PORT-AU-PRINCE – The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) will be staying for at least another year, as expected.
The mission’s ninth term began Thursday following Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the Security Council to extend the mission until October 15, 2010.
In announcing the renewal of the mandate, MINUSTAH chief Hedi Annabi, paid tribute to the 11 peacekeepers killed last Friday in a plane crash near the border with the Dominican Republic.
“The best way to honor their sacrifice and their memory is to redouble our efforts in the mandate given to us by the Security Council,” said Annabi.
In its resolution authorizing the extension, the Security Council said the situation in Haiti remained “a threat to international peace and security in the region, despite the progress achieved thus far.”
The 9,000-member UN peacekeeping force has been in Haiti since 2004 following the removal of president Jean Bertrand Aristide and reaction to the news in Haiti was muted as an extension of the mission was expected.
Annabi called on the international community to increase multilateral and bilateral aid and encourage much needed investment and job creation. He also highlighted the visit to Haiti by some 200 foreign investors at the beginning of October as “proof of the real possibility of change in the country.”
UN troops working with Haitian national police have been credited with reducing crime and lawlessness which plagued the capital in the aftermath of Aristide’s departure. But some fault the international community for not doing enough to secure the foundations of long-term stability.
Bernice Robertson, a senior policy analyst for the International Crisis Group in Port-au-Prince said that while the UN has helped reform and build up the Haitian police, which has tripled in size, judicial and prison reform have not kept up.
“There is increased confidence among the population in the police, increased numbers of crimes reported, increased numbers of arrests, which is increasing the overcrowding in the prisons,” said Robertson.
These sentiments were echoed in an open letter to the UN from Haiti’s National Human Rights Network calling on it to do more to advance judicial and prison reform.
The network’s executive director, Pierre Esperance is concerned not enough is being done to prepare for the UN’s eventual departure. “Every year, they renew the mandate of MINUSTAH, there is no strategic plan for MINUSTAH to leave Haiti,” said Esperance.
On the Champs de Mars, lawyer Pompee Nixon, 38, welcomed the news of the extended UN mandate. “They’ve been doing a great job,” he said. Adding that before peacekeepers left, a national army would have to be put in place.
Social worker Jean Ricardo Saint Clair, 34, was less enthusiastic. While he credited the UN with helping the Haitian police re-establish order, Saint Clair said, “MINUSTAH needs to do more to tackle social problems. That’s the root of violence.”
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