UN Peacekeepers Leave Haiti With Mixed Legacy

  • Posted on: 6 October 2017
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Al Jazeera

6 October 2017

UN peacekeepers leave Haiti: What is their legacy?

As the controversial 13 year peacekeeping mission in Haiti wraps up, Al Jazeera examines what the mission leaves behind.

What will be their legacy?

Why were they there?

What has taken so long?

Why are they leaving now?

What have Haitians said about the mission?

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti is set to lower its blue flag on Thursday, 13 years after it began.vWhile the mission has been credited with helping bring stability to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it has also been mired in controversy. The mission is blamed for bringing cholera to the country, and at least 134 of its peacekeepers have been involved in sexual abuse scandals.  As the last of the thousands of peacekeepers who were in the country leave, Al Jazeera answers some of the key questions about why the blue helmets were there and what they are leaving behind.   What will be their legacy?

The presence of UN troops in Haiti has been a point of controversy on the island since the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) mission first began in 2004.  UN officials have praised the mission for helping to re-establish law-and-order in the country marred by political unrest and bolster Haiti's democratic institutions. MINUSTAH has also helped recruit and train a new civilian police force, something that was virtually nonexistent before their arrival.  However, critics argue the mission's forces have done more harm than good, pointing to the peacekeepers' involvement in the country's 2010 cholera outbreak and sex abuse scandals as evidence.

The source of the waterborne disease, which killed more than 9,000 people, was traced to a UN base. Al Jazeera's Fault Lines investigated the outbreak in 2010. The film - Haiti in a Time of Cholera - helped further expose the source of the disease on the island, and put additional pressure on the UN to investigate the allegations, and eventually admit its role in the outbreak. In August 2016, the UN for the first time acknowledged that it played a role in the spread of the disease. The UN at the time promised to respond to the epidemic with a "significant new set of UN actions". 

In a report, the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that "the preponderance of the evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with [a UN peacekeeping] facility were the most likely source".  Ban said the way the UN handled the outbreak "leaves a blemish on the reputation of UN peacekeeping and the organisation worldwide". He added: "For the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself, we have a moral responsibility to act and a collective responsibility to deliver."   Ban created a $400m voluntary trust fund for Haiti's fight against cholera. The fund was also supposed to partially compensate victims of the disease. But earlier this year, The New York Times revealed that the fund only received a few million dollars and was nearly empty.  In a statement in June, the UN deputy secretary-general said that "without additional resources, the intensified cholera response and control efforts cannot be sustained through 2017 and 2018".

UN troops have also been implicated in sexual abuse scandals in Haiti since the MINUSTAH first began. Most recently, a UN report obtained and revealed by The Associated Press in April documented the sexual exploitation of nine children on the island from 2004-2007 at the hands of at least 134 peacekeepers. Al Jazeera later spoke to Maria Kalichi*, who had been raped by a peacekeeper when she was 17 years old. She became pregnant as result of the rape.  "I want justice by finding the person who did this," she told Al Jazeera. "I want to hear what he has to say to me … I am walking around the streets feeling destitute because of the UN." 

A leaked report in 2015, found that UN peacekeepers in Haiti engaged in "transactional sex". At least 229 women said they traded sex for money and goods likes food and medicine.  In 2012, at least two peacekeepers from Pakistan were jailed and fired from the army after raping a 14-year-old boy.  Other cases of rape and other instances of sexual abuse have been reported and documented by the UN during the mission's 13-year term.   In September, a UN fund to help the survivors of sexual abuse by peacekeepers worldwide grew to $1.5m after more than 10 countries made contributions. 

Why were they there in the first place? MINUSTAH, running since 2004, was the latest installment in a series of UN peacekeeping missions in the country, which shares a landmass with the Dominican Republic.   Peacekeepers first arrived in Haiti, home to 10.8 million people, in September 1993 as part of The United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). The mission had a mandate to modernise the Haitian army and establish a new national police force two years after Haiti's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had been removed from office during a coup d'etat. After Aristide was restored to office in October 1994 following the UN-sanctioned, and US-led, "Operation Uphold Democracy" launched the month before, the mission's mandate was expanded to include helping to stabilise the government.    However, UNMIH, which concluded in June 1996, appeared to have failed to deliver long-term stability. A decade later, history repeated itself as Aristide was overthrown for a second time.

