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UN Report Paints Grim Picture of Haiti Operation

Haiti Progrès editorial,
Vol. 12, no. 44, 25-31 January 1995

United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali this week released a report that was notable for its criticism and apprehension of the secure and stable environment which the US has declared now exists in Haiti.

The Jan. 17 report was released as the UN prepares to assume nominal responsibility for peace-keeping operations in Haiti from the Pentagon. Of course, the transfer of responsibility is largely symbolic, and the UN operation will be at least one-third US troops and commanded by US Major General Joseph Kinzer.

The 17-page report to the Security Council pointed to the ongoing repression in Haiti, the complete lack of justice for victims of the Sept. 1991 coup d'etat, the deteriorating economic situation, and the growing impatience of the Haitian people. The UN Security Council began meeting Jan. 24 to vote on transferring power from US to UN forces. The switch over to the UN uniforms is slated to be completed by March 31.

UN Security Council Resolution 940 of July 31, 1994 was used to justify the Sept. 19, 1994 US invasion of Haiti. The resolution authorized the use of all necessary means to oust Haiti's military junta and restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and called for the establishment of a secure and stable environment before the transfer of military peace-keeping to UN control.

But the Secretary General's report falls short of praising US efforts in Haiti over the past five months. The relative security currently enjoyed by the Haitian people remains very fragile, the report says. The tepid phrasing reflects the continued conflict between UN officials, wary of taking political responsibility over a potentially explosive situation, and the Clinton administration, which is under Congressional pressure and wants to cut its exposure in Haiti.

Boutros-Ghali did echo the standard US position on Haiti, declaring that the security situation has improved considerably since the deployment of US forces. Haiti has not enjoyed this level of security for a very long time; people can move freely throughout the country; the constitutional Government exercises its authority over the whole country; and the Provisional Electoral Council is making preparations for legislative and local elections, he said in the report.

Boutros Ghali also outlined the future role of the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), headed by former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi. UNMIH will be charged with sustaining the secure and stable environment in Haiti, helping to professionalize the Haitian Armed Forces and create the National Police Force, and establishing an environment conducive to free and fair elections. The military component will consist of some 6,000 troops, at least 2,000 of which will be drawn from existing US forces, including Special Forces. Boutros-Ghali claimed that out of 80 governments invited to contribute troops, 27 have offered a total of 7,582 military personnel. UNMIH troops will reportedly include 1,000 soldiers from Bangladesh, 800 from Pakistan, and 500 from Canada. The civilian police wing of UNMIH, which will also be authorized to use force, will help train, guide and monitor the reconstituted Haitian police. Boutros-Ghali said that 18 countries have offered 1,056 police personnel, and he recommended that 900 people comprise the force, up from an earlier request of 550.

The Secretary-General's report came amid a flurry of official statements heralding the success of the US military operation in Haiti. On Jan. 15, Maj. Gen. David C. Meade, the then commander of all military forces in Haiti, stated in a letter submitted to the UN Security Council that the Caribbean country was secure and stable. On Jan. 19, all 27 countries who contributed military or security personnel to the US intervention forces, also declared that a secure and stable environment had been established in Haiti. (The participating countries are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States.)

These statements followed a Jan. 9 report by Gen. Meade summarizing the military operations in Haiti, including the efforts to establishing a secure and stable environment. According to Meade's eighth report, there are presently 7,412 troops and 717 international police monitors (the yellow hats) in Haiti. Supplementing these forces are 2,990 members of the Interim Public Safety Force (IPSF), the recycled Haitian army soldiers who have gone through a six-day training seminar. (The IPSF was created and trained by the United States after the Haitian army and police disappeared following massive anti-army protests in September and October.) The IPSF are deployed in 25 locations outside Port-au-Prince. Meade also said that 20,345 weapons have been seized by or brought to members of the US-led occupation force. He claimed that random checks by local patrols and at roadblocks confirm that essentially no weapons are being moved or carried by the general public in Port-au-Prince.

The reports by Meade stand in stark contrast to the Secretary General's summary, which was compiled by UN agencies and personnel in Haiti. To be sure, the UN report does subscribe to the standard US position in many areas. The Secretary General said, for example, that the human rights situation has improved and, incredibly, claims that human rights monitors with the UN/OAS International Civilian Mission (ICM) have not heard of any murder ascribed to the former military or paramilitary forces since Nov. 4, 1994. Instead, acts of violence are due to crime and non-political bands of former attaches or FRAPH members -- an argument also touted by the US Embassy.

But, the Secretary General's report contains some damning evidence that exposes the lies told by the US government and mass media about the liberation of Haiti. The report notes ongoing harassment and intimidation of popular organizations, politically motivated arrests by local judicial officials associated with FRAPH, and growing frustration at the inability or unwillingness of the system to prosecute human rights offenders.

Boutros-Ghali also comments on the economic deterioration in the country, despite all the promises of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans. The high prices and widespread unemployment are causing people to demonstrate in increasing numbers, said Boutros-Ghali. At one demonstration in front of the Finance Ministry on Dec. 29, Boutros-Ghali said that US military personnel and international peace monitors had to disperse the crowd. All in all, Boutros-Ghali notes, the political reality is that large numbers of Haitians still feel insecure.