Haiti has become a failed state, says former Governor General Michaëlle Jean

A woman and her daughter run past a barricade erected by police to denounce poor police leadership in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 26, 2023.  (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press - photo credit)

A woman and her daughter run past a barricade erected by police to denounce poor police leadership in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 26, 2023. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press – photo credit)

Former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean says Haiti has become a failed state because of its deteriorating security and economic climate, and calls on Canada to take a leadership role to help stabilize the Caribbean country.

Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, violence has escalated in Haiti and gang activity has increased. The number of reported kidnappings rose to over 1,200 last year, more than double the number of the previous year. According to the United Nations, 1,200 people were killed in Haiti last year, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

Jean, a Haitian refugee who grew up in Quebec, was asked on the CBC News Network Power & Politics if the ongoing crisis means Haiti becomes a failed state.

“Haiti is already a failed state,” Jean told guest presenter David Cochrane.

“The government itself has completely failed. There is a governmental crisis with the state as there is within the police force. And this is the problem.”

Haiti’s de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry took office in July with the backing of a number of western countries, including Canada. But Henry’s government lacked popular acceptance in Haiti.

Mathieu Thériault/CBC News

Mathieu Thériault/CBC News

Jean said Canada should play a leading role in international policing efforts to stabilize the country and allow an interim government to hold new elections. But she said such a force must involve other Caribbean countries.

“Police teams from countries in the region would be better accepted by the Haitian people, especially if they came in solidarity and as reinforcements,” she said.

Jean also warned that any change of government must involve Haitian community groups.

Senior Caribbean leaders are expected to discuss Haiti’s spiraling chaos and its impact on the region during a biannual meeting this week. The three-day meeting of the Caribbean trading bloc known as CARICOM gets underway in the Bahamas on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend this meeting to discuss, among other things, the crisis in Haiti.

In a statement announcing the trip, Trudeau’s office said it hopes to find a “Haitian-led” solution to a “egregious” security crisis fueled by gang warfare that is “having a devastating impact on the Haitian people.”

Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus warned during a meeting of the Organization of American States last week that insecurity has increased and will spill over into neighboring countries.

“It is imperative that we address this issue in Haiti because no one else in the Caribbean will be spared,” he said.

Earlier this month, Jamaica’s prime minister said he was ready to send troops and police to Haiti as part of a planned deployment of multinational security assistance. Last year, the Bahamas said they would send troops or police if asked.

Odelyn Joseph/Associated Press

Odelyn Joseph/Associated Press

Last month, speaking on the sidelines of the North American Leaders’ Summit, Trudeau said Canada was preparing “various scenarios” to respond if the situation in Haiti deteriorated. He didn’t say if that might involve leading an international police mission.

Jean Augustine, a former Liberal cabinet minister and longtime advocate for the Caribbean diaspora, said Canada has a “moral impetus” to help Haiti.

“We see how we came together in Ukraine,” Augustine told CBC. “This is the right time as the Prime Minister is going there to make sure the talks are happening and that the other leaders are on board with strategies that can help.”

The Canadian government said it provided over $90 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Haiti in fiscal year 2022-23. It has assisted the Haitian National Police by deploying a long-range patrol aircraft and coordinating the delivery of security equipment.

Since October, Henry and senior Haitian officials have been calling for the immediate deployment of foreign troops. The UN Security Council has not yet complied with this request and has opted for sanctions instead.

On Friday, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti released a report recommending that CARICOM accelerate efforts to control the illicit proliferation of firearms and ammunition in the Caribbean.

Some CARICOM members are pushing to bring key Haitian stakeholders to a neutral nation in the region to reach an agreement to hold elections.

Many local officials and voices in the international community have stated that elections cannot be held in Haiti until the violence is crushed. Jean agreed.

“If we don’t solve this problem of insecurity, we can’t even imagine elections in Haiti,” she said. “It would be a disaster.”


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