Report 13 / Latin America & Caribbean 2 minutes

Spoiling Security in Haiti

Haiti is ensnared in a deep political, social and economic crisis, despite 7,400 UN military and police peacekeepers and the resumption of multilateral aid.

Executive Summary

Haiti is ensnared in a deep political, social and economic crisis, despite 7,400 UN military and police peacekeepers and the resumption of multilateral aid. The security situation is explosive, especially in the capital. By finally deploying country-wide, the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) has prevented even greater levels of violence, but the transition is fragile, and a perhaps overly ambitious electoral calendar compressed into the last quarter of 2005 faces many challenges. MINUSTAH needs to get and exercise new executive authority over law enforcement and security forces if the situation is to be saved.

Many powerful spoilers in Haiti have much to gain from fomenting violence, insecurity and political instability. Out of a desire to seek, keep or maximise power, income, authority, or position, these individuals and groups do not want the transition to succeed. They want to prolong a status quo that suits their interests. A key objective of both the transitional government and the international community, therefore, should be to neutralise these spoilers, not only in relation to the coming elections but also to advance the long-term process of democratisation.

Among the spoilers are warring gangs who dominate much of the slums of Port-au-Prince and receive varying degrees of political and criminal support. Many are manipulated by factions sympathetic to former President Aristide and his Lavalas movement, others by anti-Aristide groupings, elements of the business elite, drug-traffickers or other criminal organisations -- all of which have a clear interest in delaying the elections and in destabilisation. Although no longer an effective military force, another group of spoilers are armed former rebels and members of the Haitian Armed Forces (ex-FAd'H), who are an intimidating presence in the countryside. Thousands of weapons remain in the hands of all these groups. A systematic program of demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) must start at once and be coupled with police, judicial, political and economic reforms.

The human rights situation is still alarming, with concern focusing on growing allegations of summary executions, violence against women, kidnapping and other criminal acts by elements within the Haitian National Police (HNP), the absence of government investigations into these violations, and a dysfunctional and politicised justice system. How to strengthen and reform the HNP, which is also under tremendous pressure in the poor neighbourhoods from urban gang violence, is one of the most urgent challenges. Both the HNP and MINUSTAH must quickly address the force's paralysing deficiencies in resources and capabilities, including the lack of reliable intelligence, poor training and total absence of gender training, divided loyalties, unqualified personnel and conflicting mandates.

A deeply polarised society and the collapse of state institutions and state authority over the past decade opened the way for the emergence of violent groups with roots both in social conflict and political feuds, and lately with apolitical but deadly drug gangs. Underlying much of the violence is the chronic failure to tackle the poverty, social deprivation and exclusion that endanger most of the population.

Haiti's pressing challenges, therefore, include social and economic revival, environmental threats, jobs, social services and credible elections. Guaranteeing adequate public security is the precondition for addressing all these and requires significant advances on four fronts:

  • DDR of the ex-FAd'H and their insurgent partners;
  • neutralisation of the urban gangs and their incorporation into appropriate DDR programs;
  • curbs on crime, especially in Port-au-Prince; and
  • a purge of the criminals from the HNP.

The UN needs to redefine its method of working with its Haitian counterparts, particularly the transitional government, in order to reverse the deterioration in fundamental areas of security and individual rights. If the government cooperation MINUSTAH requires cannot be assured under the existing mandate, the Security Council must pass a resolution providing the necessary authority and resources, and a clear roadmap for moving forward.

Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 31 May 2005

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