Haiti: An Opportunity Missed

If there’s anything you need to remember about Haiti it is this: It is the tiny island that stood up against the French Empire at its height, and won. Americans celebrate Independence Day for its grit at being able to stand up to the British Empire and forge a new destiny. Haiti is no different. In the 18th Century, Haiti was the richest colony in the French Empire.

The small Caribbean island, now boasts of a population of over 10 million people, and possesses one of the richest and most colorful histories in the Americas. On August 14, 1791, the Haitian revolution began with the when African captives of the French revolution, began a revolt in Haiti’s northern region which swept across the country. Led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, the revolt lasted for three years and set hundreds of African captives free who had been forced into bitter servitude, sex trafficking and chattel slavery.

Looking back, it is easy to see who was on the right side of history. But what about today? today the World Food Program reports that Haiti has been the target of its Strategic Plan since July 2019, where nearly 100,000 people were assisted. There has been an emergency response plan in place which is seeks to alleviate the suffering of Haitian people across the tiny island. Since the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, and subsequent cholera outbreaks it was learned that the outbreaks were caused by UN Peacekeepers who spread the deadly virus killing more than 10,000 people. According to a UN brief released in June 2017, the UN had plans to re-purpose nearly a fifth of the funds earmarked specifically for Haiti to other projects.

Haiti has also been the victim of rampant sex abuse from UN Peacekeepers and others entrusted to support the fledgling nation.  This is ironic for a nation that was once also used as a sex-plantation for wealthy slave owners and others who could make the journey. According to a UN report, in the first quarter of 2019 there were 37 allegations of sexual abuse. According to a release by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, lawyers denounce the UN’s failure to cooperate in paternity and child support cases levied against women exploited by UN Peacekeepers. In fact pedophilia cases have been among the most egregious with new allegations against UN Peacekeepers, according to a report by “KeepingChildrenSafe.org.uk”

“The new charges of abuse come just months after six Uruguayan UN troops in the Caribbean country were accused of raping a young Haitian man and recording the incident on a call phone camera. That case has been referred to the Uruguayan judicial system. Nesirky said that while home countries discipline military members of Peacekeeping missions, the UN disciplines police officers.

Peacekeepers and UN police ‘exploited children in separate cases, and an aid worker is found guilty of pedophilia.” The UK watchdog site noted.

The major issue here, beyond Haiti’s losses, is that it is not networked into the larger world economy in a healthy way.  When tragedy occurs, it does not have the capital or the economy to adequately address crisis.  Neither is its diaspora securely connected to African resources and opportunities. It has largely been the victim of those who came to “save” it from recent misfortunes. The imperative to create more inclusive systems of economic, trade and finance beckons even more. Even as the trade war looms, African nations with large tracts of arable land have not invested in their populations and agriculture in such a way as to be in a position to respond to geopolitical changes with massive supply; nor offer aid to tiny island nations like Haiti that house millions of their African populations. Nations like Haiti must not be abandoned by its talented tenth, but rather be galvanized by it. It is important to understand that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 80 percent of its population living in poverty.  For this heroic nation, this does not have to be.