Haiti: One Year Later

By Marsha James

(VOA) It’s been one year since the democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a coup d’etat. Mister Aristide is in exile in South Africa and his supporters in Haiti continue their efforts to seek his return to office. Some have been killed during clashes with police and island nation remains in political, economic and social chaos. We asked Robert Rotberg director of the program of intrastate conflict at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University if the interim government backed by a UN peacekeeping mission can restore stability to the country.

"Well Haiti hasn’t recovered from the desperate straits in which President Aristide left it. The interim government of President Lartortue is clearly incapable of creating a security network in Haiti," he says. "Latortue just simply hasn’t been able to provide enough political benefits. He hasn’t been able to develop security. You can’t really reconstruct Haiti without security. The UN has been unable also to assist Latortue in bringing peace and security to the island."

Mark Ensalaco director of the International Studies and Human Rights Programs at the University of Dayton agrees that much must still be done to insure political stability in Haiti. And he also says the situation in Haiti has deterioirated since the Ariside government was deposed:

"Well the developments when one reads the reports day by day are simply more of the same. I think the expression the more things stay the same the worse they become in Haiti," he says. "What is clear is that the Aristide government that came to power with so much hope a decade ago, proved to be a failure. When Aristide returned to power a few years ago with an overwhelming victory, he simply set up a government on all accounts that was corrupt and illegitimate. So Aristide I think squandered a historic opportunity to establish at least a semblance of democracy," he adds. "It is impossible to say that the situation now is better. The situation now is of utter chaos. Seventy-five hundred peacekeepers are unable to keep peace in the country. I think this is a case of going bad to worse."

As Haiti gears for presidential elections in November, what is the political future for the country? Professor Robert Rotberg says there can be a bright future. "Well there is a good political future if security can once be achieved. But there really hasn’t been security since the terrible Duvalier times. What happened under Aristide is that security created by the American intervention in 1994 deteriorated rapidly," he says. "The ability of the people in Haiti to regard their government as fair vanished. So both security and fairness need to be restored. Once they are restored the economic recovery of Haiti can begin," he adds. "You cannot have a decent rule of law, you can’t have commerce flowing etc… Without security. So there is a good political future if security can once be achieved."

Professor Ensalco isn’t so optimistic. "There are so many people so many forces that are committed to violence, committed to disrupting any progress toward political accommodation that it is hard to imagine that any time soon after the fall elections, (if they come off), that the powerful political forces will reach some sort of accommodation which will have meaningful benefit to most Haitians," he says. "The tragedy of political and economic elites fighting among themselves is that the vast majority of Haitian people have to suffer the consequences. So I would like to say while we are working towards this fall elections (of course many committed people are trying to make it happen) there is nothing magical about that. We’ve seen elections before, we’ve seen them disrupted, we’ve seen violence associated with elections, and fraud," he adds. "So it is difficult to believe that the act of simply holding an election is going to solve deep seeded political consequences. To make my point clear, I think there are powerful people (Aristide being on of them) who refuse to make concessions that would be necessary to make peaceful political co-existence possible."