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Interim Government (2004-2006)

Although there was a change in government in Haiti in late February 2004, many pockets of instability remained throughout the country. Throughout 2004, Haiti experienced continuing civil and political unrest. Protests and demonstrations occurred frequently throughout the country, and were often violent. Private organizations and businesses were the targets of demonstrations or take-over attempts related to business disputes or extortion demands. Rural areas also became more dangerous.

Following Aristide's departure, power vacuums developed in many provincial cities and rural towns, such as Cap Haitien, Hinche, and Petit-Goave, which lacked sufficient governmental security presence. In many of these places, heavily armed ex-FAd'H and former FRAPH members moved in to fill this void. Their activities produced credible reports of extrajudicial killings and retribution killings of Lavalas partisans throughout the year. Pro-Lavalas partisans also were implicated in violence and numerous killings in Port-au-Prince, including of police officers. Members of the HNP continued to commit extrajudicial killings.

At the end of 2004, the US State Department concluded that the authority of the Interim Government of Haiti [IGOH] was largely limited to central Port-au-Prince, with pro-Aristide groups in control of many of the Port-au-Prince slums, and anti-Aristide rebels in control of many towns in the countryside. By another estimate, 60 percent of the national territory was beyond the control of the government, and there was little sign of an aggressive National Police / UN plan to retake this territory.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was created by a UN Security Council resolution on April 30, 2004. The resolution stated the mission would remain in Haiti for an initial six-month period.

On 25 June 2004 formal authority was handed over to the U.N. Stabilization Mission for Haiti at a ceremony in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. MINUSTAH assumed responsibility in Haiti from the U.S.-led Multinational Interim Force, composed of 3,600 troops from the United States, France, Chile, and Canada.

In November 2004, the Security Council renewed the mission for another six months, until June 1, 2005, with the announced intent to renew for additional periods, as needed. A number of incidents targeting MINUSTAH took place since November 2004, including hostile fire and other "aggressive acts" encountered in the course of UN-sponsored military and police operations.

From 30 September through November 2004, pro-Aristide partisans in Port-au-Prince launched a campaign of destabilization and violence known as "Operation Baghdad". This campaign included kidnapping, decapitation and burning of police officers and civilians, indiscriminate shooting at bystanders such as taxi drivers, students, parents and small merchants, and the destruction and incineration of public and private property. The violence prevented the normal functioning of schools, public markets, the seaport, and the justice system in Port-au-Prince for several weeks.

The transitional Haitian government announced in December 2004 the launch of a compensation program for members of the former Haitian military who were demobilized in 1995. The United Nations has made about $2.8 million available for this purpose. However, despite their willingness to accept the indemnity they were offered, the former soldiers refused to disarm.

MINUSTAH's troop strength had reached 6,013 of a total authorized strength of 6,700 as of 15 February 2005. Brazil has the most troops and military staff in Haiti, totaling 1,212, followed by Nepal with 758, Jordan 753, Sri Lanka 751, Uruguay 576, Argentina 556 and Chile 539. The United States also maintains a small military staff contingent in Haiti as part of MINUSTAH. Other nations in the Americas contributing to the MINUSTAH military contingent are Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru.

The performance of the Transitional Government, which completed its first year in office in March 2005, continued to be criticized by leading political and civil society groups for a perceived failure to deliver demonstrable results. While representing diverse interests, the political discourse had yet to address concretely the substantive concerns facing the country or to offer a clear vision for the future of Haiti beyond the upcoming elections.

Following the publication of the electoral law on 11 February 2005, preparations are under way to hold local elections on 9 October 2005 and the first round of parliamentary and presidential elections on 13 November; a second round, if necessary, would be held on 18 December.

The political class remained polarized. Relations between the Transitional Government and Fanmi Lavalas, as well as the relations of Fanmi Lavalas with other political actors, did not improve substantially. The Transitional Government, while taking some steps towards reaching out to Fanmi Lavalas, has not done so convincingly. Fanmi Lavalas maintained its position that it would stay outside of the transition process. Hardliners in the party continued to call for the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti.

