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Operation Secure Tomorrow

A crisis had been brewing in Haiti since President Jean- Bertrand Aristide's party swept legislative elections in 2000. These elections were widely dismissed as flawed, and international donors froze millions of dollars in aid. On May 21, 2000, the Haitian people showed their strong desire for democracy. Unfortunately, there were irregularities that occurred in the election and there was a post-election problem of the vote count that threatened to undo the democratic work of the citizens of Haiti. Aristide's party, Lavalas Family, claimed an overall victory in disputed legislative and municipal elections. In November 2000, the opposition boycotted the presidential election that Aristide won unopposed with low voter turnout.

By 2001, external support for Aristide had receded, in no small measure due to the replacement of Bill clinton by George Bush. Clinton had restored Aristide to power, an action that Republicans had opposed. The incoming Bush Administration's general approach was to do the opposite of whatever Clinton had done, and Haiti was no exception.

On December 17, 2001, the crisis escalated as armed commandos stormed the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince in an assault that the Government of Haiti (GOH) characterized as an attempted coup d'état.

In September 2002, the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted Resolution 822 as a catalyst for resolving the political impasse. Included in the resolution was a provision calling for a legitimate Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which was to be charged with planning local, municipal, and legislative elections during the year; however, the elections were never held.

Aristide lacked the institutions and political culture needed to maintain democracy. When he sought help from the Organization of American States in 2002 in disarming violent opponents, retraining police and securing free and fair elections, he was rejected.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Action Plan predicated on the unconstitutional removal of President Aristide from Office. The Action Plan, endorsed by the International Community, was based on the precepts of shared government, binding both President Aristide and the legitimate Opposition to specific commitments, which would eventually lead to a political solution in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti and result in a peaceful settlement of the crisis and the promotion of the democratic process.

Aristide's government was challenged by the former FRAPH, a paramilitary group of outlaws and bandits, the former military leaders who were across the border in the Dominican Republic and drug dealers who had taken over parts of that country, using their influence to corrupt the citizenry.

Armed opposition forces announced the formation of the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti, and appointed as commander a former police chief, Guy Philippe, who returned to Haiti from exile in the Dominican Republic. Philippe's troops were prevented by US Marines from arresting Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.

One of the main armed opposition groups called itself the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front and emerged from Raboteau, a squalid seaside slum in Gonaives, the country's fourth-largest city. The group, which takes its name from the central Artibonite Valley that divides northern and southern Haiti, once supported the president and served as the chief conduit for government patronage in the neighborhood. Formerly known as the Cannibal Army, it extorted money from occupants of passing vehicles. Aristide security officials said it also controlled drug shipments flowing through Raboteau's docks.

Voodoo sorcerer Henri Antoine from St. Marc is the same thug who founded the pro-Aristide so-called popular organization "Bale Wouze," or "Clean Sweep" in English. Bale Wouze, whose Creole name refers to a Haitian cleansing ritual and which boasts tens of thousands of members. The group takes its cue from community leaders in the ruling Lavalas party and from politicians trying to ensure that the president completes his five-year term.

These armed gangs are loyal to members of various factions of the government and not exclusively to one central figure. They are disparate and operate chaotically, vying for power, and some are beginning to lose their "privileges". For instance, Senator Medard Joseph of Gonaïves counts among his loyal gangs include the Cannibal Army, which was responsible for Métayer's spectacular August 2002 jailbreak, and others. With the arrests of Cannibal Army leader Amiot "Cubain" Metayer and Ronald Camille, known as Ronald Cadavre, leader of one of the most powerful Cite Soleil gangs, there was a sense that the government has begun to betray their "loyal supporters".

Disturbing incidents of violence exacerbated the existing political tensions. Neither order nor clarifications followed upon armed attacks in the lower Central Plateau that commenced in November 2002. At least 11 persons were killed in unclear circumstances in the Lascahobas/Belladère area of the Central Plateau, including four members of a five-person team from the Ministry of the Interior. The government again charged that killings in the Central Plateau were the work of an alleged "armed branch of the opposition", without adducing proof.

Killings and other abuses involving civilian attaches in police commissariats increased during 2002. Attacks on and threats to journalists and political dissenters by members of Popular Organizations (OPs) and by "chimeres" (thugs) supporting the President's party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), increased. Attaches had their roots in the launch of the zero tolerance operation in June 2001. They were not members of the police force, nor have they received any official training at the police academy; rather they acted as special units of armed civilian thugs and operate in police stations of large urban areas. They also often provided special security for key political figures. Attaches functioned under the direct control of the chief commissioner of a police station and were given special identification cards. The most notable commissariats for attache activity were Delmas 33, Carrefour, Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Petionville, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien, and Hinche.

