A child plays a traditional game of hopscotch during the tourism fair held July 30, 2022, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Photo by Oldjy François for The Haitian Times
A child plays a traditional game of hopscotch during the tourism fair held July 30, 2022, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Photo by Oldjy François for The Haitian Times

The international community is gaslighting Haiti, literally and figuratively. We all know it, and we all need to stop the pretenses if Haiti is to pick up where it left off in 1804 and achieve true liberation.

The gaslighting is real. Literally, the country is being set on fire by mobs angry at rising fuel prices, ironically enough, encouraged by gangs using revolution-era rhetoric to appeal to them. To get out of this one and stand tall against international pressures to get Haiti what it needs, we Haitians need to pull the wool from our eyes and call out the perpetrators. 

Figuratively, the gaslighting is happening on all fronts, in Haiti and outside of it, with heavy injections from Haiti’s so-called friends. 

The U.S., for one, has insisted on a “Haitian-led solution” for some time to Haiti’s crises. Yet, the State Department refuses to help endorse the solution that emerged from Haiti nearly a year ago: the Montana Accord. The agency also said the U.S. won’t “pick winners and losers” in Haiti, but by not supporting the solution that still stands out, isn’t that exactly what the U.S. is doing?

The entire U.S. response, at this point, begs the question: Is it really a Haitian-led solution if it requires U.S. approval to be recognized and accepted? The treatment reeks of paternalism. It implies Haitians can’t think well enough to pursue their proposed course and implement it.

Worse yet, the U.S. has turned a blind eye to the latest protests and “dechoukaj” that have been going on for a month. 

The other “friends of Haiti” — Canada, France, the Organization of American States — are closing their embassies and operations as though they haven’t seen the writing on the wall, literally, decrying corruption and deplorable conditions. These “friends” want to point the finger at each other and at Haitians. They blame the weapons the gangs rely on, Ariel Henry for not delivering elections and the Haitian police for not doing enough to squash the Izos, Barbecues and Tilaplis of the country. 

Gangs, no jobs, US border crisis – it’s all connected 

Speaking of which, the police have always said they were no match for the gangs. Earlier this summer, when PNH, Haiti National Police, ordered more equipment to battle the gangs, they had to deal with a months-long procurement delay. Why? First, the U.S. said it had to buy firearms through the regular Department of Commerce procurement process. But then, China warned member countries to reduce gun sales to Haiti because the weapons might end up in the wrong hands. 

The solution shouldn’t be more complicated than the problem.

Meanwhile, automatic rifles keep arriving in containers from Miami and elsewhere. More ordinary Haitians continue dying from shootouts or being burned alive. Many have been kidnapped, starved or left homeless. Haitians spend entire days hunkering down under their beds until the shooting stops. Until Izo gives them permission to sneak out with an armed escort for safe passage. Until plans to move to the DR or another escape route comes to fruition. 

Which brings us to the immigration and migration issues. No country wants to let Haitians in, it seems, even as diplomats and leaders claim to want to help. Research has found that the money Haitians abroad send back home outperforms funds given to Haiti through aid agencies and government programs. Yet, Haitians are either barred from entry or allowed to stay under unsustainable conditions.

The U.S. has 11 million job openings right now, including many in the home health care industry. Aides are leaving that industry for better conditions in retail and other sectors, leaving Americans to struggle alone at home. Since Haitians and other immigrants have long filled those jobs, imagine having an immigration policy that welcomes Haitians and places them into those jobs?

Instead, anti-immigrant advocates insist on deporting Haitians. People like Ron DeSantis would rather bus immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard to play into party politics. Even with the temporary humanitarian parole granted to some, the asylum application system is so backed up, newcomers can’t take the next step to become permanent residents. As a result, they end up living on people’s couches, basements, churches and the streets for months and months.

Is that any way to treat your friends? No wonder that Kenya, Gabon and Ghana want to take a stab at it with Haitians, long-lost brethren that we are.

What all this shows us is that Haitians do need to push back against the internal and external manipulation strangling the country. Gangs, as our recent series has shown, are entangled in all kinds of history and current shadowy forces. They may be the worst of our crises today. Tomorrow, it’ll be something else, unless we start seeing the big picture and put Haiti’s well-being over money and personal ambition.

Clear solutions are feasible

So now what? The solution shouldn’t be more complicated than the problem. We learn this in elementary school math, so let’s apply it. If we cut through the complexity and prioritize saving Haitian lives, we can resuscitate Haiti.  

Here are some clear steps to take now, with suggested timelines. 

  1. U.S.: Let Haitians in as easily as you’re letting Ukrainians, with funding to support their resettlement and decent jobs to support their families in Haiti. (within three months)
  1. Friends of Haiti: Help clean up the capital, in two steps. (three to six months)
    1. Place Haiti’s gangs into the category of criminal organizations and send an international force to help Haitian police round up these groups for good. 
    2. Raze the slums of Port-au-Prince completely. Turn them into public spaces, while building homes elsewhere for displaced residents.
    3. Replace Henry with Montana’s provisional government, fissures and all. After that, talk seriously with and engage with ordinary people about investing in water, fuel, food, schools and community-based programs. In that order.  
  1. Haitians at home: The multistep process is the hardest, but it’s sure to yield the correct results if followed with care and patience.
    1. Hold elections ASAP using the last valid Haitian constitution (1987). Debating which constitution to follow hasn’t gotten us any closer to agreement, so just scrap the useless bickering and go with the imperfect one we have. If a change is really needed, use amendments like any modern democracy does. (six months to one year)
    2. Repeat on legitimate timetables, while rehabilitating two to three institutions per year that can then function. (25 to 50 years)
    3. Reinstate schools, starting with what remains of our education system in the next year and building them out over the next two generations. (six months to 50 years)
    4. Seek investment, not development aid or charity, from new partners and networks interested in seeing us alive and functioning after we have in place a functioning political structure and infrastructure to implement specific projects. (five years to 50 years)
    5. Keep learning about our real Haitian history and culture to instill real pride, develop love for one another and imbue a unity mindset in generations to come. (25-50 years)
  1. Haitians abroad: Advocate for real change and support of our brethren. Stop letting fancy diplomats, Haitian politicians, class envy, colorism, racism and other isms muck up our vision for a future Haiti where we can retire or vacation with our grandkids. We’re literally in a place to know, see and do better. Let’s not squander it.

With ‘ambition and intention,’ solutions are easy

If we take these simple steps, with support and investment backing them, then at least we can say in good conscience we tried a Haitian-led solution. 

Something Malala Yousafzai said in an interview captures the mindset needed for this approach to work. She was speaking about investing in girls’ education, but her point applies to Haiti: “We just need an ambition and an intention. What to do is then easy.”

Putting unity on the Haitian flag 218 years ago was only the beginning of the revolution against global bondage. Throwing off the yoke fully will likely take another two centuries, but if we focus on being united, we would have planted the roots so deep this time around, our country will finally flourish.

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