The 219th Independence anniversary celebrations were almost non-existent within the country as well as within the diaspora. For this year, a small contingent of the national army (FAd’H) paraded at the Champs de Mars on Sunday, January 1, 2023. A parade of the army, the national police and a display of products from artisans across the country marked the celebrations at the one major public square in the country. In attendance was the interim Prime Minister, his cabinet and government officials as well as the diplomatic and consular corps. Unlike in years past, and even last year where the celebrations began with a thanksgiving mass, this important religious element was conspicuously absent this year and, in its stead, a wreath of flowers was laid at the Pantheon, before proceeding to observe the security forces parade on the grounds.
In his speech marking the occasion, the Prime Minister offered messages of faith and hope to the country and the diaspora, expressing his belief in the people’s ability to put aside their differences, egos and individual interests in order to rebuild the nation “bequeathed to us by our ancestors”. The Independence Day must be an opportunity for Haitians to question the legacy of struggle and independence won by our forefathers. The Prime Minister expressed joy in announcing what he sees as a breakthrough in terms of approaches that may finally move the country out of the long festering morass, he announced boldly that “in the search for a solution to the political crisis, something unexpected happened a few weeks ago; we were finally able to close the year 2022 with the signing of a national compromise for an inclusive transition and transparent elections. He added that bringing all Haitians together around common goals was what he had been working for since taking office, and with the new accord, the nation has taken another step in the right direction.
A day earlier, Saturday, December 31, 2022, during his cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister announced that the new agreement, called the December 21 Agreement has been ratified and recorded in the official gazette, Le Moniteur. The new agreement created a new transition council, le Haut Conseil de la Transition (HCT), with officers to be sworn in later this week. The process of arriving at this committee involved each sector of the life of society proposing the names of three members to the commission, who will be working in conjunction with the government. Speaking on trust, the Prime Minister added that in the coming year, we should learn to trust each other, by asking his compatriots to take him at his word when he speaks of his government’s desire to do everything possible to rebuild the democratic institutions of the state; because we cannot build a team to confront the ills that that facing the nation on mistrust. He further declared that the new year is bound to set in motion processes for the electoral process, and he asks for all interested parties desiring of moving the country forward to take advantage of the opportunity offered to join the national consensus and to contribute together with the government in defining the roadmap which will include the strategies and actions to be implemented for the organization of the next elections. His government intends to carry out several initiatives simultaneously. The judicial system would see the Court of Cassation restored to function with enough judges. The Provisional Electoral Council will be tasked to plan and propose to the government a reasonable timetable for the organization of the next elections and determined to solve the problem of insecurity with or without support of all sectors and political parties. He concluded with the hope that the New Year see Haitians across the globe reconcile, join hands in complete confidence, in order to build together the bases on which young people will come to build the Haiti of the future.
If the independence celebrations were muted in Port-au-Prince, they were nonexistent in Gonaïves, the birthplace of Haitian independence. There were no decorations or posters announcing the independence anniversary nor did the municipal authorities attempt beautifying the public places and monuments in honor of Dessalines. Since 2020, this city has stopped being the birthplace of the Independence and with Prime Minister Ariel Henry hurriedly scooped away last year, there was no attempt to return this year and as such residents were left to share the only other tried and true tradition of the holiday season: sharing soupe joumou, with friends, family, and neighbors.
Elsewhere, an article in the Miami Herald reported more than a hundred Haitians taking off from Ile de La Tortue, in the Northwest of Haiti, landed today in a gated community in Key Largo. Federal agents have since taken custody of the boat people. According to people familiar with the news, the boat loaded in Môle-Saint-Nicolas, which is not far from the La Tortue Island, and they left on Friday (December 30), and landing in the Ocean Cay Drive gated community, where most of the homes are on the waterfront. There were no children among the migrants, according to federal agents. There have been many migrants landing in Florida in recent days, especially from Cuba and Haiti. Since Friday, more than 500 Cubans have arrived in the Florida Keys, overwhelming local and federal authorities. The large numbers of Cubans led to the National Park Service to announce Sunday that it would be temporarily closing the Dry Tortugas National Park in order to assist the migrants.
The end of 2022 saw the departure of Pele and the former pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI who passed away this Saturday, December 31, 2022, at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, in the heart of the Vatican gardens, where he lived. Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger the pontiff led the Catholic Church from 2005 through 2013 and was the first pontiff to renounce his holy office in six centuries. His renunciation in 2013 had been a big surprise, after eight years marked by multiple revelations of sexual abuse committed on children. The 95-year-old pontiff, who was the 265th pope’s funeral will take place on Thursday, January 5, 2023 and will be presided over by Pope Francis, an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Roman Catholic Church, which tens of thousands of people could attend, including heads of state. His body has since been laid in state from Monday, January 2, 2023 in the solemn setting of Saint Peter’s Basilica, to allow the faithful to greet him.
The other notable loss is in the football world where the undisputed king of the gamer, Pele, left a void in the early hours of Thursday, December 28, 2022. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, died on Thursday, December 29, 2022, at the age of 82 (October 23, 1940 – December 29, 2022), at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo. After laying in state at the Santos stadium where he began his incredible football journey, he was buried later Tuesday (January 3rd) in a private ceremony. He came to Haiti in 1971 to play with his team Santos and again in 1975 with the New York Cosmos. He was loved by all across the globe, prompting the FIFA president Gianni Infantino to call for each country to name a stadium in his honor.