Find a Security Clearance Job!


Forces Armées d'Haïiti [FAd'H]

Haiti's 1987 Constitution sought fundamentally to change the responsibilities of Haiti's armed forces and place them firmly under civilian control. First and foremost, it required the establishment of a police force independent of the army. It charged the FADH with protecting the nation from foreign threats, and entrusts the police with keeping domestic peace. To reinforce this separation, Article 263 divides authority for the two forces, placing the FADH under the Ministry of Defense and the police under the Ministry of Justice. A 1987 decree prescribed the structure and the administration of Haiti's armed forces, but the terms of the decree had not been fully implemented by 1989.

The FAd'H served as the military arm of the Ministry of Interior and National Defense. This arrangement blurred police and national-defense functions. The minister who holds the portfolio of interior and national defense has historically been viewed as the senior administrator of the cabinet and the government. The 1987 Constitution modified this structure by creating the post of prime minister during the brief presidency of Leslie Manigat. (In most countries, the president and his prime minister are responsible for matters of national defense.) Constitutional reforms also called for a national police structure, tied to a strengthened Ministry of Justice. As of 1989, few of these reforms had been implemented.

The 1987 Constitution and FAd'H regulations defined the missions, the command structure, and the general organization of the armed forces. On paper, these details differed only slightly from the way the military had been structured prior to the collapse of the Duvalier regime in 1986. In practice, however, the military was quite different from that outlined in the Constitution. First, Haiti's political upheavals had caused the armed forces to assume the role of the decisive national institution, although the upheavals also had overburdened the political organization and the operations of the FAd'H. Second, the unofficial remnants of the VSN continued to challenge Haiti's domestic security, requiring increased attention to internal security concerns over external defense considerations.

The commander of the FAd'H was appointed by the president for a renewable three-year term. An assistant commander acted as deputy. The FAd'H had a central planning and coordinating unit -- as part of the office of the commander in chief -- the head of which oversaw personnel, intelligence, operations and training, and logistics. The organization of the FAd'H also provided for an inspector general of the armed forces and an adjutant general. A military attaché's office, reporting to the commander of the FAd'H, acted as liaison for military personnel at Haitian embassies and for attachés stationed at foreign missions. The FAd'H had undergone some restructuring, but some changes called for in 1987 had not been implemented by mid- 1989.

The military's High Command was directed by the Commander-in-Chief, who held ultimate authority over all officers and soldiers in the FADH. Under the High Command were 14 military corps, one for each of the nine geographic Departments plus the Port-au-Prince police, the Navy, the Air Force, the Presidential Guard and the Armed Infantry. Each of these military corps was supervised by a colonel. The military corps were further divided into districts which are overseen by FADH captains. The districts were divided into sub-districts which were commanded by lieutenants or sub-lieutenants. The sub-districts, in turn, were divided into over 500 communal sections, the smallest administrative units in Haiti. Each section was supervised by a rural section chief appointed by the commander of the sub-districts. It is variously estimated that between 6-8,000 Haitians served as uniformed soldiers or officers in the FADH. This figure did not include section chiefs and their subordinates.

Only the Metropolitan Military Region maintained a significant tactical capability. The forces in this region had a direct impact on the viability of the government. The strongest of the region's units was the 1,300-member Presidential Guard, which was generally regarded as well-trained and disciplined. The Guard was essentially the president's security force. Many members of the guard were stationed on the grounds of the Presidential Palace. The second largest force was the 750-member Dessalines Battalion, a conventional light-infantry unit stationed at the Dessalines barracks located behind the Presidential Palace (the battalion was disbanded after battles within the army in April 1989). Finally, there was the 700-member Leopard Corps, a tactical unit created in the early 1970s and based at the outskirts of the capital in Pétionville. In the 1980s, the Leopard Corps' police functions often superseded its counterinsurgency functions. The Leopards were disbanded within a month of the attempted coup of 1989.

The FAd'H controlled the Port-au-Prince police and the prison system, an arrangement that further blurred the boundaries between law-enforcement and military institutions. The Port-au- Prince police force consisted of about 1,000 ill-trained members. This force was actually a low-level constabulary under military command. Portions of this force belonged to the armed forces' security-services command. Other parts were organizationally under the command of the Metropolitan Military Region. The armed forces administered the capital city's (and for all practical purposes, the nation's) fire fighters and the country's immigration and narcotics-control programs. About 8,000 personnel from military and police units served in Haiti's security services. In 1989 the services included about 6,200 personnel in the FAd'H, about 1,000 in the police, and several hundred in specialized units.