Following Aristide's removal, Justice Boniface Alexandre assumed office as acting president. Alexandre appealed to the UN for help in ending the violence that had gripped Haiti in the wake of the political revolt, causing crime and murder rates to spiral.  MINUSTAH, launched on June 1, 2004, in response to the crisis, led to the deployment of 6,700 UN-sanctioned troops - and 1,622 UN police - in Haiti.

Why has it taken so long for them to leave? MINUSTAH was originally set up to support Haiti’s transitional government for a period of six months, with the aim of establishing a stable and secure environment following Aristide's removal. The mission was extended with adjusted mandates in the months and years that followed in order to allow peacekeepers to "adapt to the changing circumstances … and evolving requirements as dictated by the political, security and socioeconomic situation prevailing in the country", according to the UN.

By the beginning of 2010, it appeared the mission had achieved its goals as violence had largely been removed from Haiti's politics and the country was experiencing economic growth. However, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 12, 2010, killing more than 220,000 people. The natural disaster destroyed vast swathes of Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, and decimated the fragile Haitian economy. In response, the UN added additional peacekeepers and police officers to its mission as it sought to support the country in its efforts to rebuild following the earthquake. Force numbers have been gradually reduced in the last seven years, by a series of resolutions.

Why are they leaving now? The UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted a resolution in April of this year, ordering the removal of peacekeepers from Haiti by mid-October. The April 13 resolution sanctioned the gradual withdrawal of the 2,370 peacekeepers stationed in Haiti, according to The Los Angeles Times. The resolution was the result of a US-led review into the cost and effectiveness of the UN's current peacekeeping operations. Nikki Haley, the US representative to the UN, told the UNSC prior to the vote that the political context was right for the withdrawal of a military presence in Haiti. The "peaceful transition of power" demonstrated by Haiti's November 2016 presidential election showed the country had made an "important step towards stability and democracy", she said. As such, developments warranted an amended approach focused on fostering "the independence and self-sufficiency of the Haitian people".

The peacekeeping mission will officially end on October 15 when a new UN mission made up of nearly 1,300 international civilian police officers, and about 350 civilians will begin in an effort to help the country reform its political system.  In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Sandra Honore, head of MINUSTAH, said the UN is winding down the mission because it has achieved its aims. "It is a vote of confidence in the Haitian people," she said. "It is an indication of the recognition by the Security Council that the stabilisation work which was entrusted to the mission did in fact produce positive results."

What have Haitians said about the mission?  Though February's presidential election seems to demonstrate Haiti is more politically stable now than when MINUSTAH began, a number of Haitians recently told Al Jazeera the mission has done little to improve their lives. Mothers who say they have had children, fathered by peacekeepers, also say they feel abandoned.  "After years of running around and false promises from the UN, nothing has happened," Saintil Benite, a mother, told Al Jazeera.  "They make us do a lot of stuff but there's no results," she said. 

Another mother, Roselaine Duperval, added that the mission has failed those people it sought to serve. "I am very angry that the UN is leaving as it's left us with nothing," she said.   "They should take responsibility. They know about the kids. They did DNA tests and they told us they're positive but never give us the results."

As peacekeepers leave, Haiti continues to experience political turbulence. Protests last month over the government's new budget plans brought much of the country to a halt.  The government has defended its plans, which include increased taxes on fuel and property, saying the money raised will be invested in improving public services and infrastructure.

*Name changed to protect identity


After 13 years, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) will close its doors on 15 October. The Mission was established by the Security Council at a time when State authority had been weak and limited to parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, with the three branches of power either non-functional or non-existent, and a national police force that was overwhelmed by the multiple threats to public order and the rule of law.

Today, the Haitian people enjoy a considerable degree of security and greater stability; political violence has diminished; armed gangs no longer hold the population hostage, thanks in part to the work of the 14,000-strong national police; and all three branches of power are in place. “Haiti is now in a position to move forward and consolidate the stability that has been obtained, as a framework for continued social and economic development,” says Sandra Honoré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti and head of MINUSTAH.

Next week will see the beginning of a smaller successor mission – the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) – which is mandated by the Security Council to assist the Government in strengthening rule of law institutions, reinforcing national police capacities, and engaging in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.

On the eve of MINUSTAH’s closure, Ms. Honoré spoke with UN News about the Mission’s contributions to the Haitian Government and people, what continued UN support to the fight against cholera will look like, and how the UN is perceived in the small Caribbean nation.

Sandra Honoré: The departure of MINUSTAH represents, on the one hand, that the stabilization mandate entrusted to the Mission by the Security Council has been met, and that Haiti is now in a position to move forward and consolidate the stability that has been obtained, as a framework for continued social and economic development.

