They have reshuffled the cards]. The president was referring to the document he signed with the imminent visitors. Thus, the importance of knowing well what you want, presenting your needs with appropriate justification, provide guarantee of exact utilization, and before even asking for more, demonstrate how wisely previous allocations were administered, and what is the contribution or the willingness of the private sector to participate effectively to improve efficiency.
Otherwise the country can be seen like a grown up child who, while claiming complete independence, keeps asking allocations from parents and expect to receive indefinitely with no question asked and no justification given. Sadly, it seems that the Republic of Haiti, the first Black republic in the world, and the second independent State in the Americas is, after more than 200 years, still expecting the pity and, directly or otherwise, the charity of the big brother and its allies.
The UN appointment of Bill Clinton is a wake up call that can be useful if finally both the Haitian government and the civil community decide to join heads and hands, and utilize the services and financial help offered not only to fill in the current holes, but more importantly to plan a sustainable program of Haiti’s development projected on at least 25 years of uninterrupted collective achievements. Regardless of Clinton’s willingness and eventual ability to help bring more investments to Haiti, it is the responsibility of the Haitians themselves to provide the facilities and the competent working force. A man of his caliber is too busy with his foundation fighting AIDS and other sickness in Africa and elsewhere, working on the renovation of Harlem in New York, and involved other projects, to come in Haiti looking at the Haitians still acting like unreasonable children. It would be humiliating if Clinton was forced to become a UN schoolmaster in Haiti.
The time has come for the Haitians to grow up, to distinguish between immediate action and long range planning, between qualification and competence, between work efforts and productive achievement, between self confidence and usefulness of other’s constructive knowledge. Haitians at home must finally embrace their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and take advantage of the experience they have accumulated abroad, realizing that the country is large enough for all its children who must work together, in all the fields of possible productivity, on all levels of social and economic strata. It is time for Haiti to become mature.