The assassination of Amiot Métayer, leader of the "Armée Cannibale" of Raboteau, a suburb of Gonaïves, sparked more unrest. Sparked by the death of Cannibal Army head Amiot "Cubain" Metayer, several weeks of intense violence between police and Cannibal Army members were brought to a climax in Gonaives from 26 to 28 October 2003. Métayer, mentioned by name in the Report of the OAS Commission of Enquiry into the events of December 17, 2001, had been arrested in July 2002 and broke out of prison one month later. He had figured in all the discussions by the OAS with the government over actions to be taken pursuant to OAS Resolutions.

Aristide's Departure - February 2004

On 04 February 2004 the international community, made up of United States, Canada, France, the OAS, CARICOM, and the United Nations, presented a peace plan; and it was a tough peace plan. The plan called for three persons from the international community, these organizations, to select a council of wise persons, of seven wise persons, who would then choose what would end up being a prime minister. First in the plan they offered the President, they said they would give him a name and he would either accept it or reject it. He asked them to give him more than one name. They ended up agreeing to give him two names that he could choose from, and the President accepted the plan. He accepted the plan. But the opposition has rejected the peace plan. The reason why there was no political agreement was because there was no agreement to be made. The rebels could not be controlled by opposition parties. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus asked the administration to act immediately and prevent the rebels from taking over more cities in Haiti.

The surge in conflict and violence began on February 5, 2004, when members of armed opposition groups seized control of Gonaïves, Haiti's fourth-largest city. Armed groups opposed to President Aristide have since expanded their control throughout most of the northern region.

By mid-February 2004 the violence continued to escalate. The rebels were getting more and more arms, body armor, helmets, and all the things that they needed to continue to carry on the nightmare in Haiti.

Pro-government and anti-government groups began fighting more intensely in the northern part of the country. By late February 2004 Rebel groups opposed to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had taken the country's second largest city, Cap Haitien. The groups, many formerly allied with Aristide, blew up the police station and ransacked the airport.

On 27 February 2004 the UN Security Council said it would support efforts by the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, and the Organization of American States, OAS, as they work for a peaceful solution to the impasse. CARICOM called for immediate UN authorization of the multinational force to Haiti, and the OAS urged the Security Council to take "the necessary and appropriate urgent measures" to address Haiti's political turmoil. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan named John Reginald Dumas as his special adviser on Haiti.

Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince was tense but relatively calm on 28 February 2004 after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide called on his supporters to stop the violence that paralyzed the capital on Friday. Rebels who were moving rapidly south toward the capital appear to have suspended their advance for the time being. Aristide told his supporters to take down their barricades -- during daylight hours -- giving Port-au-Prince residents several hours to buy food and other supplies as well as clean up debris left over from a day of violent protests.

On 29 February 2004 Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country, and the country's Supreme Court chief justice assumed leadership. The developments came as hundreds of armed militants loyal to Aristide protested outside the national palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince. In Haiti's capital, the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was met with shooting, looting, and many expressions of relief. In the neighborhood surrounding Haiti's national palace, enraged gangs still loyal to the president patrolled the streets in unmarked cars and shot randomly at local residents. Elsewhere in Haiti, a previously unknown group of rebels took over Haiti's third largest city, Les Cayes. Rebels who controlled much of northern Haiti were advancing to within 60 kilometers of the capital.

Immediately after his departure Haitian President Jean-Bertrand said he had been "kidnapped" and taken by force to the Central African Republic. Congressmember Maxine Waters said Aristide told her that he had been threatened by what he called US diplomats, who told him that if he did not leave Haiti, the US that they were withdrawing Aristide's US security and allow paramilitary leader Guy Philippe to storm the palace and kill Aristide. Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica and a close Aristide family friend said that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned. "He did not resign," he said. "He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup." [SOURCE: Democracy Now] Jesse Jackson said Congress should investigate whether the CIA had a role in the two-week rebellion that led to Aristide's exile.

On Sunday 29 February 2004, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1529 endorsing the deployment of a Multinational Interim Force to Haiti.

American Intervention

Some critics charged that Bush administration had a theological and ideological hatred for Aristide which resulted in the administration "empowering" the rebels. US Undersecretary of State Roger Noriega for Latin America was formerly a senior aide to ex-Senator Jesse Helms. Helms was chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, a backer of Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, and an opponent of Aristide.

Following legislative elections in May 2000, fraught with irregularities, international donors - including the US and EU - suspended almost all aid to Haiti. Total US assistance to the Haitian people decreased drastically over the following 3 years. The economy shrank an estimated 1.2% in 2001 and an estimated 0.9% in 2002. The contraction intensifid in 2003 absent a political agreement with donors on economic policy. Suspended aid and loan disbursements totaled more than $500 million at the start of 2003.

Since the restoration of the democratically elected government in 1995, much of the United States' assistance had gone to creating, training and equipping of the Haitian National Police as the nation's sole security force, funding programs to build an independent judiciary, supporting national elections, and providing funding to the successive UN peacekeeping missions, the last of which ended in March 2001.