Haiti is now in a position to move forward and consolidate the stability that has been obtained. The Security Council in taking the decision to close MINUSTAH – which has been operating and cooperating with the Haitian authorities and the Haitian people for 13 years, also in recognition of certain weaknesses that still exist in the justice and rule of law areas – has decided to establish the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti. It is my hope that the opportunity will be seized by the Government and people of Haiti to use the contribution of the new UN Mission to advance and to consolidate rule of law in Haiti.

Sandra Honoré: MINUSTAH’s strongest contribution was to support the Haitian people with the provision of a secure and stable environment; to support them with the professionalization of the Haitian National Police, which numbered some 3,300 when MINUSTAH was established. They now are at 14,000 and by the end of 2017 will reach a minimum level of 15,000. The percentage of women in the police force has also increased: there are now 9 per cent female police officers in a country where the female members of the population number 52 per cent. It is important that the Haitian National Police also reflect the population as a whole.

Brazilian peacekeepers with MINUSTAH arrive in Cité Soleil for a joint security operation with the Haitian National Police to crack down on criminal activity in key areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in July 2011. UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

The Mission was also able to support the electoral processes in the country. During 13 years, we saw the handover – on three occasions – from one democratically-elected President to another, including from one elected President to another from the opposition in 2011. The most recent handover being to President Jovenel Moïse, who assumed office in February this year. The fact that the democratic process has started to become stronger, to consolidate itself. The fact that the three powers of the State are now functioning: the executive; the elected parliament; and the judiciary.

I think these are the legacy of MINUSTAH and the elements of the support that the Mission was able to provide to the Haitian Government, and above all to the Haitian people, as they strive for a better standard of living.

UN News: The UN launched a strategy to help Haiti tackle cholera. What will the UN support look like once MINUSTAH leaves, and what is the current state of relations between the UN and Haitians?

Sandra Honoré: The support strategy of the United Nations for the Government of Haiti, as the Government moves to work toward eliminating the transmission of cholera, will continue even after MINUSTAH leaves. This support was not only provided through MINUSTAH but also, importantly, through the UN agencies, funds and programmes, such as UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) – the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Argentinian peacekeepers with MINUSTAH administer medical aid to residents of Les Cayes affected by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

The Secretary-General announced in December of 2016 the new approach of the Organization to support the Government of Haiti. This involves the two tracks: one dealing with the treatment of cholera, and infrastructure for water and sanitation – which is sadly lacking in the country; and the second track of material assistance for communities most affected.

In June of this year, the Secretary-General appointed Assistant Secretary-General Josette Sheeran as his Special Envoy for Haiti. One of the tasks will be precisely to work to support the new approach and to support the mobilization of resources that will be required to pursue the new approach.

MINUSTAH’s strongest contribution was to support the Haitian people with the provision of a secure and stable environment.

The Secretary-General has also asked Member States to forego the return to them of unexpended balances, for example from the MINUSTAH 2015-2016 budget, to be used on the new approach.

It is my hope that Member States will respond positively to the call from the Secretary-General, and that the work of the Special Envoy will go beyond the support for cholera and also involve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the goals that Haiti has for its development within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.

UN News: How is the UN perceived currently and what are relations like between the UN and the Haitian people?

Sandra Honoré: The relations between the UN and the Haitian people are positive. In the time that I have been there I have been able to interact with Haitians from all sections of the society at all levels – even those who may have some difficulty, philosophically let’s say, with the fact that a peacekeeping mission is functioning in the country. But they all acknowledge the contribution that MINUSTAH has been able to make to a safe and secure environment and to stabilization in the country, which saw a period of sustained disturbances in 2004 which led to the establishment MINUSTAH.

So, I see a relationship that is positive and I see a desire on the part of the Haitian people to see the United Nations contributing more to development and the development objectives of the country.

At REBUILD Globally in the capital, Port-au-Prince, workers fabricate sandals made of recycled tires, an employment and vocational training programme partially funded by a Quick Impact Project grant from MINUSTAH. UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

UN News: As head of the Mission, does any particular memory stand out?

Sandra Honoré: I spent a lot of time after I arrived in Haiti in July 2013 working with my colleagues in MINUSTAH and in the UN system in the country, including UNDP, UNOPS and UN Women, on the electoral question together with the provisional electoral council.

