On Mar. 29, 2017, the 30th anniversary of the popular referendum which adopted the 1987 Haitian Constitution, about 200 demonstrators rallied and marched from Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars to the Parliament to demand the immediate withdrawal of the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), reparations for the victims of MINUSTAH-imported cholera, and respect for the Constitution’s nationalist articles.
Some 3,200 soldiers and police officers are MINUSTAH’s armed component, whose mandate expires Apr. 15. Almost 13 years after MINUSTAH’s deployment in June 2004, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a Mar. 16 report proposed to the UN Security Council a final six-month mandate with “a staggered but complete withdrawal” of those forces by Oct. 15. However, in reality, the withdrawal would not be complete.
Guterres proposed that a new mission of 295 UN policemen remain in Haiti to oversee elections and ensure “political stability” and “good governance.”
Wednesday’s demonstrators did not agree. They pointed to the Constitution’s Article 263-1 which stipulates that, apart from the Haitian Army and Police: “No other armed corps may exist in the national territory.”
There were two rallies in the Champs de Mars, one sponsored by the Dessalinian Visionary Movement (MOVID) at the Place of the Constitution, and a second organized by the International Lawyers Bureau (BAI) and the Movement of Liberty and Equality of Haitians for Fraternity (MOLEGHAF) at the Place of Dessalines. Militants of the Democratic Popular Movement (MODEP), GAD, and RHEDD also participated.
The two demonstrations joined together for a spirited march through the capital’s downtown to the Prime Minister’s office and then to the Haitian Parliament. There a delegation from the demonstrators met and held a press conference with Deputies Louis Joseph Manès, Roger Millien, and Peter Constantin, who sit on the Parliament’s Special Commission to Investigate MINUSTAH’s Activities.
“Today, the United Nations, which postures as the people’s champion around the world, has done terrible things in this country and should compensate people whom they’ve hurt,” said Constantin, president of the Special Commission. “They’ve carried out unspeakable crimes. There must be reparations so that justice can be done.”
Many of the demonstrators were victims of cholera, represented by the BAI which is headed by lawyer Mario Joseph. “We are asking the deputies and senators of the Parliament to pass a resolution to demand that the executive take a clear position on reparations for the victims of cholera, which the UN unleashed in this country,” Joseph said. “Until now, the executive hasn’t said a word.”
The BAI and other lawyer and human rights groups are now engaged in negotiations with the United Nations, which made a partial apology in December for importing cholera into Haiti and has pledged to raise $400 million for cholera eradication efforts and some form of reparations. So far, the UN has only secured $2 million.
Demonstrators also denounced the recent anti-libel legislation introduced in the Parliament, as well as the persistence of flagrant impunity and corruption in both the legislative and executive branches. Haiti’s right-wing president, Jovenel Moïse, was elected in a November 2016 election in which over 80% of Haiti’s 6.2 million electorate either couldn’t or wouldn’t vote.