MINUSTAH peacekeepers

This United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH in French) has been established on June 01, 2004 by Security Council resolution 1542 -as a result of the fallout that followed the ousting of President Aristide.

The presence of this institution of the United Nations has been the object of many fulminating criticisms. Actions of certain members of the mission have infuriated people from many sectors in the population. Some see it as an occupation force that must leave the country by any means necessary and as soon as possible.

I think it is very unfair and dishonest to refer to MINUSTAH as an occupation force, for they did not come to soil the land of Dessalines, Christophe and Petion on their own; the Haitian government had requested it with the intent to stabilize the country after the ousting of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. How can you call someone an occupier when that person is in your house upon your invitation? That does not make any sense whatsoever to me.

MINUSTAH, as a force, should not be discredited for the actions of some of its members, for those actions, I presume, do not reflect any of the institution’s policies. In any great and respectable human institution (military, business, philanthropic, academic, etc…), you will always find overzealous and corrupted personnel. But the actions of these people should not be used as a litmus test to totally disqualify or dismiss the establishment as a whole. When members of an institution violate the organization’s internal policies, disciplinary actions must be taken against them to address their violations. But to call for the complete eradication of the institution because of that is, in my opinion, illogical.

MINUSTAH must eventually leave because, in my humble opinion, it is an aberration to have a sovereign nation such as ours being under the tutelage of an international force –humanitarian or otherwise. That is an argument all of us Haitians can agree upon. We should have not gotten ourselves in this predicament in the first place. We Haitians put ourselves in it and now we are raising hell.

I am for the withdrawal of all MINUSTAH personnel, but that redeployment must be carefully studied, crafted and implemented. If anything, we must adopt a “step-by-step” approach to that, meaning we will die down the troop levels as we go.

The Martelly administration must immediately sit down with the United Nations Security Council to recalibrate and redefine the mission of MINUSTAH. We have work on the ground they can do. They can help to remove the tones of rubbles, plant trees and police our forest space to prevent further deforestation.

I reject the idea that MINUSTAH must leave now. President Martelly, being the man in charge of the security of the country, must not give in to the pressure coming from certain segments of the population protesting to ask MINUSTAH to leave -without any sort of structural preparation in place. That is very irresponsible on their part.

If MINUSTAH leaves now, there will be a security vacuum which will further destabilize the country. We must not let our emotions get the best of us. We must get it right so that we do not regret having taken the step later.

The Haitian government needs to lobby the international community for technical and financial assistance to accomplish three major things:

a)      double the size of the national police force;

b)      build from scratch a battalion/group of 500 – 1000 well trained and equipped professional special forces;

c)       institute a national intelligence agency

This national security structure, whose mission will be to stabilize and secure the country, can be put in place and fully operational in about 12 or 18 months -if we have the means and are really serious about it.

We do not need a big military like the ineffective one we had back then, which former President Aristide has deactivated and now the Martelly administration wants to emulate. We need a smaller, lighter, faster and smarter force –the model of all the modern militaries around the globe.

The mission of that small contingent of military personnel will be to back up the police force whenever necessary to secure the territory, which may include dismantling all the terrorist cells currently operating on the ground. With this level of coordinated action, capturing dead or alive these terrorists terrorizing the population will be just a piece of cake.

The professional intelligence agency will serve as eyes and ears of the police force. They will infiltrate the terrorist cells to get sensitive and highly classified intel on their locations, tactics, their next value targets, etc… These leads, once collected, will be sent to the rear, to the police, for treatment so they could mount their preemptive strategy to stop the terrorists before they carry on their mission.

Eventually, we will have to either close the Interior Ministry or change its focus. That ministry must be the center of coordination of the operations of the three independent institutions: the police, the small military and the intelligence agency. The head of that ministry must be someone with national security expertise and experience. He or she will be the president’s czar on issues pertaining to national security.

The constant babblings amongst us on the issue whether or not Haiti should have its own military really intrigues me. We need the return of the Haitian military by any necessary means.

It is a priority to secure the country. Nothing can be done without a secure Haiti. Secure nations appeal to investments (local and foreign), a necessary ingredient for economic development. Regardless how well-intentioned President Martelly can be, if he cannot arrive at securing the territory, he will not be able to do anything to better the lives of the majority poor.

Finally, these people speaking against the idea of equipping the country with a military force probably know nothing about the military. They probably have never served a day in their lives, yet, all of a sudden, they are all experts in military affairs. I am for a systematic and coordinated redeployment of MINUSTAH by using a step-by-step approach. Such redeployment should not go on until we have the structure in place to replace the mission when they leave. We need to stop the outsourcing of the country’s security. So we must prepare the nation to take charge of its own security. To achieve that, we must double the size of the police, put in place a small brigade of well trained and equipped professional special forces and institute a national intelligence agency.

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