The MINUSTAH stabilization force was fully deployed and was assisting the government of Haiti in providing security. Groups linked to criminal activities such as drugs and other contraband are behind much of the current wave of violence. MINUSTAH has challenged violent gangs and have moved into some gang enclaves. MINUSTAH was subject to attacks from gang members and former Haitian soldiers who retaliate against the UN effort to stem their illegal acts of violence.

Critics also charged that MINUSTAH had protected abuses to Haitian rights and failed to protect ordinary citizens from state-sponsored/politically-motivated violence despite the Haitian people begging the UN troops for help, despite Haitian police directly firing at Haitian civilians in the presence of UN patrols, troops and soldiers. Residents of Cite Soleil accused the UN of having committed massacres upon their community on July 6, 2005 and December 22, 2005. Kevin Pina, founding editor of the Haiti Information Project (HIP), charged that "In this sanitized foreigner's version of Haitian history there is no mention of the atrocities and gross human rights violations committed by the Haitian National Police while they were being trained by UN forces in Haiti."

Other observers noted that, despite enhanced efforts since December 2004, MINUSTAH was too passive. MINUSTAH was neither sufficiently aggressive nor nuanced in responding with these security threats. The MINUSTAH mission was of the view that it faced a political challenge, not merely military problem. The ex-FaDH and political gangs had each mobilized some support among the population. They could [and had] place a screen of unarmed women and children in front who could and did throw stones at the MINUSTAH soldiers.

The security situation in Port-au-Prince remained volatile, and there was an increased number of violent acts by various illegal armed groups beginning in February 2005. Of particular concern were emerging alliances between members of those groups - some associated with the former military and others with urban gangs; also of concern were alleged connections between elements of the national police and illegal armed groups. The number of kidnappings reported in Port-au-Prince also increased.

Public security suffered a significant setback on 19 February 2005 when a group of unidentified armed men entered the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince and enabled 493 detainees to escape. Immediately after the escape, the Transitional Government dismissed two senior penitentiary officials and detained eight prison guards for alleged complicity in the breakout.

Outside the capital, the situation remained fragile, but was generally calm, with only a few incidents reported in Cap-Ha´tien, Gona´ves, Hinche and Petit-GoÔve. The continued presence of members of the former military, illegally exercising security functions in some areas of the country, remained a matter of concern.

By May 2005 there were frequent spontaneous demonstrations and violent confrontations between armed groups. Visitors and residents remained vigilant due to the absence of an effective police force in much of Haiti. There was intermittent looting, and intermittent roadblocks were set by armed gangs or by the police. Random violent crime was commonplace, including kidnapping, car-jacking, and assault.

In late May 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended boosting the UN stabilization force from 6,700 to 7,500 troops, and increasing the international police from about 1,620 to nearly 1,900. Some analysts suggested that the international police force should be increased to at least 4,600, preferably francophone officers.

On 04 June 2005 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the possibility of dispatching more international troops to Haiti.She made the suggestions following a series of attacks around the country that included the murder of a French diplomat and a raid on a Port-au-Prince market that left at least 10 people dead. Rice said the United Nations "need to look hard at whether or not the force posture there is adequate" in advance of the first round of elections set for 09 October 2005.

Due to concerns for the safety of its personnel, the US Department of State ordered the departure from Haiti of all US Embassy non-emergency employees and all family members of American embassy personnel. American citizens who remained in Haiti despite this warning were urged to consider departing.

By early June 2005 the US embassy in Haiti had recommended that the administration consider dispatching such a force of a few hundred US Marines to put a stop the anarchy, working in tandem with the UN mission. The US ambassador in Port-au-Prince, James Foley, had criticized the Brazilian-led MINUSTAH force for not being more aggressive in helping police combat armed gangs loyal to Aristide.

Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told UN officials that the eight-thousand peacekeepers sent to his country are not enough. He said MINUSTAH is both too small and too passive in the face of armed gangs, many of them seeking the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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Page last modified: 02-08-2011 16:44:54 ZULU