Foreign Intervention in Haiti: A Historical Perspective for Understanding Distrust
In 2016, more than 93,000 people in Canada, declared themselves members of the Haitian immigrant population.
The population is angry with the government in Haiti, particularly because of its inability to improve the security situation .
Haitian public opinion is divided regarding the possible intervention of peacekeepers in Haiti. Members of the Haitian diaspora in Canada oppose any foreign intervention based on a reading of the past, while others see it as a temporary solution.
“Foreign intervention is never the desired solution to a domestic crisis.
—Darlene Lozis, Ottawa
Darlène Lozis, originally from Haiti, is a resident of Ottawa. For her, the solution to Haiti's problems must come from its people. She is one of those who believe that a reminder of the past of military interventions on Haitian soil is necessary. In our history, the facts show us that no occupation [foreign intervention] has served us in terms of sovereignty and socio-political and economic development.
The Franco-Ontarian, human rights activist, recalls facts related to the passage of foreign soldiers in Haiti. The American occupation from 1915 to 1934, the looting of the state coffers, the [military] exactions, the rejected campaigns where they massacred voodooists under the pretext that they are devils, recounts she. Haiti has only regressed. There followed an imperialist and colonial process within the country, she says.
Darlène Lozis is a member of Solidarité Québec-Haiti, a Haitian-Canadian diaspora platform that presents itself as a political watchdog in Haiti.
Sudbury resident Roby Joseph agrees, also mentioning this first American occupation. Since then, we have only suffered the consequences of this intervention which had not brought about a solution, he said, recounting in turn the events that occurred during this occupation. Since then, it's always been one intervention after another, he says.
Protesters opposed to foreign intervention in Haiti near the Jean-Talon market in Montreal
Darlène Lozis adds that this first occupation brought to power the Duvalier dictatorship. And since it had become at some point a hot potato for them [the United States of America], they agreed to support the request of the Haitian people who wanted a democracy, she says.
She adds that many other foreign military interventions followed. From 1994, when we asked the UN to come and make a democratic correction, we were left with a quagmire, she laments.
“This continuity was repeated in 2004, with the coup against a democratically elected president [Jean-Bertrand Aristide]. From there, we had a succession of governments decided by the United States.
—Darlene Lozis, Ottawa
For his part, Roby Joseph recalls that Haiti is not at war. Moreover, the solution cannot come from a military police, he says. The military are made for war.
Roby Joseph is co-owner of Sudbury's Caribbean-flavoured restaurant, Tropical Cuisine. He is also the president of the Sudbury Haitian Resources community association.
According to the Sudburois, the UN has always missed its target by intervening in Haiti. We had several missions of different forms, with different names. […] They left dead people, he says.
Mr. Joseph recalls that the cholera epidemic which affected 800,000 Haitians is the responsibility of the United Nations. And so far, they have not accepted their legal responsibility in all of this, fumes the Haitian-Canadian.
Ms. Lozis and Mr. Joseph both relate similar facts . There are children who have been raped by foreign soldiers, says Mr. Joseph. We are asking for reparation and for these people to be brought before the courts, notes Ms. Lozis, who recalls that they have received immunity.
Historical facts that echo the speech made by Frantz Voltaire, Montreal historian of Haitian origin. It goes back further in time, to demonstrate how foreign interventions have always served the Haitian cause.
From 1860, we will have interventions qualified as gunboat policy, that is to say when foreign nationals determine that their interests have been harmed, therefore a boat of war arrives in the harbour, threatens the Haitian government incapable of defending itself […] we have paid compensation or we are humiliating Haiti, he underlines.
The historian recalls that these conflicts sometimes occurred with Spain and Germany towards the end of the 19th century. Sometimes it's even scabrous, he said, indicating that German soldiers defecated on the Haitian flag to humiliate the country.
- Bombardment of the city of Cap-Haitien by the Bulldog, an English government boat in 1865. This intervention occurred at the request of President Fabre Nicolas Geffrard, who wanted to silence the opposition in the region.
- In 1902, during a civil war, the German navy sank a Haitian ship in the context of a diplomatic crisis between the Republic of Haiti and the Empire of Germany. the famous case of Admiral Killick.
- Sporadic foreign intervention in the affairs of state in Haiti would last until 1915, when the country was first occupied by the United States.
Source: Frantz Voltaire, Haitian historian
Like Ms. Lozis, the historian asserts that the Duvalier regime was initially supported by the United States.
In addition, Herby Nordhoff Deronselé claims to be aware of the fact that opinions differ on the subject of a military intervention in Haiti. He believes, however, that it would be the right thing to do because the Haitian police are too weak, he believes.
Deronselé, an Ottawan originally from Haiti, believes foreign support is needed to train local police. If they really want to help Haiti in the police community, the UN is capable of it.
Same story with Harold Isaac, a Montrealer of Haitian origin. Joined on the spot in Pétion-Ville, in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, he wishes an aid which would take into account the complexity of the crisis. I am not of the opinion that we should reject all forms of aid, but I am of the opinion that aid should be marked out.
The Quebecer recognizes the past failures of foreign interventions. His opinion is guided by the urgency of the situation. It is certain that we can have a short-term solution with a military intervention, he believes. But, we can have a more complicated situation that develops in 5 or 10 years, he ponders.
“Since we have just come out of an intervention by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), from 2004 to 2017 […] essentially after their departure, we fell into a kind of delinquency and violence, gangs. Obviously, the roots of this problem had not been addressed. »
— Harold Isaac, Haiti
For a strengthening of the capacities and strategies of the Haitian local police, the four fellow citizens agree.
Roby Joseph also fears that foreign intervention will be used to repress popular demonstrations rather than to fight street gangs in Haiti.
Similarly, Ms. Lozis believes that such a decision would go against the will of Haitians. It would be really stubborn to do something that the Haitian people have said they do not want.
She adds that the Haitian demonstrators chanted their refusal of foreign intervention in the streets. She believes the current Haitian government and its call for foreign aid are both illegitimate.
Historian Frantz Volaire participated in the show “Everyone speaks about it” in 2021.
Asked about the legitimacy of the current Haitian government, historian Frantz Voltaire recalls that the appointment of a Haitian Prime Minister must be ratified by the Senate of the Republic , composed of 30 senators, and by the Chamber of Deputies.
He explains that this was not the case. There was no legitimate institution in the country capable of ensuring a transition at the time of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, he specifies. If military intervention were to legitimize this government, I think there will be very strong opposition in the country, assures the historian.