Haitians are divided on a military intervention in the country
Fuel shortages in Haiti, fueled by gang violence, have caused people to block roads.
Although citizen and business groups in Haiti are divided on the idea of military intervention amid humanitarian and political crises, experts warned Canadian MPs on Friday that the country has a need urgent help.
As a high-ranking Canadian envoy is deployed to Haiti to discuss possible solutions, human rights researcher Gédéon Jean painted a bleak picture for MPs, saying: Haiti is on the precipice.
Mr. Jean was among witnesses who came to tell the Commons International Human Rights Subcommittee that there should be a widely accepted plan for a transitional government in Haiti, amid a debate over foreign aid.
This country has not held a presidential poll since the 2016 election of Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated in July 2021. Since then, the power vacuum has allowed criminal and violent gangs to take control of ;critical infrastructure, leading to massacres and accentuating a cholera epidemic.
The unpopular government in Port-au-Prince has requested foreign military intervention to create a humanitarian corridor, a decision approved by the Secretary General of the United Nations as well as by the non-governmental organization International Crisis Group.
In response, Ottawa sanctioned a dozen high-ranking Haitian politicians and business leaders, accusing them of funding the gangs. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, to Haiti to try to find a path to consensus in order to get the country out of the crisis.
When we put that pressure on the political and economic elite, we can eventually allow for political dialogue, and that's why Bob Rae, as we speak, is in Haiti, the report told Thursday. press the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly. Our goal is to find solutions by and for Haitians.
Earlier this year, US officials named Canada as a possible leader of such a mission.
But some Haitians strongly reject the idea of foreign military intervention. The Commons committee thus heard that this intervention would only lead to more chaos in Haiti.
Monique Clesca, an activist with an opposition group who wants to form a two-year interim government, argued that the president's request for foreign intervention should not be taken seriously.
“It is a crime of high treason, and this request demonstrates the failure of Mr. Henry's government and the international diplomacy that installed him and continues to support him, despite his illegitimacy and his disastrous governance.
— Monique Clesca, an activist from an opposition group
She argued that there is a growing consensus among politicians, religious groups and civil society for a security solution implemented by the National Police of Haiti. But the country also needs humanitarian aid and solutions to discourage young people from joining gangs. The problem goes beyond establishing a semblance of security, and it is not a cleanup that will solve gang problems or humanitarian needs, Ms Clesca added.
Other witnesses told MPs that the gangs were recruiting orphaned children, leading Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld to wonder if a military intervention could bring Canadian soldiers face to face with armed gangs, potentially in a shooting, with what are essentially child soldiers.
Yet the International Crisis Group says its conflict prevention experts believe military intervention is the only way to establish humanitarian corridors to fight cholera and end sexual violence.
It would then be a matter of putting in place a transitional government to restore essential services and organize fair elections, perhaps with an outside country as a mediator if the Haitians request it.
The situation on the ground is increasingly dramatic and inaction is not necessarily the best solution, said Renata Segura, regional director of the group.
It is crucial that Haitians come together in some sort of national dialogue to determine whether they want these troops to arrive, and if so, what exactly their mandate would be.
Ms Segura pointed out that residents were afraid to voice support for an intervention, as they did not want it to be confused with support for the current government.
Mr. Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, argued that the international community must intervene under the United Nations doctrine of the responsibility to protect.
He argued that his country was moving closer to a proto-state akin to the Islamic State armed group's takeover of parts of Syria and Iraq. He said in French that Haiti's justice system has collapsed and one of its main prisons resembles Nazi concentration camps and those of other similar regimes. /p>
A protester holds a piece of wood simulating a gun during a demonstration for the resignation of Ariel Henry , in Port-au-Prince, on October 3, 2022.
Another International Crisis Group representative, Diego Da Rin, said a series of clashes in Port-au-Prince over the past year have seen rival gangs filming the sexual assaults of women in newly conquered territory in an effort to assert control and stoke fear.
A national director of Partners In Health Canada, a charity that operates hospitals and clinics in Haiti, told the committee that Canada can help in the short term, whether or not there is a military intervention. /p>
Canada can help now, assured Mark Brender.
Haiti needs fuel and storage capacity, he said. he explained, and Canada could build supply warehouses for essential commodities and medical supplies outside of areas cut off by gang wars.
In the medium term, he said Canada could also invest in solar panels so Haiti isn't brought to its knees by blockages around its main fuel terminal. These left hospitals running on generators, and hospital staff trekked six hours across the mountains to the Dominican Republic to get fuel, he said.
This week, some of Haiti's most prominent business groups signed an open letter pledging to stamp out corruption and help the country rebuild, if political actors show patriotic realism and allow foreign aid.
The letter in French asks political leaders to sign a political agreement establishing a government of national union that strives to include as many stakeholders as possible, with a clear roadmap leading to the holding of honest, transparent and fair elections within a reasonable timeframe.