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Operation Restore Democracy

Pathway to Democracy
September 1994 - March 1996

Operation Uphold Democracy, the U.S.-led, multinational effort to create a safe and secure environment and support the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, was conducted from September 1994 through March 1996. In excess of 20,000 American service men and women from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, in conjunction with approximately 5,000 non-U.S. forces from 24 nations, served as part of the Multinational Force, and later, United Nations Mission in Haiti. Upon direction of President Bill Clinton, the operation was conducted by U.S. Atlantic Command, in Norfolk, Va.

President Aristide was elected in December 1990 as the first democratically-elected head of state in Haitian history. Seven months after taking office in February 1991, President Aristide was overthrown in a coup led by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the head of the Forces Armees d'Haiti (FAd'H). This eventually would be the impetus for renewed U.S. operational involvement in Haiti.

A United Nations international embargo began in late June 1993. In support of the international embargo, USACOM activated Joint Task Force 120 in mid-October to conduct maritime interdiction operations and increase pressure on the illegitimate government of Haiti. To provide humanitarian assistance to more than 21,000 Haitians escaping by sea from political strife, USACOM established a second JTF, JTF 160, on May 18, 1994. The mission of JTF 160 included migrant interdiction and processing, both at sea and at designated migrant camp sites ashore. The largest of these migrant camp sites was at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On July 31 the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the U.S. to use "all means necessary" to remove Haiti's military-backed government. As military forces began final preparations for an invasion, President Bill Clinton dispatched a negotiating team to Haiti to avert an invasion. The team was headed by former President Jimmy Carter, and included former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Gen. Colin Powell, and Senator Sam Nunn, D-Ga., former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With U.S. invasion forces enroute to Haiti the evening of September 18, Lt. Gen. Cedras relayed his decision to relinquish control and ultimately leave Haiti through the Carter mission. The following morning U.S. forces began a peaceful entry into Haiti.

Over the next six months, significant accomplishments of the U.S.-led MultinationalForce (MNF) included: ensuring the peaceful restoration of President Aristide; helping standup a fragile Government in Haiti; fostering a safe and secure environment; initiating a weapons buy-back program; eliminating arms caches; restoration of electrical power and commercial communications; commencing police force training; overseeing the return of Haitian migrants from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and establishing conditions for democratic elections.

On March 31, 1995, the MNF transferred command to United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) forces. Under UNMIH, forces continued to maintain a secure and stable environment which facilitated free and fair democratic elections. In addition, civil engineering projects such as repairing schools, roads, bridges, water wells, and distribution systems were undertaken, and thousands of tons of donated materials and supplies were distributed.

On June 25, UNMIH forces provided support and security for Haiti's first round of national parliamentary free elections since the restoration of President Aristide to office.

The last Haitian migrant selected for repatriation from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was returned to Port-au-Prince October 16, 1995. Approximately 75,000 Haitians had been repatriated since the beginning of the maritime interdiction operation; more than 21,000 of which were processed through migrant facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

On December 17, Haiti conducted presidential elections, again with UNMIH forces providing support and security. Former Prime Minister Rene Preval won handily and was inaugurated February 7, 1996, as Haiti's second democratically elected president, succeeding President Aristide.

With a new president installed, U.S. UNMIH forces began their preparations to stand down. In their place, a Canadian-led international force of approximately 1,500 military members will remain to continue aiding the Haitian government in rebuilding its infrastructure.

Significant Events


Sept 18: With U.S. forces enroute, diplomatic efforts succeed and armed conflict is averted through the efforts of the Carter Mission.

Sept 19: U.S. forces arrive in Haiti.

Sept 26: The first Haitian migrants are repatriated from the migrant processing facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Port-au-Prince.

Sept 29: The UN Security Council voted to lift all international sanctions against Haiti as soon as President Aristide returned to power on or before Oct. 15.

Oct 2: U.S. troop strength in Haiti peaks at nearly 21,000. However, that number would begin to decline to 16,500 within several days and to about 15,000 by the end of the month.

Oct 3: Under the direction of former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, international police monitors began working with and training Haitian police.

Oct 3: After undergoing training at U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, the first ever deployment of troops from various Caribbean nations formed the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) force and joined the MNF in Haiti.

Oct 10: Both Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and Brig. Gen. Phillippe Biamby resigned, ending the military regime which had ruled since the 1991 coup.

Oct 15: President Aristide returned to power after 1,111 days in exile. During welcoming ceremonies at the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince, he called for reconciliation among all parties and classes.

Nov 13: Tropical Storm Gordon hit Haiti and the death toll was more than 100. U.S. forces provided rescue and clean-up operations.

Dec 1: USACOM directed the drawdown of U.S. forces in Haiti to 6,000 by Dec 15.


Jan 17: Secretary of Defense William Perry declared that a "secure and safe environment" existed in Haiti, one of the requirements needed in transitioning from the U.S.-led MNF to UN forces.

March 31: United Nations Mission in Haiti forces relieved the U.S.-led MNF.

June 25: Haiti holds its first round of national elections with UNMIH forces providing support and security.

Oct 16: The last Haitian migrants are repatriated from the migrant processing facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Port-au-Prince.

Dec 17: Haitian presidential elections are held.


Feb 7: Rene Preval is inaugurated as Haiti's second democratically elected president.

Feb 29: UNMIH U.S. Forces complete their mandate in Haiti and redeploy.

Revised: March 12, 1996

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