UN Intervention in Cite Soleil
According to recent reports, in the early morning on Friday, December 22nd, 400 Brazilian-led UN troops in armored vehicles carried out an intervention in Cite Soleil. Some reports I have seen have characterized this as an assault "against the people of Cite Soleil" vice a "raid against kidnappers". Grassroots organizations are very upset. Below is an explanation of the intervention by one such organization: "A more plausible explanation comes from grassroots activists in Cite Soleil. They argue that this is "punishment" for their ongoing protests demanding an end to the UN occupation, restoration of full democracy, return of President Aristide, and the release of political prisoners. Additionally, the people of Cite Soleil have been vigorously protesting the December 3rd municipal elections, in which there were widespread allegations of fraud and many from the popular neighborhoods were prevented from voting."
Here is the fundamental problem. The UN Force did not consider security part of their mandate initially, noting that this was the responsibility of the National Police. However, the National Police in Haiti are few in number and count many corrupt officers among their ranks. The forces did not score points with locals by standing by as security deteriorated nor by taking R+R at beaches, resorts, and hotels.
The kidnappings had such a destabilizing effect on Port-au-Prince and by extension the country, that the UN forces were leveraged to become involved in improving the security situation (read: go after the kidnappers where they are).
Not all kidnappers are based in Cite Solei, but many of them are. For those who have not seen Cite Solei, it is some of the densest, most awful housing in the hemisphere. There is an old legend that people in Cite Solei don’t sleep, as there is constant activity. This most likely stems from people sleeping in shifts as the shelters are not big enough for all occupants.
Any armed intervention in this sort of urban environment will result in many casualties. Casualties undermine the legitimacy of the UN forces. With a lack of legitimacy, it becomes increasingly difficult for the UN to operate.
On the other hand, Haitians have become increasingly fed up with the kidnappings that have paralyzed the country and placed everyone at risk. People demand action, but what sort of action?
Prèval has tried reintegration but it failed. The UN is now trying raids, which are controversial. We should keep in mind that no UN force is permanent....In Haiti's case they have come and gone again and again. Kofi Annan has admitted the futility of such an approach in a country is profoundly troubled as Haiti.
Building up Haiti's capacity for law enforcement and justice are the only long term solutions in this conflict. As corruption has been the norm, Haiti will need the support of the international community to build that capacity in an accountable and transparent way. We hope doing so will reduce the need for UN interventions in the future.
We especially welcome comments on Haiti's law enforcement and judicial systems.
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