PORT-AU-PRINCE — The Haitian government’s request for international military forces to stop the country’s humanitarian crisis and restore security has raised the ire of many Haitians who insist Haitian institutions should take the lead. Calling the crises a ploy to draw in foreign forces in the first place, some also vowed to protest anew against such measures.
“We should chain the doors of all offices of public institutions until Prime Minister Ariel Henry leaves,” said Ebens Cadet, spokesperson of Nou Konsyan, an anti-corruption activist group in Port-au-Prince. “We should also gather in front of the different countries’ embassies in Haiti, including the United States, France and Canada, to make ourselves heard.”
“We do not accept the presence of foreign forces on our territory,” Cadet said.
Henry issued a formal appeal Oct.7 requesting the help of international armed forces to restore order in Haiti amid its spiraling economic, political and criminal crises, aggravated by the re-emergence of a cholera outbreak. The request document, signed by 19 members of Henry’s government, states the leaders are alarmed by the risk of a major humanitarian crisis partly caused by armed gangs and asks for “the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity.”
“It is imperative to restart activities to avoid a complete asphyxiation of the national economy,” the document states.
To many Haitians, the request is a threat to Haiti’s sovereignty, an insult to Haitian people — the chief reasons among a litany cited against foreign military intervention.
“This decision is a sham for the authorities to bring in a foreign force capable of helping them perpetuate their power since they cannot lead,” said Valery Voltaire, a Port-au-Prince social worker.
Cliford Andrieux, a resident of Delmas, is among many in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood who strongly reject the idea of yet another international intervention.
“Ariel Henry is a ‘national threat’ who must be dismissed as head of the country following his call for a foreign force on Haitian soil,” said Cliford Andrieux, resident of Delmas. “If we allow foreign forces to trample our territory, we can start calling ourselves worthless.”
“The bandits who prevent the Haitian people from living are at the service of the inequality system,” he said. “We’d be wrong to believe that foreign forces will come and destroy the system.”
Economist Etzer Emile is among those who believe in supporting Haitian institutions instead.
“Instead of agreeing to strengthen the PNH, equip it, treat it well and grant it the freedom to do its job, our leaders preferred to protect and facilitate the gangs to create an unlivable situation where everyone gets desperate and ends up believing that only the whites can save us,” Emile said.
Nicolas Joseph, a resident of Santo, feels similarly about supporting the Haitian police force over foreigners. However, he added, Haiti’s government must set up trade and job training programs for the most vulnerable and cut off the flow of ammunition and weapons into Haiti.
“A foreign force on Haitian soil is not necessary,” Joseph said. “We need help in materials for the police so that they are well equipped to stop the gangs. We all know that the country has already known several foreign forces, but they have done more harm. After their departure, the insecurity spread like never before.”
Over in the Northern Department, scores of residents are also against the military intervention and said it is part of a plan that will not benefit Haitians.
“Military forces invading Haiti would be the greatest humiliation for us,” said Blondel Joseph, 55, a Saint-Raphael entrepreneur. “They [the international community] created the problems. They wanted to kick us to the ground so we don’t have a choice when they come into the country and rule it again.”
Also, Joseph and some others, say United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) soldiers were accused of rape, human trafficking, having sex with minors and other crimes during their time in Haiti. That’s a downside they would not want to see again.
Others said a special armed force will not resolve the many issues Haiti is facing.
“Certainly their presence will calm the climate and that is all. It will not change the problems facing the country,” Pierre Rubens Ernest said.
If the request is granted, Haiti would be seeing the presence of foreign military forces for the fifth time in about 100 years: a United States occupation from 1915 to 1934; the U.S.-led Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994 to return Jean Bertrand Aristide to power; UN missions under various names between 1995 and 2000; and MINUSTAH from 2004 to 2017.
Fritz Alphonse Jean, the provisional president designated by the Montana Accord, said throughout the history of foreign interventions in Haiti, they have never achieved their objective.
“It’s a national disgrace that in 2022, there are actors waiting with open arms for a military intervention,” Jean said in a youtube video released Oct. 7. “They are waiting for the foreigner instead of working to find a consensus to put the country on the path of progress and social peace.”