By Max A. Joseph Jr.
The centennial of the Copa America Cup (3-26 June, 2016), which provided Haiti with a rare opportunity to shine on the world stage and escape the narrative of being a dysfunctional country, was truly a disappointment. Though no sane Haitian realistically expected the Grenadiers (the national soccer team) to hoist the cup and bring it home, the team’s pathetic performance nonetheless should open the way for a conversation on the lack of concern and accountability that is robbing the country of its sense of purpose. Haitians have become so accustomed to low expectations and ridicule that an assessment of the tournament meant to avert a repeat of this national humiliation would not be forthcoming.
Another example was the decision to redo last year’s presidential election due to the massive fraud uncovered by a commission tasked by the provisional government to verify the results published by the now-defunct Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) under the leadership of Mr. Pierre-Louis Opont. One can forever argue about the political nature of the recount but such recrimination would not contradict the fact that some officials have intentionally subverted the electoral process, and thus should be criminally prosecuted. Unfortunately but sure enough, no criminal investigation is currently under way and not one individual will ever be held accountable for what should be considered the ultimate offense against the interests of the Haitian people. What would it take for this institutional indifference that condones incompetence and foster this culture of unaccountability to stop?
The truth is that for most of Haiti’s 200-plus years of existence, Haitians were part of a purely political entity that hardly matched the definition of a state. Strongmen after strongmen considered the country their personal property, while the framework of a functional and orderly state was systematically demolished or ignored despite the gallant opposition of many well-meaning citizens. Constitutions were written or discarded for the purpose of validating the power of particular strongmen rather than establishing a nation of laws. Consequently, a deep-seated contempt for conventional rules became intrinsic to the mental characteristics of the citizenry, leaving generations of Haitians incapable to accept or understand the necessity to build, respect, and protect national institutions. It is testament to the disconnect that comes to symbolize Haiti’s inability to find its rightful place in the family of nations.
Modern constituent states progress and endure through trials and errors. Haiti, quite conceivably, is the only country in the world where this cardinal rule does not apply. And, because this aversion to accountability permeates every sector of its society, Haiti may be the only constituent state where subsequent generations of Haitians are guaranteed to be worse off than their predecessors. This destructive attitude toward governing effectively nullifies the organizational character of the state and renders social mobility all but impossible for the great majority of Haitians. Moreover, it opens the way for hopelessly corrupt and inept charlatans to play a rotating role in the marginalization or destruction of the country. These “indispensible immortals” are notable not for their achievements but their endurance in the political arena which seems everlasting and unchallengeable.
Practically every nation on earth has experienced periods of soul searching and other malaises on the way to building a functioning and cohesive society. Two centuries into this formal rite of passage, Haitians have yet to reach a consensus on the appropriate course for Haiti simply because of a lost sense of purpose. We have relinquished our civic responsibilities toward the motherland, thus enabling those claiming “superior moral standards” to take possession of our destiny. It explains the indifference of the political class in regard to the occupation which differs to that of the great majority of Haitians.
Currently Haiti is the property of the international community, but seemingly the responsibility of no one. This embarrassing situation has got to change, if the country is to regain its sense of purpose and recover its sovereignty. By allowing unaccountability to degenerate into a national pastime, we have inadvertently or purposely (depending on your perspective) forfeited the right to govern ourselves. The unlawful occupation is a constant reminder of this depressing reality. Making matters worse, the tyrannical presence of the international community is providing the political class with a convenient excuse for this harmful behavior made famous by René Préval’s infamous “Najé poun soti” (swim to get out), which basically exhorted Haitians to fend for themselves.
This disengagement leaves Haiti on autopilot or at the mercy of the international community whose underhanded tactics remain consistent with its goal to create a state of permanent instability in the country. Meanwhile the repulsive headlines from the foreign press intended to corroborate the notion of Haiti being a failed state that cannot survive without the benevolent support of the international community continue unabated. “How one woman brings hygiene to Haiti,” which headlined a Miami Herald’s article pertaining to the inauguration of a toilet paper factory in Haiti is a prime example of a concerted campaign to create the wrong impression about the country.
The decision of the provisional government to move forward with the verification of last year’s flawed election, which provoked the hostile reaction of the international community, should be applauded across the political spectrum because we deserve better than being pushed around and told what is best for Haiti. In a sea of hopelessly corrupt sycophants, Haiti does need a few good men because this untenable situation has got to change.