Statement of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network by its president, Ezili Dantò
Obama denounced the recent “elections” in Burma as “neither free nor fair.” The Haitian “elections” are also neither free nor fair. The largest party, Fanmi Lavalas, is excluded, as it has been in every election since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in 2004.
Who will be able to vote is not clear – over 1.3 million earthquake victims are displaced, many don’t know which polling place to go to, don’t have their IDs, and the country is in the middle of a cholera outbreak that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) says is non-Haitian and originated from South Asia. John Mekalanos, a cholera expert and the chairman of Harvard University’s microbiology department, said, “Evidence suggests Nepalese soldiers carried the disease when they arrived in early October following outbreaks in their homeland.”
The mourning among the population, legitimate disaffection with the U.N., coupled with the disastrous humanitarian situation and exclusion, creates an electoral environment sure to cause low voter turnout. This will minimize the voice of most of the people while amplifying that of the Haitian oligarchy, mostly sustained by NGO and U.S. aid funds, living in the luxurious Petionville hills, who have their IDs and are not displaced.
Another issue is that whoever is elected will have so little power. The U.N., Bill Clinton and other foreigners through the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) largely run the country but are not accountable to the Haitian people. The senators and deputies “elected” mostly won’t have a say in Haiti’s reconstruction, and whoever the new president is from these exclusionary elections will only have a veto power over the acts of the anti-democratic, unelected IHRC. It’s hard to imagine a lone Haitian president finishing his term if he should actually veto a U.N./Bill Clinton/World Bank/Haiti oligarchy initiative made under the IHRC.
Nations like the U.S. have influence in Haiti largely on the basis of promises of aid, even though they have not delivered the bulk of that pledged aid. Similarly, big organizations raise money in the name of devastated Haitians and have money sitting in bank accounts earning interest almost a year after the earthquake, while Haitians remain homeless, living atop 98 percent of the rubble still not removed, or dying of cholera by the thousands as a result of their water being contaminated by U.N. troops.
Many of Haiti’s children have been out of school for 10 months, countless additionally traumatized from the brutal conditions in the tent camps, their parents having lost their jobs, everything, since the earthquake.
Ezili Danto, award winning playwright, performance poet, dancer, actor and activist attorney born in Port au Prince, Haiti, founded and chairs the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), supporting and working cooperatively with Haitian freedom fighters and grassroots organizations promoting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Visit her at www.ezilidanto.com, www.margueritelaurent.com or www.open.salon.com/blog/ezili_danto.
Five reasons to care about Haiti’s sham elections
by Bill Quigley and Nicole Phillips
Haiti needs legitimate leaders right now. Unfortunately, the elections set for Nov. 28, 2010, are a sham. Here are five reasons why the world community should care.
First, Haitian elections are supposed to choose their new president, the entire House of Deputies and one third of the country’s senate. But election authorities have illegally excluded all the candidates from the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas – and other progressive candidates. Lavalas, the party of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has won many elections in Haiti – probably the reason it was excluded. If this were the U.S., this would be like holding elections just between the Tea Party and the GOP – and excluding all others. Few Haitians will respect the outcome of these elections.
Second, over 1.3 million Haitian survivors are struggling to raise their families in 1,300 tent refugee camps scattered around Port au Prince. The broken Haitian political system and the broken international NGO system have failed to provide Haitians with clean water, education, jobs, housing or access to healthcare almost a year after the earthquake.
Now cholera, a preventable and treatable disease, has taken the lives of over 1,600 people. Some are predicting that the infection could infect as many as 200,000 Haitians and claim 10,000 lives. Without legitimate leaders, Haiti cannot hope to build a society which will address these tragedies.
Third, because the elections are not expected to produce real leaders, Haiti is experiencing serious protests on a daily basis. Protests have occurred in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien, where two people died in clashes with the authorities.
In a recent protest in Port au Prince, demonstrators representing 14 Haitian grassroots groups tried to stage peaceful protests. But when U.N. peacekeeping forces arrived, they drew their weapons on demonstrators. As the crowd fled for safety, the U.N. and Haitian police threw teargas canisters into the crowd and the nearby displacement camp, Champ de Mars. Residents were taken to the hospital with injuries from the teargas canisters.
The media has wrongfully typecast the political demonstrations as “civil unrest” filled with angry, drunk rioters. No one mentions that much of the violence has been instigated by law enforcement, not the demonstrators. Faux elections are not going to help deliver stability.
Fourth, political accountability has never been more important in Haiti than right now. The Haitian government must guide Haiti’s reconstruction and make important decisions that will shape Haitian society for decades. Yet many of the 3 million Haitians affected by the earthquake are ambivalent about the elections or do not want them to take place at all.
Fifth, the United States has pushed and paid for these swift elections hoping to secure a stable government to preserve its investment in earthquake reconstruction. But, as Dan Beeton wrote in the LA Times, “If the Obama administration wants to stand on the side of democracy and human rights in Haiti, as it did in Burma, it should support the call to postpone the elections until all parties are allowed to run and all eligible voters are guaranteed a vote.”
By supporting elections that exclude legitimate political parties that are critical of the current government, the international community is only assuring the very social and political unrest it hopes to avoid.
Haitians are saying that no matter which candidates win on Nov. 28, the political system that has failed them will not change unless there is an election that is fair and inclusive. They are also asking that the country undergo a reconciliation process that includes the voices of more than just the Haitian elite and international community.
Haiti desperately needs legitimate leaders. The Nov. 28 sham election will not provide them.
Bill Quigley is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Nicole is staff attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at email@example.com and Nicole at Nicole@ijdh.org.