By Melinda Miles, Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica
1. Dr. Garry Conille, Prime Minister for only four months, resigned on Friday, February 24, 2012. According to Conille he quit because he was not receiving any support (see New York Times article here). Some points of contention between Conille and President Martelly included the passing of Constitutional amendments, which Conille supported and Martelly has been stalling, and also Conille’s efforts to create an audit commission to look at contracts signed by former Prime Minister Bellerive while acting as head of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). It’s worth noting that Bellerive is President Martelly’s cousin and a close advisor. Some of the contracts Conille wanted to investigate were signed during the final weeks of Bellerive’s tenure as Prime Minister and Co-Chair of the IHRC and it has been alleged in the press and through word of mouth that Martelly has received financial benefits from these contracts.
With the resignation of the Prime Minister, the ministries will likely cease to function other than critical business (however that determination is made) and therefore people will say that Haiti is once again without a government. Many believe (including the Miami Herald editorial board) that President Martelly does not want to share power in any democratic way and would prefer to control everything. It is also notable that the majority of the ministers in Conille’s cabinet were actually the individuals Martelly chose for those positions, despite the Constitution stating that the Prime Minister shall appoint all ministers.
The rift between Martelly and Conille deepened last week when parliamentarians called on the administration to prove their citizenship, based on Constitutional requirements that these officials be Haitian citizens. Martelly stated that his government was not required to respond to this call, whereas Conille called his cabinet together specifically to respond to this. When none of the ministers showed at the meeting, Conille made the final decision to resign. Despite the fact that a resigning Prime Minister is required to continue to fulfill his duties until replaced, Conille has stated that he will not.
President Martelly has a series of individuals he may nominate to replace Conille as Prime Minister but only time will tell if they would be confirmed by Parliament. At this point it appears that the Senate is mostly supportive of the president while he may face some opposition within the Chamber of Deputies. In terms of international relations, we know that Conille was close to former President Clinton, however Clinton and Martelly still want to promote the same kind of private investment for Haiti, focused on assembly factories and tourism.
**This morning the news broke via Twitter that President Martelly has indeed designated his long time friend and Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Lamothe as the next prime minister. Now he will have to be ratified by the Parliament.**
2. As Haiti’s government stops functioning again, the question of the internally displaced victims of the earthquake could again be pushed off the top of the agenda. During the recent visit of representatives of Haiti’s government to Washington, IDPs and relocation were not a priority in the plan they presented, however two new commissions have been created: the first is a bicameral land and housing commission and the second is a protection commission. The roles and mandates of these commissions are not yet clear. These four recent articles highlight the problems and challenges in assisting the internally displaced population:
3. There has been an increase in insecurity over the last several months and in the last few days it has escalated even more. On Friday an arson attack at the market in Tabarre (see photos here) left many merchants with nothing but ashes, and Sunday night another arson attack hit a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Over the weekend it was reported that thousands of flyers were distributed in populous neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince announcing the “Operation Mother Hen, Operasyon Manman Poul” and warning people to stay off the streets. This is being interpreted by many as a psychological terror campaign at the same time that violent crimes from assault and robbery to kidnapping and murder are on the rise.
At the same time that insecurity is on the rise, groups of former military and would-be soldiers have been training with weapons in hand in several locations throughout the country. Some of these soldiers are occupying and using state-owned lands that were formerly the training grounds of Haiti’s disbanded army. It is not possible for these armed men to be training and using these properties without the permission of Haiti’s president.
In other words, President Martelly is continuing to make moves to launch a new army while insecurity is growing, giving him more grounds to justify reconstituting Haiti’s military.
4. In light of the resignation of Prime Minister Conille, it is important to remain vigilant observers of Haiti’s democratic process. Elections are due to happen this year for ten senators and all local positions, however President Preval set a precedent for extending the terms of senators when it was not possible to hold elections. Already we can observe these ten senators are very much in support of Martelly, perhaps in hopes that he will extend their terms.
Another troubling development was President Martelly’s decision to appoint the regional commission heads, delegation general secretaries and even mayors. This move negated the Constitution, which calls for all of these offices to be contested in general elections. If elections are not held in a timely fashion this year, it will serve to perpetuate this anti-democratic trend.
5. Finally, February 29, 2012 marked eight years since the coup d’etat that removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power undemocratically a second time. Protestors marched in the streets of Port-au-Prince and numbered in the thousands. Associated Press reported that it was the largest anti-Martelly demonstration since he had taken office, but this may be too narrow a read on the demonstration that was a commemoration of a dream deferred and a call for the powerful to hear the voices of Haitians demanding representation and fair and inclusive elections this year. Anti-Martelly sentiments did rule the protest as it passed near the National Palace and demonstrators began to chant and call for Martelly to show his passport and prove his nationality.
Haiti’s most popularly elected president, Aristide was removed before completing either of his two terms in office. These anti-democratic rifts in constitutional order have led to widespread disillusionment among the majority of Haitians who were left feeling that their vote did not matter and even when they gave a mandate it was not respected.
On Monday, February 27th, a rumor circulated that the Haitian Government had brought an indictment against Aristide for alleged money laundering of funds acquired through drug trafficking during his second term. Although it is difficult to separate fact from rumor, this appears to be the same case that was opened in 2004 that included Aristide among others but has never been assigned a prosecutor or advanced in Haiti’s courts. Perhaps the biggest question is why this rumor surfaced when it did, just two days before major demonstrations were planned and on the heels of rising insecurity and two arson attacks that targeted poor urban residents.