By Garry Pierre-Pierre | The Conversation
Last Sunday I woke up to find social media lighting up with a new hashtag #FreeHaiti. The outrage was sparked after a squad of police officers were lynched and killed as they attempted to enter Village de Dieu, a notorious slum under the control of gang members who authorities say are partly responsible for the daily spate of attacks.
Gang members videotaped the macabre killing and desecration of the officers’ bodies and as of this writing they’ve refused to hand over the bodies so the officers can have a proper burial. So, this is where we find ourselves today, total and complete anarchy.
Haitian leaders — in both the public and private sectors — have all turned their backs on the country, providing few opportunities of a better life for its citizens. If you’re born poor, you die poor unless you find a visa out of the country.
When my half-brother Sergot passed away in 2006, his final wish was that for me to help his three would be orphaned children. His second oldest son Matthieu told me of his struggles to get into medical school and asked if I could pay his tuition to a medical school I had never heard of. I asked him why he didn’t apply to the once-respected state medical school and he told me that the school accepts a couple of hundred students a year out of thousands of applicants. You had to be connected to be accepted, he added.
I told him that I probably can get him admitted to the state school or if he prefers, I can get him a scholarship to Cuba. He didn’t hesitate for a moment and chose Cuba as a better option.
Matthieu is now a brain surgeon living in Ecuador. If he wasn’t a family member, I’m afraid he would have amounted to nothing and perhaps join the ranks of the gangs or become part of the corrupt system in order to survive.
I tell this personal story to underscore the reality in Haiti and show you the depth of the inequality that is Haitian society. Born in the wrong family or into poverty, you are a third-class citizen. To exacerbate the situation, young men in Haiti have no chance.
The Haitian government could not care less. The Non-Governmental Organizations who are, for all practical purposes, Haiti’s de facto leaders, have all sorts of programs aiming to help young women, to the neglect of the men. They falsely think that men in Haiti are taken care of because MEN control the government.
It is not what it seems. Everyone needs a way out of the grinding poverty, not just the women. But I’m afraid this won’t change anytime soon.
There are those who think that the gang problem and other challenges rest squarely on the shoulders of whoever is in power at the moment. Of course, that leader is responsible. But it’s a communal problem that has to be addressed holistically and tackle poverty at its core. Poverty is like a gangrene that has been allowed to fester with no care. It simply gets worse and eventually the gangrene attacks the entire body.
The division in Haitian society is deep and there is little trust among the various sectors and now there is open hostility. This week Reginald Boulos, once a supporter of president Jovenel Moise, has accused him of being complicit when his car dealership was set ablaze, burning his entire fleet of cars and the building.
Moise is now engrossed in an epic battle with some leaders of the private sector the likes of which we’ve never seen since 1986 if ever. He has attacked them by insisting they pay their fair amount of taxes and revoke monopolies that they once enjoyed. But he also has allies among the business elites who are benefiting from his administration’s actions.
Some of those business owners and the political opposition have called Moise a budding dictator who wants to remain in power by refusing to hold elections on time and govern by executive fiat after he failed to organize timely parliamentary elections essentially dissolving the legislative body.
There have been calls for the Biden Administration to fix the situation. So far Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has rebuffed calls that the U.S pressure Moise to step down and for the opposition to lead a transitional government until the presidential and parliamentary elections are held.
When Moise’s term expires has been central to the latest political machinations. The opposition insists that he should have stepped down on February 7, 2021, but Moise counter that his term ends on February 7, 2022 because he was inaugurated in 2017 after the original vote was delayed. And here we are. A country that is tearing itself apart.
And people are looking for the international community writ large to weigh in and fix the mess that we’ve created. This time it is unlikely to do anything. The United Nations after its controversial tenure in Haiti has no stomach for another mission. The world is dealing with the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic and are scrambling to protect their citizens.
Furthermore, no matter what form that help comes in, it faces strong pushback from Haitians who feel their republic is under assault from neocolonialists. The UN pulled out its forces from Haiti four years ago under proven allegations of rape, assault and other malfeasances. Unfortunately, the UN doesn’t have a good track record in building the nations’ capacity.
We have to be honest with ourselves in that we’ve met the enemy and the enemy is us. We are unable to solve our differences. We play a zero-sum game. In that game, no one wins. With this latest crisis, we haven’t changed the game. Let’s watch another episode of the Hunger Games.