Now that the search for survivors of the Jan.12 earthquake has officially ended, the grim reality of rebuilding hundreds of schools, government buildings, roads, the electric grid and other components of a functioning state is taking hold in the minds of everyone.
The Haitian government however has been conspicuously absent, leaving the international community, particularly the U.S., in charge of everything— from organizing search and rescue missions to food distribution.
For the last three weeks, René Préval, the Haitian President, who should be the lead motivator, has yet to address the nation, preferring instead to give interviews to the foreign media and pathetically imploring the international community to do more for the beleaguered country.
Complicating matters is the reality that Haiti is an occupied country (2004-?), something that seems to escape the attention of the foreign media and many Haitians, even government officials. “Haiti is a sovereign country,” intoned Alix Cinéas, the Haitian Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
He was speaking about the controversial decision by René Préval to allow the deployment of 150 Dominican soldiers on Haitian soil. Lyonel Trouillot, a renowned Haitian writer residing in France, added: “May this event [not] serve as a pretext for institutions, states or individuals to encroach on the political sovereignty of Haiti.”
Evidently, the notion that Haitians are dimwitted may not be preposterous after all— if one takes into account these incredible statements made by Alix Cinéas and Lyonel Trouillot.
Regardless of the complicated nature of the actual situation in Haiti, the elected government remains in theory the official representative of the people and must therefore be held accountable.
Granted, the magnitude of the disaster has overwhelmed a fragile structure already subordinate to the power of the non-governmental organizations. But clearly, the incompetence and apathy of Haitian officials were key factors in what will surely be considered by historians as a national shame.
The current government represents the worst Haiti has to offer. Given the magnitude of the task ahead, it should not, under any circumstances, be in charge of rebuilding the impoverished country.
A national unity government must be expeditiously formed to handle the crisis, since the constitutionally mandated legislative and presidential elections that were to be held this year are to be postponed indefinitely.
The Haitian people simply can no longer afford the indifference/incompetence exhibited by the current government, which is giving credence to the notion that the country needs international supervision.
A range of issues ranging from decentralization to asking France for the restitution of the independence indemnity needs a broad consensus among Haitians.
One can only hope that the disaster, which unfortunately took the lives hundreds of thousands of Haitians, had also buried the 85 political parties that formally registered with the CEP (French acronym for Provisional Electoral Council) to partake in elections.
Besides the often-repeated moniker of Haiti being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haitians are portrayed by the foreign media as genetically wired for political strife— which basically suggests or explains our failure to develop a consensus-based political system in the last 206 years.
We owe it to ourselves not to validate this argument, by taking the lead in formulating a better future for Haiti. The notion of foreigners devising and implementing what they think is best for the country is contrary to the legacy bestowed upon us by our founding fathers.
Our shortcomings have been exposed by the tragedy and Haiti has become the object of ridicule and inconsiderate comments that got traction and threatened to rewrite our history.
In light of these unprecedented attacks on our identity and the current government’s apparent inability to lead, a national unity government may be the only answer. Otherwise, the Haitian people could be condemned to more of the same.
One fact that makes Haiti’s situation all the more challenging is that no other countries, even those with histories of natural disasters, have experienced losing 2 percent of their population as a result of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or volcanic eruptions.
Therefore no one could possibly claim to have ready-made answers to the challenges that lay ahead and are sure to exacerbate the Haitian people’s already precarious existence.
Whether the earthquake was an act of nature or, as conspiracy theorists maintain, an ecological attack on an unsuspecting nation, the task of rebuilding should not be left to the care of a government whose indifference and incompetence make the case for the continued occupation of Haiti.
At this stage, the international community’s cooperation is welcome but the task of crafting Haiti’s future should be left to the care of Haitians of all political persuasion, not foreign academics and politicians.
Notwithstanding the incompetence and indifference of Haitian leaders, it is obvious that the experiment (2004-?) in which basic government services are outsourced to NGOs practically crippled the state’s ability to properly respond to the disaster.
The incompatibility of sovereignty and occupation aside, the suffocating power of the foreign-funded and supported NGOs is likely to increase as a result of the ineptitude of the current government.
The downside to this is that a good chunk of aid pledged for reconstruction will be spent on foreign consultants and contractors earning high salaries while the intended beneficiaries, the Haitian people, continue to suffer.
René Préval: your redemption is around the corner. Do the right thing by ceding power to a national unity government.