The great leaders who have been immortalized for their remarkable contributions to the civilizations that straddled human history have one commonality: a narcissistic belief in their infallibility. One the other hand, narrow-mindedness, which can easily be confused with this particular trait of greatness or leadership, is the main characteristic of those whose actions brought shame and discredit to the human race. On the subject of remobilizing the now-defunct Haitian Armed Forces, it is tempting for many to consider Michel Martelly as belonging to the first category, because of his forcefulness and determination in forging ahead with the issue. The facts however paint a different picture.
Since the beginning of the Martelly’s presidency, there has been a relentless drive to re-mobilize the disbanded Haitian army, a policy consistent with the Haitian president’s campaign promise. However, selling the issue to a skeptic public and the international community, which funds 60% of the country’s operating budget, has been a public relation nightmare for Martelly because of the inconsistencies of his rationale for the remobilization. Each time the issue comes under fire or scrutiny, given the irrationality of the project, a new rationale is put forward by the president. To date, many justifications for the remobilization of the F.A.d’H have been put forward by the Haitian president and his minions; none of them, it turns out, makes sense. In fairness, there is a perfect reason for the president’s inability to make his case: Haiti presently cannot financially support a professional army, regardless of its merits.
At first, the remobilization of the F.A.d’H was touted as an avenue to deal with the high unemployment among Haitian youths. When this strange logic did not win any converts, Michel Martelly used the nationalist approach by insisting that it was meant to replace the hated MINUSTAH. With the international community still firmly opposed, apparently because of the linkage with the occupation, the Haitian president tried the flattery approach by exaggerating the potential role of a remobilized Haitian army could play in the interdiction of the regional drug trade. Apparently, this argument also failed to convince Washington, because Martelly has now enlisted the help of France to fund and train a “security force”, a euphemism for a military force, to insulate the Haitian economy from the illicit traffic of goods. Unless Michel Martelly had a green light from Washington for this venture, the French connection is definitely not the last chapter of this controversial subject.
From January 1, 1804, the official date of our independence from France to Aug 15, 1911, which saw the ascendency of Cincinnatus Leconte, a lawyer, to the presidency, Haiti was ruled by military men who had no interests in promoting democratic values and the rule of law, which could have produced a collective resistance to the coordinated assault on its right to exist by the western powers. This transition to civilian rule however was short-lived. On July 28, 1915, the US invaded Haiti. The occupation lasted 19 years and ended in 1934. Sadly, one of the lasting legacies of the US occupation of Haiti was the F.A.d’H, an institution created solely as an insurance policy against popular insurrections by the impoverished black majority.
Until its demobilization by then-Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1995, the F.A.d’H, formerly known as Gendarmerie d’Haiti, zealously lived up to its credo of guardian of the interests of the elite and those of the international community. Though fondly eulogized by many Haitians as a stabilizing force in the notoriously unstable country (speculative), others remembered it as an anti-democratic and criminal institution (history will concur) that stifled the aspirations of the Haitian people in its role as institutional guarantor of the power and privileges of the country’s elite.
In the interregnum years of the demobilization of the F.A.d’H (1994-2004), the country did teeter on the verge of anarchy, but the notion that the absence of an army being the reason, as its defenders are disingenuously saying, is rather simplistic and misleading. Notwithstanding its institutional role of defender of the status quo, the now-defunct F.A.d’H is actually responsible for the wave of criminality gripping Haiti today, because of its involvement in the drug trade in the years following the exile of J.C “Baby Doc” Duvalier. The institution was a cancer that could not be cured. Were it not put out of business, it would have been unable to reform itself and play a constructive role in Haiti.
Michel Martelly needs to study African history (circa the 1960s and 70’s) to discover the foolishness of his seemingly messianic drive to remobilize the F.A.d’H. The armies created by the African leaders supposedly to protect their countries’ political independence and territorial integrity turned out to be a nightmare for these leaders as well as their people. Had these leaders chosen to invest in education, infrastructure building and other essential components of a modern state rather than spent their countries’ meager resources on building armies, Africa will be better off today. Because of the actions of these leaders, Africa today is known to most of the world as the land of penuries and human failures.
Though historians may not look kindly on Aristide’s truncated presidential terms, they will however give him high mark on the dissolution of the F.A.d’H. As a rule, history has never been kind to revisionists. Michel Martelly should pause and think about it.
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