There were some moments that were very difficult. The electoral process, as you know, started in August 2015 and was not concluded until January 2017. There was a presidential election in October 2015 which was rerun so that the verification process could be conducted. At the end of it, President Moïse was declared the winner in the first round of the rerun presidential election, and following that the appointment of the President on 7 February and the installation of his Government on 22 March – I think that was a particularly gratifying moment because it was a moment that demonstrated that the attention and ‘stick-to-it-iveness’, as it were, that had to be applied to ensure that the electoral process was completed, that that was in fact done and that Haiti was now on the path to be able to concentrate on her development, and that was certainly a moment of gratification.

15 October 2017

After 13 years, the United Nations is ending its stabilization mission in Haiti. But as the last UN soldiers leave the Caribbean island, many issues remain unresolved — for both Haiti and the UN. When Anne Lange traveled to Haiti for the first time, she was already well-acquainted with several Latin American countries. Nonetheless, she was shocked by the situation in this Caribbean state. "Haiti was an absolutely broken country — even compared with other countries in the region," she says. "The majority of the population are literally fighting just to survive, the state institutions don't function, and the land itself, the actual soil, is completely exhausted from decades of monoculture.”

Lange is a political scientist at the University of Potsdam. She traveled around Haiti in late 2014 and the spring of 2015 doing fieldwork for her PhD on decision processes involving UN institutions and international players. At the time, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had already been running for more than ten years. No significant progress has been reported since then. On the contrary: The country's development suffered another major setback in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew.

Now the UN's mandate is running out: The last of the UN soldiers leave the country on October 15. And there are plenty of people who think this is a good thing.

In early 2004, following the coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti was in danger of sinking into chaos. Prompted by the United States, which feared an exodus to the north, the United Nations Security Council sent 6,700 "blue helmet" peacekeepers, 1,600 police officers and another 1,700 civilian aid workers and diplomats to support the transitional government, secure peace and organize fresh elections.

However, in spite of this large contingent — or perhaps even because of it — MINUSTAH ran into difficulties right from the start. There was little support for the mission among Haitians themselves. "Since its establishment in June 2004, MINUSTAH's presence in Haiti has at times been problematic, even divisive," Jorge Heine and Andrew S. Thompson write in their introduction to the book "Fixing Haiti." The Canadian political scientist Nicolas Lemay-Hebert from the University of Birmingham in the UK has also commented that "the mission [was] seen as yet another foreign 'occupation' in Haiti.”

If, at first, this was more a case of instinctive resentment, opponents of the mission soon found concrete reasons to question its legitimacy. One of the first negative incidents took place a few months after the mission began, in the infamous slum Cite Soleil on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince. UN peacekeepers under Brazilian command were described as having conducted a violent crackdown not only against criminal gangs but also against supporters of the deposed president, as well as others who were entirely uninvolved with either group. "This incident is still in the forefront of people's minds today when Haitians criticize the UN," the political scientist Anna Lange wrote in her report based on the interviews she conducted in the field.

A series of attacks took place over the course of the mission, further feeding the mistrust. UN soldiers were proven to have raped local people on numerous occasions, and to have taken part in the sexual abuse and prostitution of minors. The Canadian Lemay-Hebert wrote that "there was an amplification factor at work with each scandal, building on the narrative of occupation in Haiti and the latent hostility toward international troops in certain segments of the society."

In 2010, the worst-case scenario came to pass. The mission's mandate had been due to come to an end, but following the devastating earthquake in January the UN extended it again, even increasing its presence there. Then, in October, a cholera epidemic broke out. At least 600,000 people fell sick, and between 8,000 and 10,000 died.

Soon after the start of the outbreak, suspicions were already being voiced that the pathogen had originated in a camp of Nepalese peacekeepers. One year later, a UN commission confirmed these suspicions, while other experts concluded that simple preventative measures could have forestalled the outbreak. Yet the UN has still not acknowledged that it was at fault. Lemay-Hebert comments that the UN has used Haiti's "lack of a proper sewage and sanitation system to […] absolve itself from responsibility for the outbreak."

It was only at the end of 2016 that the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a vague apology for the United Nations' "role" in the tragedy, and held out the prospect of reparations. What level of reparations, and in what form, is still unclear today. They certainly won't cover the whole $2.2 billion (€1.9 billion) that victims' advocacy groups demanded in a lawsuit filed against the UN in New York in 2013. Furthermore, the victims want to be compensated individually, which Lemay-Hebert considers unlikely.

