The Conversation | By Garry Pierre-Pierre
The calls for newly sworn-in President Joe Biden to do something in Haiti were predictable in content and timing. As Haiti was engulfing itself yet again in another man-made crisis, my Twitter timeline began to buzz with tweets like “We voted for you and Kamala Harris, you have to remove this dictator from power.”
I’m here to let you know that President Biden is busy. He came to the U.S. presidency after four years of woeful neglect by his predecessor and he has to get to work quickly righting the ship. There is no secret what his priorities are: Tame a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in America. Revitalize a crippled economy. Try to unite a deeply polarized nation.
There is no snark nor cynicism here. I’m well aware that the U.S is a superpower that everyone turns to in times of crisis. My biggest concern here is that once again Haitians are doing the same thing and expect a different result. That’s called insanity.
The situation in Haiti has become more complicated as a political crisis has spawned an economic and social catastrophe. Young people graduating from high school don’t have much of a future. The state university system can only accommodate a few thousands of the millions of high school graduates. The rich send their children overseas to attend college and the middle class sends their children to the Dominican Republic.
This is disturbing on so many levels because those left behind are vulnerable to joining gangs or become grifters. And a cadre of potential new leaders are abroad and do not understand the nuances of the country.
I remember as a college student, spending countless nights with roommates and others discussing the problems facing Black people in this country and what we will do when we’re in charge.
This scene is repeated across the globe in countries that are moving forward in the pursuit of building a just and equitable society for their citizens.
So how do we replicate such a model in Haiti? That’s the question we should be asking instead of begging the international community to intervene. Their intervention, whatever form it takes, is criticized and vilified by most Haitians.
So, now what?
The first step to a new Haiti is for the Haitian leaders – elected officials, civil society members, private sector actors – to decide that the country has reached its nadir. Once they come to that realization then they need to come up with a plan of action and find partners. After that craft a 25-year development plan to turn this wayward ship around.
As teams of experts chart the course, the brain drain needs to be stopped immediately and invite Haitians with the technical expertise living abroad to return. We’re not talking about recruiting unqualified people because they happen to be outside of Haiti. We need competent people. Now if others want to move back to their country, they’re welcome and I know they can contribute something positive to their beloved homeland.
While Biden is busy, there is something he can do once Haitians make the decision to break the vicious cycle of a major chaos every 10 years. Biden can task the State Department to revive a program where Haitian-American police officers are recruited to work in partnership with The Haitian National Police. That program was discontinued by Donald Trump a couple of years ago.
Biden should broaden that program to include other experts whose salaries would be underwritten by the State Department. There is precedent for such programs. When I was living in West Africa, I met many French professionals who were assigned at different levels in the host government working alongside Africans. They were called “Cooperant” and provided much needed technical assistance.
Our version of “Cooperant” could be done with Haitian-Americans. Don’t panic, they would not be taking anybody’s job. They would be helping rebuild their ancestral homeland, which is asking for help. This system should exist for 25 years and disbanded after that.
Time for new, bold ideas
This is the time to start something new and bold and not to recycle the same approach and ideas that have demonstrably failed to change the country’s narrative since it began this experiment with democracy.
Coming out of a 29-year dictatorship, the Haitian people embraced democracy enthusiastically — only to lose interest when they realized it was a messy affair after all. Elections manipulation, outright fraud and intimidation marred one election after another.
Jovenel Moise got elected with less than 10 % of the voting population casting a ballot in an election that featured several candidates. One can easily deduce then that he was elected with less than 500,000 votes in a country with more than 11 million inhabitants.
A democracy cannot function without this basic fundamental act: Voting. This is where again the Haitians living overseas can assist. As Moise floats a new Constitution that ostensibly gives Haitians outside of Haiti their full rights as citizens, including voting, Haitian-Americans should participate.
These laws, by the way, are already in the books and I’ve taken the steps recently of registering to vote in Haiti.
Now It’s time to pressure the Haitian government to put in place the logistics that would allow Haitians to be able to register and vote outside of Haiti. This is something that almost every country in the world does.
And so should Haiti.
Latest posts by Garry Pierre-Pierre (see all)
- Haiti Is At War With Itself - Mar. 05, 2021
- Mathieu Eugene, A Disappointment for Many Haitians - Feb. 26, 2021
- Carnival in the Time of Covid-19 - Feb. 19, 2021