In a presidential decree published last Thursday, February 21, 2019, President Jovenel Moïse has put in place a new committee to promote national dialogue on current and systemic issues affecting the nation. The new group officially called the Committee to Facilitate inter-Haitian National Dialogue, has been charged to define a framework that will allow discussions to proceed, recommend any measures that will promote the favorable conditions and ensure active participation from all interested parties and to synthesize the different proposals coming out of the discussions, to resolve the political, economic and social conflicts that are eating away at the Haitian society.
Those named to the committee are Marie Carmel Mentor, Kettly Julien, Carlo Joseph, Dorothie Sénatus, Charles Suffrard, Marie Michelle Sylvie Rameau and Rudolf Dérose. They have been charged to complete the task in three months, submitting their findings and recommendations to the President, who will in turn make it public with the expectation to act on the recommendations. The government has decided to make available to the committee all resources that they need to accomplish their task. But already one member has abdicated this national responsibility by resigning from the committee due to concerns about statements made public by the Head of State that obfuscates the responsibilities of the committee. According to Mr. Suffrard, the President has indicated in a communique that the formation of a new government is one of the tasks of the committee when that has never been part of the mandate given the committee. He insists that such an issue has never been discussed during meetings with the President, and that the communique was released without the knowledge of members of the committee. A decision to form a government must come from the Head of State and not a committee whose mission is to facilitate the dialogue and not to carry it out.
All told, this is the sixth initiative of the President to organize a national dialogue, to address the myriad of systemic problems facing the country. It all started with the sectoral committees, États généraux sectoriels, during the Lafontant administration, whose mission was to meet the different segments of society, hear their concerns and come up with a consensus approach to addressing the issues. After the Lafontant government was forced to resign, following the riots after the aborted fuel price increases in July 2018, President Jovenel Moïse announced that he was going to sit down with different groups within the country to find a solution to the crises facing the nation. After the new Prime Minister has been confirmed by the legislature, the president announced that he was handing over the leadership for an inter-Haitian dialogue to his newly appointed Prime Minister, Jean-Henry Céant. But on January 22, during a forum on governance at the premises of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) the President declared openly that he was not satisfied with the work of PM Céant, who according to him, failed to convince key actors to tackle to socio-economic and political difficulties facing the nation. He then set February 7, as the date to start the inter-Haitian dialogue. Problem was this date, which is also the 33rd anniversary of the fall of the Duvalier dictatorships, was met with new anti-government demonstrations that would last some 10 days, pushing away any attempt at a dialogue. The President then wrote to a group of religious leaders, known as “Religion pour la paix-Haïti” to ask them to act as mediators in the national dialogue, an invitation which was swiftly rejected by the group, advising the President to first resolve the crisis with his Prime Minister before inviting other actors to dialogue. Few days later, he put in place this new committee, causing some observers and his detractors to conclude that this new committee on dialogue is dead on arrival, wondering out loud whether he is genuinely committed to this so called national dialogue that has become a refrain of his.
Elsewhere, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has determined that the health sector in Haiti has been heavily impacted by the 10-day anti-government protests, dubbed “peyi lòk”. According to the Assistant Bureau Chief in Haiti, Alix Nijimbere, both health care workers and patients could not get to health centers, especially in the remote areas, where they fear increasing mortality rate as reports have indicated births outside health facilities as a result of no access to such places. The protests that result in blocking and barricading roads have affected establishments such as hospitals, prisons and orphanages which could not have access to food, water and basic necessities. Humanitarian workers have been troubled by the duration of the protests, which when started, they were able to have their ambulances working but quickly run short of fuel as the protests drag on, and soon, the delivery of medical supplies could not happen, because of fuel and water shortage, and those who are in remote areas or those who need such services were left out. The protests have exposed the precarious nature of basic services in the country, especially during such crises.
With regards to the foreigners arrested in Port-au-Prince last Sunday with illegal automatic weapons, the five (5) Americans implicated have been freed and taken out of the country, and have since been on US soil, prompting Prime Minister Céant to demand explanations for their liberation from the Minister of Justice Jean Roudy Aly.
The government’s decision to subsidize rice imports is creating uncertainty and concern among local rice producers in the Artibonite valley, where the leader of the peasants group, “Tèt kole ti peyizan”, Nicolas Pierre Louis expressed the collective fear of his members that the plan is likely to impoverish them, the local producers.
The Mayor of Gonaives, Neil Latortue has expressed uncertainty about hosting the national carnival in the city from March 3rd through March 5th. This concern is buttressed by the fact that there has not been any preparation up to date for the carnival, leaving only speculation by those in favor or against the carnival. Given the socio-economic conditions in the country, it is not clear whether such an event can actually take place. But residents in Gonaives, like all others across the nation have been calling on leaders to address the socio-economic conditions that are disintegrating at a rapid rate.
Finally, the popular singer, Beethova Obas, winner of the second edition of Konkou mizik with his song Lage l has penned a heartfelt letter to the Haitian government in which he expressed his sentiments on the injustices and impunity, the two plagues that, like a worm in a fruit are eating away at the fabric of the Haitian society. In the letter he expressed his helplessness and that of his compatriots in the face of the country that is adrift, caused by manipulators and lack of leaders, and how the nation has become a flock of sheep delivered to the mercy of hungry wolves; wolves that have been brought to the sheepfold by the shepherds with impunity. He called on the so-called leaders to give justice to his people because they have long suffered, and will suffer still, so at the very least, their dignity should be restored. They should not take away their dignity because that’s all that is left to them, that others covert.