The last quarter of 2019 and indeed the last quarter of the last decade has been one of the most tumultuous in the country’s history. Haiti has been brought to its knees with continuous demonstrations and protests the current regime, effectively dubbed “Pays Lock”. The demonstrations have caused in total paralysis of the daily functioning of government and commercial activities. Throughout the capital Port-au-Prince and major cities across the country, opposition demonstrators erected barricades to prevent transportation access, commercial activities and school openings Sadly, these actions often result in clashes between opposing groups; those who want the barricades removed and those who want them to stay, as well as clashes with security forces resulting in deaths and wounded innocent victims. While the protests seek to unseat the current President and his Tet Kale party operatives, attempts to appoint a Prime Minister who will in turn appoint a cabinet to run the country has been stymied up until this day. There have been diplomatic shuttling between UN officials, US Representatives and the OAS delegates in an attempt to broker a lasting solution to the stalemate but all seem to have failed on reaching an agreeable resolution to the crisis; with the government insisting on dialogue with an opposition which became more recalcitrant as the crisis continues intensifying their demand for the departure of President Jovenel Moïse as a precondition for dialogue.
While the crisis continues, the radical opposition had decided to change tactics for the New Year. According to the spokesperson for the consensual alternative group, l’Alternative consensuelle, Mr. André Michel, L’ Alternative decided that schools should reopen this week to allow children to attend, while protests and demonstrations will be held during evenings and weekends to allow for academic and commercial activities to proceed without interruption. Mr. Michel accused the government of doing everything in its power to block academic activities from taking place during the period when the demonstrations were most intense. Senator Youri Latortue agrees with this sentiment, arguing that the “pays lock” strategy actually help protect pupils and students from the insecurity created by police repression and that the change in strategy is not capitulation but rather an approach to attain the goals of the opposition. Other observers of the crises have attributed this change in tone and strategy to the increasing pressure from the U.S. White House, as evidenced in the speech by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the 216th Independence anniversary. In the speech on January 1, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of State called on the Haitian government and all political leaders to work together to find a lasting solution and move the country forward.
Speaking of Independence celebrations, President Moïse did not go to Gonaïves, the birthplace of Haitian independence to take part in the 216th anniversary celebrations, but chose to stay in the capital Port-au-Prince instead, according to a spokesperson from the National Palace, Emmanuel Jean-François. The spokesperson reiterated that there’s no requirement for the President must go to Gonaïves to celebrate the independence of the country as such, staying in Port-au-Prince does not violate any laws. But observers noted that the opposition had planned the funeral for a young man, Cenoble Mécène, who was killed by the security forces at the place des armes, where the independence ceremonies normally take place. Cenoble Mécène was shot to death when security forces attempted to take down barricades erected by opposition protester in Raboteau, a neighborhood in Gonaïves on December 19, 2019. On Saturday, December 28th, protesters burnt tires in several areas across the city to protest the expected visit of the President to Kafou Jòf. Then on Sunday, December 22, 2019, while launching a new community dialogue initiative, “dialogue communautaire”, President Jovenel Moïse stated that he decided to side step some people and that they risk being accident victims if they ever crossed his way. This statement caused consternation among a dozen human rights organizations which express their concern over such threats coming from the President, and in a strongly worded statement stated that such threats demonstrates unequivocally the President’s desire to establish a dictatorial regime in the country and his disregard for the principles of democratic governance and the respect for human rights.
Meanwhile, the President has doubled his meetings with different political actors in an attempt to form a government of national unity before the 50th legislative assembly comes to an end next week, effectively ending the mandate for all the 119 deputies and 20 senators (two thirds of the upper house). Meetings with moderate opposition parties while the extreme wing of the opposition still refuse to dialogue with him. Mr. Moise plans to have a meeting with the legislature to come up with a consensus government, failure of which will result in him appointing a Prime Minister through a presidential decree. But opposition organizations have sent out their warning to the President to desist from trying to rule by decree. They are also calling on other organizations to intensify their anti-government mobilization, because to them, President Moise and his tèt kale (PHTK) acolytes in government must resign and be brought to justice before a transitional government is put in place to break with the current exclusionary system and work towards improving the lives of the people. These groups include Le Mouvement de liberté, d’égalité des Haïtiens pour la fraternité (MOLEGHAF), la Coordination nationale des ouvrières et ouvriers haïtiens (Cnoha) and le regroupement Konbit òganizasyon politik, sendikal ak popilè.
The Minister of Environment, Joseph Jouthe has formally denied allegations of deceit trending on social media accusing him of reneging on a promise to pay bribes to some journalists. In denouncing the false accusation in the malicious note concocted by some individuals with malicious intent, the Minister stated that he holds highly the universal values that underlie the profession of journalism. As such, there is no way he would commit such an act, when he knows full well that journalistic independence is an essential condition of free flow of information and the professional integrity, a corner stone of the credibility of the journalist. Despite the denounciation of the malicious information, the Minister still renew his commitment to do everything to encourage capacity building for journalists in the current political environment. In the Bicentenaire neighborhood where the Courts and other public services and businesses are located, the security situation has deteriorated to the point that armed gangs control the area and rule it with impunity. This impunity is evidenced by the killing of the bailiff of the court, Bob Dolcine, who was murdered on December 31, 2019 within the premises of the courthouse, prompting the judges’ union, l’Association nationale des magistrats haïtiens (ANAMAH), to ask the government to relocate the court to a safer neighborhood.