Were the UN eventually to decide to pay reparations for the cholera epidemic, the money would probably be administered collectively and put towards the construction of schools and hospitals. In this "completely broken country," though, this would be just a drop in the ocean. Lemay-Hebert and Lange both agree that what Haiti lacks is a functioning justice system, political stability, and — still — security. "Yes, I saw police," Lange reports, "but it's only really safe in areas where diplomats or foreign organizations are stationed."

Both political scientists find it difficult to make an overall assessment of the mission. The Canadian's is certainly not overwhelmingly positive. "Had it not been for the UN's presence, the transitional government would probably have been engulfed in the 2004–2006 surge of violence" that followed the coup. He writes, however, that long-term stabilization has failed for the most part, as structural violence still needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner that encompasses the role of international policies.

Lemay-Hebert argues that despite stemming violence and providing aid to Haiti, UN peacekeepers also caused unintended negative consequences

Lemay-Hebert believes the United Nations needs to completely rethink its operations. MINUSTAH, he says, has shown that where peace missions are concerned, "more" does not necessarily equal "better." Lemay-Hebert, whose research focuses on the unintended consequences of peace missions and development aid, writes that these were more blatantly in evidence around MINUSTAH than any other UN mission. There must now, he says, be a detailed investigation of how the presence of thousands of UN personnel and non-governmental organizations affects the local population. Haiti, for example, is also about to experience a brain-drain, the political scientists believes, since educated Haitains who work as local employees in international humanitarian projects will look outside their countries' borders to pursue work that pays better than public-sector jobs at home.

If there is such a thing as a legacy of MINUSTAH, Lemay-Hebert is convinced it is this: "MINUSTAH has forced the UN into having a completely new discussion about the unintended consequences of peace missions."

The New Yorker

By Edwidge Danticat

The year the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (minustah) came to the country was a deadly one for my family. In February of 2004, Haiti’s first democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forced out of office for a second time, having been reinstated, and then reëlected, after a 1991 military coup. This time, Aristide was replaced by Gérard Latortue, a former United Nations official, who called those who took up arms against Aristide “freedom fighters.” (Their leader, Guy Philippe, is serving a nine-year sentence in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to receiving multimillion-dollar bribes from cocaine traffickers.)

That April, claiming that the situation in Haiti constituted “a threat to international peace and security in the region,” the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1542, establishing the Brazil-led minustah. The mission, which officially began in June, 2004, lasted thirteen years and five months, and cost more than seven billion dollars, before officially ending this past Sunday. Part of minustah’s mandate was to assist the transitional government in insuring “a secure and stable environment.” This is where my loved ones and others came into the mission’s crosshairs.

I spent the first twelve years of my life in an impoverished neighborhood in Port-au-Prince called Bel Air, where many Aristide supporters live. My eighty-one-year-old uncle, a minister, had called this neighborhood home since the nineteen-fifties, and was there on September 30, 2004, when protests began on the thirteenth anniversary of the first coup d’état. In response, the Haitian national police and minustah soldiers conducted joint raids in Bel Air that led to dozens of mostly unreported injuries and deaths. The following month, U.N. soldiers and Haitian riot police climbed up to the roof of my uncle’s church and killed some of his neighbors below. My uncle was forced to flee to Miami, where he died in the custody of U.S. immigration officials after being denied asylum.

Bel Air was not the only area subjected to these raids. During one of their bloodiest operations in Cité Soleil, another poor and densely populated neighborhood in the capital, minustah used more than twenty-two thousand bullets and seventy-eight grenades, among other artillery, to kill seven alleged gang members. No other deaths were acknowledged despite further raids until early 2007, when the mission head at the time, Edmond Mulet, brushed off such killings as collateral damage. This combat terminology was not incidental. minustah was a continuous military operation in a country in which there was no war.

There would be more collateral damage. In October, 2010, nine months after an 7.0-magnitude earthquake nearly flattened Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas and killed more than three hundred thousand people, and while more than a million people were still displaced or living in makeshift tent camps, Nepalese peacekeepers stationed in the north of Haiti allowed raw sewage from their base to leak into one of Haiti’s largest and most intensively used rivers, causing a cholera epidemic. The U.N. at first refused to investigate the source of the outbreak and instead blamed Haiti’s lack of sewerage and water-treatment facilities. More than ten thousand people have died from cholera since 2010, and more than eight hundred thousand have been infected.

