Concerned that Haiti’s ongoing political impasse will divert attention from a deteriorating humanitarian and economic crisis, the U.N. Security Council on Thursday called on Haitian leaders to implement — without delay — a Feb. 5 agreement to quickly resume the country’s interrupted electoral process.
“All stakeholders need to work together in good faith to conclude the electoral process. Now is not the time for political intransigents, for posturing; too much is at stake,” United Kingdom Counselor Tom Meek said during the hearing. “It is imperative that the current political and electoral uncertainties resolve quickly.”
More than two dozen ambassadors spoke during the nearly three-hour hearing in New York, including United Nations Special Representative and Head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Sandra Honoré. All focused on four main issues: Haiti’s repeatedly postponed presidential and partial legislative runoff elections; the brewing humanitarian crisis that includes a rise in cholera deaths and a drought that has sparked the worst food security crisis in 15 years; the ongoing challenges with the Haitian National Police; and the future of the U.N. presence.
“Haiti needs political stability and stable institutions to provide the framework to address the many diverse soc-economic challenges the Haitian people face,” Honoré said. “The next few weeks will be decisive for the short and mid-term prospects for Haiti’s democratic consolidation.”
Honoré’s boss, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, had hoped to send a strategic assessment mission to Port-au-Prince next month —90 days after the country’s election process was supposed to have ended — to assess what role the U.N. would continue to play and when to begin the withdrawal of its blue-helmet peacekeeping troops. But with no elected president, Ban is recommending that the mission be delayed until after elections.
Ambassadors were divided on the recommendations. While many agreed that the U.N.’s disengagement must be “carefully planned” after a favorable environment and a new president takes office, Uruguay Permanent Representative Elbio Rosselli warned that the U.N. can’t allow Haitian politicians to hold MINUSTAH hostage.
“MINUSTAH continues to represent a very important tool to support Haitians on the road to stability, but Haitian actors, in particular their political leaders, must do their part also,” he said.
Ambassadors also had differing views on the fraud allegations that forced a suspension of the vote and triggered 318 election-related protests, according to Ban’s report. The U.S., France and the European Union continue to say that their observers saw no evidence of widespread fraud and that the results of the first round — pitting Jovenel Moïse against Jude Célestin — should be used as the basis for the second round.
“This narrative does the Haitian people a real disservice,” U.S. Ambassador David Pressman said. “It was not just unhelpful — it was harmful — and greatly undermined the efforts of the Haitian government, assisted by the international community, to give the Haitian people the opportunity to have their voices heard through a democratically elected government.”
Egypt’s ambassador, Osama Abdelkhalek Mahmoud, disagreed. He said the political landscape in the country today “is not that much different than the breakout of violence” that forced the postponement of the second round two days before the vote. He warned that moving ahead without addressing the electoral concerns could plunge Haiti into a new political crisis with substantial political, security and economic implications for the Haitian people.
When that process will resume is uncertain despite council members’ optimism that April 24 is a go. Haiti still doesn’t have a functioning government or Provisional Electoral Council to stage the election. While commending the efforts of interim President Jocelerme Privert, U.N. Security Council members called on the Haitian parliament to play its role. Some demanded that they vote on the policy statement of his prime minster pick, economist Fritz Jean.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in the Lower Chamber of Deputies lobbed corruption allegations against each other. They adjourned without a vote on Jean.
In a national address on Sunday, Privert appealed to both chambers, asking them to help put a government in place by Friday. Police officers were being killed, Haitians were dying from tainted moonshine and the population was facing starvation stemming from drought, he said.
Venezuela’s Petrocaribe discounted-oil program was “sick and dying,” Privert noted. Haiti was months behind in payments and owed Venezuela more than $85 million. Local fuel companies also were owed millions of dollars while international donors were holding back aid because reforms had not been met.
“The completion of these elections and these objectives require the establishment of a government … in order to revive the electoral process,” Privert said.
12 things to know about Haiti
1. Less than 10 percent of the judiciary are women.
2. There is only one female judge appointed to the Supreme Court and one female assistant prosecutor nationwide.
3. 59,720 Haitians are still living in camps, six years after the earthquake.
4. $380 million is budgeted for U.N. Stabilization Mission’s operations until June 30.
5. Economic growth was only 1.7 percent for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.
6. The domestic currency, the gourde, has dropped by 15 percent since September.
7. Domestically produced food prices have gone up by 20 percent.
8. The International Organization of Migration has registered more than 69,000 people returning from the Dominican Republic between July 2015 and January.
9. Cholera is on the rise with the Health Ministry reporting 36,045 suspected cholera cases and 322 deaths between January and December 2015.
10. There are 4,544 detainees in the National Penitentiary crammed at three persons per square meter.
11. The number of Haiti National Police officers has decreased from 11,900 officers to 11,728.
12. There were more protests over elections than socioeconomic grievances. The 318 election-related protests represented 46 percent of the 689 reported protests.
Source: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s March report to U.N. Security Council