The US Government [Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega], at first appeared be inactive over Haiti, which was itself the policy. Rather than providing anti-riot equipment to Port-Au-Prince, US officials waited for the coup scenario to unfold.

A State Department travel advisory "strongly urged" all American citizens to leave Haiti while commercial flights were still available. About 20,000 Americans live in the nation. The State Department also ordered the departure of all family members and nonessential personnel from the embassy in Port-au-Prince. Some international aid organizations had already left the country, State Department officials said, and others are closing their operations.

On 23 February 2004 a team of 50 Marines departed the United States to beef up security for the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Marines were part of the Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team out of Naval Base Norfolk, Va. The team was under the operational control of US Southern Command based in Miami. The team assist the Marine security detachment at the embassy. In addition, a Southern Command assessment team continued its work in Haiti. The four-man assessment team was in the country to check on the security of the embassy and its staff. The team and the FAST deployment was not a prelude to a noncombatant evacuation order, but was a prudent course, given the situation in the Caribbean nation.

Washington was being cautious, but a political solution may not be enough. President Bush was not able to completely ignore this kind of lawlessness in his own back yard. Critics claimed the US was washing its hands of this catastrophe, because Haiti does not matter to the US. After contributing to creating this situation, the US did not know how to neutralize it.

Haiti is a nightmare; a "crater rather than a country" and many have all but written off Haiti as a hopeless situation spiraling out of control. Given the ingredients for a rapid descent into murderous anarchy, it could be worse even than a coup. Many anticipated a new wave of desperate refugees and boat people heading for US coasts.

Many blamed President Aristide for the crisis, chagrined that the former "courageous reformer" and Haiti's "best hope" had fallen back on the thuggish forces and fear as the country's past despots. But some feared that as bad as Aristide might be, the rebel alternative was even worse.

A solution to Haiti's "desperate" situation could only come from the outside, but the commitment must not be a "charade" as in 1994, but a sustained occupation. What Haiti needs is a prolonged commitment instead of the long oblivion to which it has been subjected. Haiti calls for long-term supervision" to enable a culture of civic democracy" to take root.

On 29 February 2004 President Bush ordered US Marines into Haiti as part of an international stabilization force following the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. By one estimate, it would take about two days for the ships and troops to reach Haiti from Norfolk, Virginia. In fact, the Marines arrived no later than a few hours after the President's announcement.

The mission of the U.S. forces being deployed is to secure key sites in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince for the purposes of:

  • Contributing to a more secure and stable environment in the Haitian capital to help promote the constitutional political process;
  • Assisting as may be needed to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance;
  • Protecting U.S. citizens as may be required.
  • Facilitating the repatriation of any Haitian migrants interdicted at sea;
  • Helping create the conditions for the anticipated arrival of a U.N. multinational force.

The initial contingent of US Marines arrived in the Haitian capital the evening of 29 February 2004. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld ordered additional US forces to deploy as necessary over several days to fill out the US contribution to the Multinational Interim Force [MIF]. The MIF, which could include as many as 5,000 troops from several countries, would be in place for 90 days. The United States, working with the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community, contacted a number of countries that have expressed a willingness to contribute forces that would stay until replaced by a UN peacekeeping force. The initial leadership of the multinational interim force was the United States.

By 05 March 2004 a total of 500 French troops, 160 Chileans, 100 Canadians and assorted other nationals had also deployed to Haiti. The UN authorized Multinational Interim Force [MIF] for three months, during which time Haiti's interim president, Supreme Court justice Boniface Alexandre, was to organize new elections.

The Chilean congress approved om March 2, 2004, the dispatch of a battalion composed of 306 soldiers and 30 officers for a renewable period of 90 days, as part of the Multinational Interim Force. This included an initial dispatch of 120 special forces soldiers.

On March 22, 2004 the Department of Defense named the multinational operation in Haiti "Operation Secure Tomorrow." By March 22, the U.S.-led multinational interim force has about 3,300 personnel from the United States, France, Chile and Canada deployed to Haiti in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1529. Operation Secure Tomorrow began Feb. 29, when multinational forces began arriving in Haiti to quell civil unrest throughout Port-au-Prince. Since then, the security situation in Port-au-Prince and throughout the country has steadily improved, providing the citizens of Haiti the promise of a stable, democratic government. Other objectives of Operation Secure Tomorrow include supporting the continuation of a peaceful and constitutional political process and preparing the environment for the arrival of a follow-on U.N. stabilization force.

By late April 2004 about 3,800 service members from four countries were in the Multinational Interim Force. The United States had about 2,000 service members in Haiti, France had more than 900, Canada had more than 500 and Chile had more than 300. The US contingent had expanded into Les Cayes in the south and Hinche in the central plateau. The French continued to expand the security zone in the northern part of the country. The Multinational Interim Force in Haiti had begun planning for a follow-on force by 01 June 2004. The follow-on force would have about 6,700 military personnel and would be in place to relieve the US led interim force.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:24:36 Zulu