|By Obi. O. Akwani
Editor, Minorities’ Global Village
Posted: January 28, 2010
The United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, Mr. Bill Clinton of the United States of America, believes Haiti can be rebuilt into a better place than it was before it was devastated by a magnitude 7 earthquake on January 12, 2010. The earthquake was very shallow, just 10 kilometers below the earth’s surface- with epicenter in the ocean 16 kilometers southwest of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, hence the extent of the destruction that it brought.
Mr. Clinton’s statement flies in the face of many more conservative opinions that have been expressed since the earthquake shook this poor island nation into a rubble. They all seem desirous of confining Haiti to a state of permanent failure.
Some of these pessimistic pundits cite history to show reasons why Haiti may not recover. They cite Pompeii buried in volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius 2000 years ago; and the abandoned city of Plymouth, capital of Monserrat, another Caribbean island, buried by volcanic flows 15 years ago. Upon this damming historical evidence, they add the apparent fact of a “virtually nonfunctional” government in Haiti. They attribute any progress made in that country, since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide six years ago, to the presence of United Nations peacekeepers whom they give sole credit for stabilizing the country, controlling crime and providing a measure of economic growth. No credit at all is given to the government of the pro-Aristide President Rene Preval, who won back Haiti, through democratic means, in a landslide electoral victory over the puppet regime that had helped to oust Aristide and seized the country immediately after the former president’s forced removal.
The most controversial of these conservative pundits, the Rev. Pat Robertson – a former contender for the Republican ticket for the presidency of the United States of America, and leader of an ultra-conservative Christian group that owns the Christian Broadcasting Network – gleefully called the earthquake God’s vengeance on the Haitian people for colluding with the devil, more than 200 years ago, to free that country and its people from French slavery and political domination.
“Many years ago, the island’s people swore a pact to the devil… They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other,” Robertson said in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network the day after the earthquake.
These same pessimists are now suggesting (and not very subtly) that the best thing for Haiti’s recovery, in the absence of a functional government, is a take-over of the running of the country by international organizations and big business. This is the basis of their support for international aid to earthquake-devastated Haiti and their scatting opinion of the existing government in Haiti.
Fear that this sort of predatory concern may creep into the gathering international effort to rebuild Haiti is prompting many Haitians in the diaspora to raise their voice.
At the international summit of foreign ministers held in Montreal, Canada on Monday January 25 to drum up support for rebuilding the earthquake devastated country, Haitians living in Canada picketed the venue to warn that the summit should not produce another foreign-made solution to a Haitian problem.
Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, echoed the views of the Haitian diaspora when he told the ministers and aid groups present that the government of Haiti is in a position to resume leadership of the country following the earthquake.
“Haitians continue to work in precarious conditions but it is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction,” Bellerive said.
Participants at the conference did take note of Haitian concerns. Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon said that “a key consideration … was the importance that we accord to Haiti’s sovereignty and independent voice as we marshal our efforts.”
The government of President Rene Preval will do well to collaborate with well-meaning international organizations while keeping watch that the initiative in deciding the shape of the future Haiti remains in Haitians’ hands. Preval and his prime minister can not allow those who have come to help take over the agenda for the rebuilding of Haiti. That is the meaning of a strong government. By maintaining a strong hand in the process, they will have restored the reputation of their government at the end.