The State of Militarization in Haiti

From the time the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H or the Haitian Army) was founded during the U.S. occupation of Haiti between 1915-1934, it was a tool of repression used by dictators against the Haitian people. For this reason, human rights organizations and the international community applauded the demobilization of the force in 1995. A United Nations peacekeeping mission known as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, arrived in Haiti in 2005 with a specific mandate and the financial resources to accomplish it. Eight years and $7 billion later, the mission is likely to have its mandate renewed, despite the lack of progress towards accomplishing it.

UN "peacekeepers" fire stun grenades and rubber bullets at Haitian protestors cornered and unarmed except for rocks.Each year that MINUSTAH has been in Haiti, the harm inflicted on innocent Haitian civilians has gone without consequence – from sexual assault caught on video, to rapes, beatings and evenmurder. In October 2010, only months after a powerful 7.0 earthquake left 300,000 Haitians dead and 1.5 million homeless and extremely vulnerable under tents and tarps in the capital’s parks, a battalion of Nepalese soldiers based in Haiti’s most fertile valley contaminated the Artibonite River, the country’s largest and most important waterway, with cholera. Due to the lack of adequate water and sanitation infrastructure, the cholera outbreak quickly became a full-fledge epidemic, affecting families from remote rural areas, to small towns, to the camps of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Port-au-Prince.  Cholera has now infected over 560,000 and killed more than 7,300 Haitians.  

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Veterans for Peace & Guest Alice Walker to Investigate Militarization in Haiti in August

Veterans for Peace, including special guests Alice Walker and Rachel Corrie Award Winner Colonel Ann Wright, will be traveling to Haiti this August with Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica, to investigate the state of militarization in Haiti.

Haiti is in the eighth year of the only United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world in a country that does not have a civil war or a peace accord to monitor. There is currently no Haitian armed forces, but the government has put in motion steps to create a new army.

With hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors still living in extremely dangerous conditions under tarps and tents in camps throughout the capital area, Haiti has seen rising rates of gender-based violence and insecurity among the poorest population and the presence of foreign soldiers has not deterred these escalating crimes. The only activities that have been effective in preventing attacks in the camps are formed police units (FPU) composed of foreign and Haitian police.

Haitians have been taking to the streets and airwaves to share their growing anger towards the foreign troops in MINUSTAH. At the same time, the majority of Haitians have expressed their fears that a new Haitian army could easily follow in the footsteps of their repressive predecessors.

What is the solution to Haiti’s security challenges? The Let Haiti Live/TransAfrica and Veterans for Peace delegation’s main objective is to learn from Haitians themselves what they need to feel secure in their communities. Haitian popular movements will hold a colloquium on the subject of militarization and the MINUSTAH to coincide with the visitors from Veterans for Peace. The team will focus on the state of militarization while exploring other themes including: governance and power, patronage and democracy, impunity and human rights, unequal treatment of Haitians, and the relevance of peacekeeping in a country without a war/conflict.