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On the Anniversary of Haiti’s Independence, Redoubling Solidarity

#Articles & Analysis#Defense of Territory#Human Rights Defense
January 2024

Boaventura Monjane

Solidarity Officer for West Africa and Haiti

On January 1, 1804, Haiti emerged as a beacon of freedom, marking the culmination of a revolutionary journey that began in 1791. The Haitian people, guided by an indomitable spirit, asserted their independence from colonial rule and slavery, establishing the first free republic in the Americas. As Grassroots International board member Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper sums it up:

“In 1804, after 13 years of armed struggle, valiant women and men, daughters and sons of Africa, declared their freedom from slavery and independence from European colonialism. Their act of collective resistance and self-determination set in motion a new world in which Black now meant free human and citizenship was defined as fraternal and sororal love and solidarity. Out of over 21 African nations, Haitian revolutionaries founded the first people’s republic of the Americas. And honoring the original freedom defenders of this land, Haitian futurists renamed the country, Ayiti. The Haitian Revolution is a gift to humanity. On the 220th anniversary of this historical process, we salute these visionaries and offer them our continued struggles for human liberation.”

Today, while we celebrate this incredible feat of liberation, we redouble our commitment to stand in solidarity with the Haitian people as the country as it grapples with a deteriorating security landscape, as part of a broader socio-political crisis, and the interference of imperialist powers undermining its sovereignty.

In recent times, Haiti has experienced a surge in security challenges, marked by the pervasive influence of criminal gangs. The gangsterization of the country has cast a shadow over the vibrant spirit of the Haitian people. Furthermore, Haiti also grapples with a breakdown in public authority, marked by the absence of a functioning state across various spheres of national governance, notably the lack of a parliament. The judicial system is also compromised and weakened, exacerbating the challenges faced by the nation.

For Grassroots International, Haiti holds a special place, with the country being central to one of Grassroots’ longest-running programs. As we commemorate the anniversary of Haiti’s independence, it represents a critical moment — not only to celebrate historical triumphs but also to acknowledge the deepening and persistent challenges the country faces, while also exploring possibilities of hope. Social movements in Haiti wield considerable influence, serving as a catalyst for national inspiration towards a more promising future. They not only proffer solutions to current challenges but also aspire to foster enduring social cohesion, peace, and the restoration of democracy and sovereignty within the Haitian context.

In October 2023, the United Nations Security Council gave its approval to a new international policing mission to Haiti led by Kenya, framing it as a “peacekeeping” initiative. In defiance of legal challenges, Kenya intensifies preparations to dispatch Kenyan police to Haiti. The chief of Haiti’s national police visited Kenya in mid-December 2023 as part of the arrangements for the deployment of Kenyan police to the Caribbean nation. According to this article, the initial contingent of approximately 300 officers is anticipated to be sent by February. However, the fate of this deployment hangs in the balance, contingent on the resolution of a pending legal case seeking to impede the move. A verdict is anticipated in January. Haitian social movements firmly oppose foreign intervention, contending that historical military missions have exacerbated issues for the country rather than resolving them.

Global solidarity

Our commitment to shedding light on the realities faced by the Haitian people goes beyond our own observations. We have reached out to our esteemed partners and allies in Haiti, seeking their perspectives on the current situation.

Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay (MPNKP), Tet Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen, Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), and Mouvman Peyizan Acul-du-Nord, MPA (a member of MPNKP) are vital contributors to the agricultural and social landscape of Haiti. In their words, they highlight the challenges faced by local communities and emphasize the importance of international solidarity in these trying times.

According to Doudou Pierre Festile, a leader from Mouvman Peyizan Acul-du-Nord (MPA),

“The situation in Haiti worsens each day with rampant insecurity, where criminals and gangs operate with impunity. Migration is on the rise as Haitians leave the country due to insecurity and poverty. The cholera, introduced by the Nepalese troops [deployed to Haiti by the UN] in 2004, continues to claim lives, especially among peasants. Members of MPA are currently affected and some have succumbed to cholera, including a significant leader, Maurice, who is hospitalized along with his family. There’s an imminent possibility of the Kenyan occupation force arriving in Haiti in January or February.”