It took the U.N. six years to acknowledge its role in the cholera epidemic, and even though the former Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, declared last December that the U.N. needed to “do the right thing”, the U.N. continues to reject victims’ legal claims by citing immunity. The U.N. has also failed to deliver on Ban’s promise of a four-hundred-million-dollar fund to halt the spread of cholera and compensate the “most affected” victims. The fund has only raised $2.7 million, and the current U.N. Secretary General, António Guterres, seems unwilling to provide direct payments to the cholera victims and their families, many of whom have lost their sole breadwinner.

Neither the U.N.’s impunity nor the lack of accountability would surprise the women and boys and girls, many as young as twelve, who have told of being raped—one boy says that he was gang-raped—by minustahpeacekeepers, who, according to the Associated Press, have used sex rings, offers of food, and other methods to trap their victims. Unacknowledged “minustahbabies” and their destitute mothers are treated as though they do not exist. Though minustah rapes remain underreported, those who have come forward have had to confront the same type of repudiation faced by the initial cholera victims. Their rapists were rarely punished. They were simply sent home.

minustah has now been replaced by minujusth, a smaller mission which began on Monday. minujusth , the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, has a mandate to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.” minujusth, which will will consist of twelve hundred and seventy-five officers and support personnel, seems like a rebranding effort, an attempt by the U.N. to give itself a clean slate and erase minustah’s past. But if the U.N. were serious about justice and human rights in Haiti, it would wind down its presence in the country by having minujusth also investigate the damage done to both individuals and entire communities by minustah. Or, better yet, assign an independent body to do so, then offer the warranted compensation for the extrajudicial and civilian killings, the sexual assaults, and the introduction of cholera.

Haiti’s current President, Jovenel Moïse, whose two heavily contested election cycles are often touted as a minustah success, told the Miami Herald in an interview this month that “the conversion of minustah to minujusth is the recognition of the progress made by our country in recent years. Today, Haiti is no threat to regional and global peace and security.” To fill in the gap being left by minustah, Moïse plans to revive the defunct Haitian Army, whose history of human-rights abuses, the coup d’état against Aristide, in 1991, and its subsequent reign of terror led to an earlier United Nations mission, unmih, in 1993.

Moïse’s proposed budget for 2017, which calls for new tariffs and increased taxes on goods and services, has been a subject of mounting protests in Haiti. minujusth, like its predecessors, will likely find itself facing angry Haitians, or training those who do. Why should Haitians trust another group of U.N. “peacekeepers” who claim to promote the same human rights, justice, and rule of law that have been so blatantly violated by their colleagues? The U.N. may want to leave minustah’s dark chapter behind, but Haitians will have to suffer the consequences of the group’s actions for generations to come. And no new mission, under whatever acronym, will change that.

October 2017

Joseph Guler Delva

A new United Nations-backed mission to support Haiti’s justice system has had a mixed reaction from local politicians and civil society groups after long-standing criticism of its predecessor.  A U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti intended to restore stability after a 2004 coup ended in October after 13 years. Known as MINUSTAH, the departing mission was dogged by controversies, including the introduction of cholera to the island and allegations of sexual abuse. The new mission will focus specifically on the justice system and the police.

Mamadou Diallo, deputy special representative of the U.N. Secretary General in Haiti and acting head of the new mission, said its aim was to build on MINUSTAH’s work to strengthen the security, bolster democracy and the country’s institutions. That would enable a “social contract” to be established between Haiti’s rulers and the people, Diallo said. However, MINUJUSTH has quickly come under fire.

“The country should expect nothing positive from this new mission which is only a tactic to continue with the occupation that the Haitian people have rejected,” former presidential candidate Eric Jean-Baptiste said. Retired army colonel Himmler Rebu, a former cabinet minister and one-time contender for the presidency, also had harsh words. “The U.N. stabilization mission has been here for the past 13 years and they have done nothing, except for preventing armed thugs from taking over the presidential palace,” Rebu said.

The new mission, which officially launched last week, has a six-month renewable term ending April 15, 2018. It will include 1,275 UN police officers and will train Haiti’s national police. Lucien Jura, a spokesman for Moise, said the president expected MINUJUSTH to help correct flaws in the justice system, and several civil society organizations expressed hope that the mission can make a difference. However, much will depend on Haiti’s leaders, they say. «The mission may have all the good will you can imagine, but if Haitian authorities don’t play their part in efforts ... we may not have the expected results,” said Pierre Esperance, head of the National Network to Defend Human Rights, known as RNDDH. The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the transition to MINUJUSTH marked a turning point in Haiti “from stability efforts to a focus on justice and the rule of law”.

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