In Haiti, “the state does not function well at all”, says Bob Rae
Violence caused by criminal gangs in Haiti is forcing many citizens to flee their homes.
Back from an observation mission of a few days in Haiti, Bob Rae, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, is formal: the small state of the Antilles is dysfunctional. But you don't necessarily have to land there with thousands of soldiers to restore order, he believes.
Visiting the show Midi Info, on the airwaves of ICI Première, Mr. Rae specified that his trip had two objectives: first, to look into the question of security, then to try to pave the way towards elections and a transition, more than a year after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July last year.
The [criminal] gangs are in charge of a majority of Port-au-Prince, the capital, Mr. Rae acknowledged. These same groups, he said, have also set up roadblocks on several important roads that crisscross the country from north to south.
This situation is causing enormous problems for the population, deplores the diplomat, in a country where the poverty rate is already very high.
Still according to Mr. Rae, however, there is a silver lining. According to him, the sanctions imposed by the international community against certain oligarchs and criminal groups, including by Canada, are beginning to have an impact on the ground, in Haiti.
Things are starting to improve a little, he said.
Even so, Mr. Rae believes that Haiti needs the assistance of the international community, including from Canada.
Should this aid take the form of foreign military intervention, an idea that has been discussed in recent weeks? On this, Bob Rae hesitates: My personal opinion is that there may be room where the police and armed forces from abroad can help, but it will not be. not by replacing the Haitian National Police (PNH); we have to support it.
Under-equipped and understaffed, the PNH is unable to face, on its own, the security challenges in the country. Canada is also one of the countries that has recently sent equipment, including armored vehicles, to strengthen the capabilities of this police force.
We have had major interventions [military] in the past, but it didn't work because the situation goes back to how it was when the troops leave, Mr Rae added.
The Canadian government, meanwhile, has already expressed skepticism about such a mission in Haiti.
Another aspect of his mission, Bob Rae raised the issue of possible elections. The most recent poll was due to have taken place in 2019, before being postponed to the end of September 2021 due to the failure of the outgoing parliament to approve the electoral law.
The assassination of President Moïse in July of that year led to a postponement first to November 2021 and then to the end of January 2022. The elections, which would include a presidential ballot, but also a constitutional referendum to renew all 119 deputies and 19 of the 30 members of the Senate, are now scheduled for 2023, without a precise date being known.
Mr. Rae judges that in Haiti, precisely, the political class is not entirely aware of the urgency of the situation. We have to move things forward. I tried, during my conversations, to shake things up a bit, he said.
And while the former interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is visiting Canada, including Montreal, to meet members of the diaspora and promote his own political party in view of the upcoming elections, Bob Rae wishes to recall that Canada stands in solidarity with Haiti, but above all that it is neutral, without preference for a particular party or candidate.
We are here to help improve the situation, assures the diplomat.