“We, as grassroots movements in Haiti, stand united against the forces that threaten our communities. The gang violence poses a significant threat to our people and our way of life. Now, more than ever, we call for global solidarity to amplify our voices and support our struggle for a safer Haiti,” asserts Kettly Alexandre from MPNKP

For a comprehensive understanding of the situation in Haiti, particularly its impact on small-scale farmers, we refer to a compelling article by Via Campesina. This piece delves into the intricate details of the escalating security crisis, providing valuable insights. Additionally, it underscores the urgent call for international solidarity voiced by peasant movements.

Movements’ proactive responses

Amidst the worsening situation in Haiti, social movements are emerging as a crucial force in addressing the pressing needs of rural communities amid the current power vacuum. Notably, Grassroots International partners and allies, especially peasant movements, are undertaking commendable efforts to enhance living conditions of rural people and safeguard the environment. The MPP is actively engaged in the production, distribution, and planting of fruit and forest seedlings, contributing to the expansion of tree coverage across Haitian territory. Simultaneously, MPNKP is making significant strides through the distribution of livestock to individual families and groups, along with the establishment of home gardens to combat food insecurity and alleviate hunger.

The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), a partner of Grassroots International in Haiti, has expressed its stance on the security crisis. It reaffirms its dedication to standing by the Haitian people in their quest for freedom, justice, and the protection of human rights. Furthermore, POHDH emphasizes its role as a defender of democracy and human rights in the wake of authoritarianism and violence. In a recent article, POHDH provides a comprehensive overview of the human rights implications of the situation, urging the international community to take notice and take action. POHDH has engaged in documenting instances of violence and human rights violations, conducted information and training initiatives to enhance citizen awareness of their rights. The organization has also undertaken advocacy and mobilization efforts among small-scale farmers, contributing to the collective resistance against land grabbing and environmental degradation.

The Haitian Platform for Advocacy for an Alternative Development (Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif, PAPDA), another Grassroots International partner, is a prominent advocate for alternatives to the neoliberal economic model, focusing on debt cancellation, food sovereignty, and sustainable development in Haiti. They actively collaborate with the agricultural sector to promote the cultivation and sale of Indigenous Haitian crops, shielding local farmers from the impact of inexpensive imported grains. In addition to addressing economic issues, PAPDA, alongside other Grassroots partners, strongly engages in advocating for a Haitian-led solution to the socio-political and security challenges, rejecting foreign intervention.

According to Camille Chalmers, PAPDA Executive Director:

“PAPDA continues to support the resistance of peasant organizations in the face of the severe crisis manufactured by reactionary forces to push the country towards an “ungovernable chaotic entity.” We persist in facilitating training processes to understand the phenomenon of gangsterization within a global geopolitical framework and in relation to other violence processes created to crush any momentum of political participation by popular actors… In this situation, it is crucial for popular organizations to maintain confidence in their ability to build agroecological experiences while contributing to advancing a national food sovereignty project.”

An internal solution for Haiti

Grassroots International partners and allies in Haiti, such as POHDH and PAPDA, have actively contributed to the formation of a comprehensive civil society platform—the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis. This platform, notable for its national and sectoral representation, as well as its ongoing political involvement, materialized the Montana Accord in August 2021. The Montana Accord, credited for its creation of a viable transition formula amidst the crisis, has gained further significance by establishing connections with the Protocole d’Entente Nationale (PEN), a coalition comprising approximately 70 political organizations and social groups. This article analyzes the Montana Accord and Haiti’s fraught search for a sustainable political transition plan.

As Camille Chalmers emphasizes:

“Getting out of the current crisis will not happen without a radical break from manufactured food dependency and the neoliberal directions of macroeconomic policies that have eroded the structures of state institutions. The solution requires reclaiming spaces of sovereignty and self-determination. The future of justice and prosperity for the Haitian nation will not be built without the central and decisive participation of peasant actors willing to fight for their core demands and for a profound transformation of our country.”

Grassroots International in solidarity

In the midst of these challenges, Grassroots International stands in solidarity with the people of Haiti, and with our Haitian partners. As we commemorate the country’s independence, we acknowledge the resilience and strength of the Haitian spirit. It is our hope that, through global collaboration and support for vital movement-led efforts, Haiti can navigate through these turbulent times and emerge stronger than ever.

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