Though Garry Conille had always been viewed with suspicions because of his cozy relationship with the international community, his resignation as prime minister pushes back the timeline for an end to the occupation of Haiti. Coming on the heels of the so-called fact-finding mission by the members of the Security Council during which the country’s politicians were admonished to put aside their differences and work together for the good of the Haitian people, the blame game will likely be intense and unforgiving. But one man, more than any of the other actors, bears the ultimate responsibility for this unfolding drama and that is the Haitian president, Michel Martelly.
Ten months into Michel J. Martelly’s accidental presidency, Haiti is again experiencing a political crisis that has its genesis in the stubbornness of its president and the political philosophy he espouses. Lauded as a resolute leader by Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti and former US president, Martelly sees himself as “the man of the hour”, anointed by a higher power to guide the trouble country into the Promised Land, irrespective of his inexperience and lack of support among the population. Though he succeeded in moving the stalled reconstruction project forward, he did so through intimidations and a noticeable disdain for political compromises and constitutional niceties despite his pledge to establish the “rule of law” in Haiti.
Since almost everyone was fed up with the political deadlock that practically froze the project of reconstruction, Martelly’s unorthodox approach to governing was initially overlooked and even applauded. His political adversaries however were biding their time seeing that politics is a game of opportunities. Fittingly, Martelly’s political adversaries went back to the drawing board and dusted up an old issue that may well derail his presidency: his suspected foreign nationality, which the Haitian Constitution forbids, under any circumstances, for the country’s elected officials.
Like the birther movement in the US, which alleges that Barack Obama is not a natural born US citizen and is therefore ineligible to be president, the issue of Martelly’s possible double nationality will not go away. Michel Martelly needs to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had never acquired another nationality, and the sooner he addresses the issue, the better. Moreover, Martelly’s confrontational attitude in the matter is providing ammunitions to his critics in a country whose core attitude toward unsubstantiated rumors has always been “Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.” Where’s there is smoke, there is fire would be a correct translation to this Haitian idiosyncrasy.
With the resignation of the prime minister, this issue is no longer a political football but a serious matter that could impede the project of reconstruction of the country’s political, physical and administrative structures. Most importantly, the many entities (foreign and domestic) that facilitated the occupation of Haiti will seize upon this political infighting as irrefutable proof of immaturity on the part of the country’s leadership. Were this event happened in any other country; it will be viewed by the international community as an unmistakable sign of a vibrant democracy but Haiti being a special case with special needs makes it an alarming development that must be contained.
For Haiti’s sake, Martelly can do the right thing by addressing the issue expeditiously or let it develop into a full blown crisis, which will inevitably bring the unwanted meddling of the international community. With his narrow base of political support, the Haitian president can ill afford to further alienate the international community which, in all likelihoods, does not condone his treatment of Garry Conille whom it wholeheartedly supports. A consummate bureaucrat, Conille felt that the lawmakers’ demand for proof of citizenship for the members of his cabinet and that of the president was within of their constitutional prerogatives and that compliance was the way to go. But the president and his inner circle apparently disagreed.
There is a school of thought that supports the Haitian president’s calculated decision to orchestrate the resignation of a prime minister he did not control, nor had any confidence in, but did he consider the alternative? Elected with the support of less than 18% of the electorate, Michel Martelly does not have a political base that can act as trooper for his vision, whatever it may be. Parliament, which must ratify the next prime minister, is controlled by the opposition. In the ten months he has been in office, Michel Martelly managed to alienate every sector of the population, save his core supporters.
Replacing Conille with a member of his inner circle, which remains the cherished dream of Michel Martelly, would be the greatest political triumph ever in the history of Haiti. But unless the Haitian president has something up his sleeves, the possibility of this happening at this juncture is non-existent. Seeing that the resignation of Garry Conille does not advance the cause of stability nor strengthen Martelly’s position in his perennial struggle with the opposition-controlled Parliament, it is hard to fathom the rationale behind his move. But considering that Martelly’s closest advisers were authenticated members of the movement that facilitated the invasion and occupation of Haiti in the year of its bi-centennial (2004), the uncertainty that comes with this crisis may be a means to an end for the group. Having beaten the odds of improbability by becoming president of Haiti, Martelly must not be underestimated. But does he measure up to his group of advisers?
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