It could be said that our blog posts up till now haven’t been very informative but have given you a glimpse of some fun pictures and stories from our near 11 weeks in Haiti.
Now that it’s Friday evening and I’m sitting in our living room while my poor husband lays sick in our bedroom (stomach bug perhaps?) I think I will take this opportunity to share about some of the important events from Haiti this week and our work. Within these updates, I think you will find some specific ways you can be praying for us and for Haiti.
|'Baby Doc' Duvalier|
Last Saturday, Haiti’s infamous dictator from 1971 – 1986, “Baby Doc” Duvalier died of a heart attack. He returned to Haiti in 2011 and almost immediately was charged with crimes against humanity, though he has been allowed by current President Michel Martelly to “roam free” even with serious charges pending. Public anger here and abroad mounted as word leaked from the National Palace that President Martelly was considering giving the ex-President a national funeral. Baby Doc Duvalier is charged with having stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the State and having up to 30,000 of his opponents tortured and killed during his reign. How could the State consider spending more funds to “honor his memory” in such a public way? The Palace decided to not fund the funeral – which will take place tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, ex-President Aristide – who was the first democratically elected President in Haiti in 1991 – has faced charges of corruption and embezzlement of government funds during his Presidency. A couple of months ago, a judge with a questionable record summoned Artistide to court. When he did not show up, the judge placed him under house arrest. Two weeks later, the armed guards protecting Aristide’s house were “secretly” ordered to move, thereby leaving Artiside’s home unguarded. Outcry came from Haiti and the U.S., from big names such as actor Danny Glover and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Today, crowds gathered outside of Aristide’s home again as the judge ordered Aristide’s immediate arrest.
Many people saw this as President Martelly’s attempt to “get rid” of Aristide, and also to distract from the biggest political news in Haiti, which has been the government’s failure to hold important elections for the past 4 years. A bipartisan group from the U.S. Congress has urged President Martelly to ensure that elections are held before the end of this year, but this does not seem likely to happen. Six opposition senators in Haiti are refusing to vote for a new electoral law, which would allow elections to go forward. Many people here feel that President Martelly is corrupt and has a vested interest in not holding senatorial elections, which could allow him to consolidate power in early January 2015 as the senate would be rendered ineffective.
|MINUSTAH troops in Haiti|
In 2004, after President Aristide was ousted from power a second time, the UN’s peacekeeping force established a mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and they have been here ever since. There is much public discontent over MINUSTAH’s presence. Their mission is costly (it is about to be renewed for $500 million for another year), and there has not been a recognized conflict in Haiti for the past 75 years. In addition, MINUSTAH’s troops, over the years, have faced hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. There is no formal complaint mechanism established for victims to file claims. Most drastically, MINUSTAH’s Nepalese troops were responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010; the epidemic has killed over 8,500 Haitians since, and the UN will not claim responsibility.
|Photo credit: theguardian.com|
MINUSTAH’s mandate is up for renewal again this coming October 15th.
On top of this, October 19th is the 4 year anniversary of Haiti’s cholera outbreak. The outbreak started when sewage leaked from the UN Nepalese soldier’s base camp into Haiti’s main river and water source – the Artibonite. Various scientific reports have concluded that MINUSTAH’s base camp was the source of the epidemic.
On October 23rd, a court in NY will hear oral arguments concerning the UN's "immunity." This is one success in a long-standing effort by human rights groups to hold the UN accountable and seek reparations for families who lost loved ones due to the cholera outbreak.
|Photo credit: theguardian.com|
All this to say, people are sad and tensions are running high. It’s easy to feel the outrage in the public discourse, both here and in the U.S. Yesterday, the UN held a donor conference in Washington DC, to plead for funding for their 2.2 billion dollar Cholera Eradication and Sanitation plan for Haiti. The results of the conference were not promising. Only ten percent of their plan has been funded to date. Many people balk at the large sums being spent to keep MINUSTAH in Haiti, while funds are lacking to actually improve health and sanitation systems in the country.
As you can see, there is a lot going on this week. And this doesn't touch even touch on other issues we are engaged in such as: mining in the north of Haiti, and Haiti's housing crisis, around which we are working on planning a conference in Washington DC.
It would mean a lot to us if you took note, and took the time to pray over some of these areas, as well as our presence and work here.
(I am happy to report, that by the end of my writing this blog post, Ted is feeling much better.)