Despite efforts by the United States Marine Corps to modernize Haiti's military during the occupation (1915-34), World War II, and the 1960s, Haitian military training programs continued to be flawed. The Military Academy at Frères (near Pétionville) was the senior school of instruction. The academy's student body averaged about sixty students during the 1980s. François Duvalier had closed the academy in 1961, but his son, Jean-Claude, reopened it in 1972. Cadets had to be nominated to the academy. After a three-year course, academy graduates became career officers and many later held senior FAd'H posts. An NCO school and training camp at Lamentin (near Carrefour) outside Port-au-Prince was not operational as of 1989. Graduates of this school were directed toward mainstream army units, or even rural police duty. Training was normally accomplished at the unit level. Enlistment was theoretically voluntary. Article 268 of the 1987 Constitution requires all men to serve in the military when they reach their eighteenth birthday. Women in the military were limited to participating in the medical corps.

Nothing in a Haitian soldier's background prepared him to respect the rule of law. Basic training did not distinguish between military activity and police work -- for example, situations where violent force is or is not appropriate. Nor did it teach respect for the rights of civilians while performing police duties. Like the vast majority of civilians, most Haitian soldiers came from poor families and were largely illiterate. The average education level is low, and recruits receive no formal schooling after entering the army.

The Haitian armed forces had eight officer ranks in the army; six, in the air corps; and six, in the navy. For enlisted personnel there were eight grades in the army; seven, in the air corps; and five, in the navy. The three categories of uniform for the Haitian armed forces were dress, duty (or garrison), and field. The army and the air corps dress uniform consisted of a blue shirt, a dark blue blouse and trousers, a blue belt, black shoes, and a dark blue cap with black visor. Their duty uniform included khaki shirt and trousers, tan belt, and brown or black shoes. Navy officers and enlisted personnel wore uniforms identical to those of the United States Navy. The field uniform for the army, the navy, and the air corps was similar in design, color, and material to the United States Army fatigue uniform.

Of the three services that composed the FAd'H, the army (with 6,200 members) was the largest and, for all practical purposes, the only relevant one. The marginal capabilities of the navy and the air corps were reflected in their limited weapons systems, low technical sophistication, and poor readiness. Although the army had the largest number of personnel, it also generally suffered from antiquated equipment and inefficient procedures. Because of the nation's desperate economic situation and its political turmoil, modernization of the army was unlikely in the late 1980s.

The Presidential Guard was the largest of the military components based at Port-au-Prince. It consisted of four companies that were reinforced in April 1989. The nine regional military departments operated principally as district police. The Port-au-Prince police, the prison guard company, and the Port-au- Prince fire brigade rounded out the forces assigned to the capital.

The M1 Garand rifle, developed during World War II, continued to be the principal small arm of the Haitian military. Small quantities of the West German G3 and the American M16 rifles, however, had been acquired to equip the elite units. The Israeli- made Uzi submachine gun had superseded the Thompson as the principal light automatic. Infantry-support arms, used only by the Presidential Guard, included .30-caliber Browning M1919 and .50-caliber M2HB machine guns along with M18 57mm and M40 106mm recoilless launchers and M2 60mm and M1 81mm mortars (see table 14). Few of the army's light tanks remained in serviceable condition in 1989. The effective armored force therefore consisted of V-150 Commando and M2 armored personnel carriers. The Presidential Guard operated all armored vehicles and artillery pieces, some of which were totally obsolete. There were no separate armored or artillery units.

The navy in the late 1980s consisted of only the armed tug Henri Christophe, nine small patrol craft built in the United States between 1976 and 1981, and the old presidential yacht Sans Souci. This small force was manned by 45 officers and 280 enlisted personnel based at Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Navy had not been a significant factor in the coup of 1991. According to a Coast Guard Military Liaison Officer (MLO), the navy was not associated with the human rights violations and using former navy personnel for the police force was acceptable for both the Haitian government and the US.

In the mid-1990s the US Coast Guard, through the several Defense and State Department programs, was developing the Haitian Coast Guard. There was an annual exercise with the Eastern Caribbean nations known as TRADEWINDS. The reinstatement of the Haitian Coast Guard is an example of a whole training package delivered to a country. With constant attention to the formation, training and development of the force, the Haitian Coast Guard became an effective maritime law enforcement arm. The Haitian Coast Guard is also a reminder that operational success in building a force still plays servant to the political whims of the US. The Haitian Coast Guard started with seven former Haitian navy personnel, with no working equipment, a thoroughly looted base at Killick, and $1M in funds from the now defunct Military Assistance Program in addition to $167 K from the International Military Education and Training program.

As of 2004, the Haitian air force was estimated to consist of three to five trainer/Cessna type aircraft and six helicopters, most of which were thought tobe inoperable. All aircraft, a high proportion of which were unserviceable, were based at Bowen Field, Port-au-Prince. Air Corps personnel of all ranks totaled approximately 300.

Army and air corps officers wore their rank insignia on shoulder boards. One to three gold chevrons indicated company- grade officers; field-grade officers displayed one to three gold stars; and general officers wore one to three silver stars. Navy insignia consisted of gold bands worn on shoulder boards or on the lower sleeve of the dress uniform. Enlisted personnel wore gold chevrons for the army, black chevrons for the navy, and blue chevrons for the air corps.

Join the mailing list