Timeline of Haitian Politics

Timeline of Haitian Politics
January 26, 2010 admin
timeline-politics

The following is an overview of political developments in Haiti from the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 through to 2010.

February 7, 1986: Popular opposition makes continued support for the Duvalier regime untenable. Washington, Paris and the Haitian military withdraw their support and Jean-Claude Duvalier and his entourage are spirited into exile in France in a US C-130 transport plane. A provisional National Council of Government (Conseil National de Gouvernement, CNG) under General Henri Namphy takes over.

March 1986 onwards: The popular opposition that has deposed Duvalier is emboldened, with marches, strikes, land occupations demanding a purging of the Duvalierists (dechoukaj, uprooting), free and fair elections and economic change. It is not the limited, change-of-face regime that the Haitian military or the Reagan administation in Washington had in mind. Repression intensifies as the Tonton Macoutes, who are officially disbanded, but never officially disarmed, re-emerge to combat then popular threat.

October 1986: Forty-one delegates are elected to a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. The CNG appoints a further 20.

March 1987: New draft constitution in both Haitian Kreyol and French, both of which are now to be official languages, is presented to the CNG. It proposes an elected bicamaral parliament, a directly elected President who will appoint a Prime Minister and judges to the Supreme Court, all of whom are to be approved by parliament. Provides for the decentralisation of power through elected mayors in the provinces and an independent Provisional Electoral Council. Later the same month the constitution is overwhelmingly ratified.

July 1987: More than 100 members of a peasant organisation demanding land refom are massacred near the north-western town of Jean-Rabel by Tonton Macoutes and peasants in the pay of large landowners (grandons).

August 1987: The Haitian Catholic hierarchy rescinds an order transferring the Salesian priest Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his parish of St. Jean Bosco in the La Saline slum area of Port-au-Prince when 10,000 assemble to protest the decision. It demonstrates Aristide’s growing national profile as one of the leading voices of Ti Legliz (literally, Little Church), the radical, progressive, liberation-theology inspired wing of the local Catholic Church, one of the backbones of the anti-Duvalierist movement.

November 29, 1987: Elections abandoned after Tonton Macoutes and other Duvalierist elements gun down voters queueing at the polls, most notably at the Ecole Argentina, Ruelle Vaillant in Port-au-Prince where 34 die in a hail of bullets.

January 17, 1988: What is described as a “tightly controlled” military election is held in which Professor Leslie Manigat is said to have won 50.29% of the vote with less than 10% of the registered electorate turning out. Manigat assumes office in March but lasts just three months before the CNG seizes back power.

June 1988: General Namphy declares martial law. Attacks on political leaders, church workers and peasant organisers intensify further.

September 1988: General Prosper Avril, the former head of the Duvaliers’ presidential guard, overthrows General Namphy in a coup, reflecting the pressure of the pro-change popular movement and constantly shifting alliances between Duvalierists, factions of the military, Tonton Macoutes and the business elite — all of whom now feel seriously threatened. Thirty seven articles of the new constitution are suspended.

September 1988: More than 100 armed men attack Aristide’s church St. Jean Bosco while he is celebrating mass. Aristide narrowly escapes death but 12 others are murdered and the church is burnt down.

March 1990: A rising tide of popular protest forces Avril to resign and flee the country. He has lasted 18 months but his successor General Herard Abraham stays just three days: the first military man in Haitian history to surrender power voluntarily. A new provisional government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot is formed until elections scheduled for December.

October 1990:Aristide, now a former Salesian (expelled in December 1988) but still a priest, declares himself a candidate at the last minute but electrifies the country in a lightening campaign at the head of a movement he christens Lavalas, meaning a torrent or flash flood in Kreyol. Promising to cleanse the country of its Duvalierist legacy with a torrent of popular support, he offers a Haitian version of practical liberation theology: popular participation, justice and government accountability all wrapped in the pro-poor policies.

December 16, 1990: Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins the presidency with the landslide the term Lavalas implies. Final results give him 67.5% of the vote in a UN supervised, monitored and ultimately UN-endorsed poll, defeating the man regarded as the US favored candidate, Marc Bazin, a former World Bank economist, who secures 14.2%.

January 1991: An attempted pre-emptive coup before Aristide takes power by Tonton Macoute leader Roger Lafontant is foiled when tens of thousands of Haitians take to the streets to defend the election result.

February 7, 1991: Jean-Bertrand Aristide is inaugurated President. Rene Preval becomes his Prime Minister.

September 30, 1991: Jean-Bertrand Aristide barely escapes with his life and is forced onto a plane into exile in a coup fronted by army chief Raoul Cedras but perhaps instigated by Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois. The coup initiates three years of brutal repression during which Lavalas leaders and the popular, civil society organisations that have been its base are systematically eliminated. An estimated 5,000 activists are killed, tens of thousands flee the country by boat and at least 400,000 are displaced, many of them forced into hiding.

December 1992: International response to demands to restore constitutional government to Haiti is limited to denunciations despite the mounting death toll and vivid testimony of those fleeing. In December 1992 the UN appoints a Special Envoy, Argentine, Dante Caputo, to negotiate with Haiti’s military rulers. In June 1993, faced with what the UN describes as “intransigence,” the Security Council imposes an oil and arms embargo on the regime.

July 1993: The move brings Raoul Cedras to the negotiating table and within weeks UN-brokered accords known as the New York Pact and the Governors Island Agreement between the Haitian military and President Aristide are signed after protracted talks in New York. The embargo is lifted as the military pledge to prepare the way for Aristide’s return in October.

September 1993: The UN Security Council authorizes the establishment and immediate dispatch of a 1,327-strong UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) to “assist in the modernization of the armed forces of Haiti and the establishment of a new police force” as part of the deal. But the advance force of 220 UN military personnel arriving on the USS Harlan County is prevented from landing in Port-au-Prince by riotous armed civilians known as attaches on October 11. The oil and arms sanctions are reimposed the same month.

September 11, 1993: It is too late for some. Antoine Izmery, a Haitian businessman, pro-democracy activist and a major financier of President Aristide’s election campaign, is killed by a single bullet when 10 men pull him from a mass marking the fifth anniversary of the attack on Aristide’s church, St. Jean Bosco. His brother Georges had been murder by paramilitaries the previous year.

October 14, 1993: Another bout of serious repression culminates with the assassination of the newly appointed, Aristide-endorsed Justice Minister, Guy-Francois Malory. An organisation calling itself FRAPH, the Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress, led by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant and composed of former Tonton Macoutes, police auxiliaries, moonlighting soldiers with what are later proven to be close ties to the CIA, takes a leading role in both the repression, terror and public opposition to the Governor’s Island accord and Arisitide’s return. Aristide demands a watertight international embargo on the Haitian regime.

November 1993: Desultory negotations limp on but it is clear the Haitian military are playing for time, even benefitting from the shortages created by the sanctions to monopolise the smuggling of certain goods. Aristide, based in exile in Washington DC, continues to lobby the Clinton administration which seems more interested in extracting commitments on a commitment to neo-liberal, free-market economic policies from Aristide when he is back in power than in halting the extrajudicial killings and disappeareances in Haiti.

April 1994: Raboteau, a seaside slum in the central city of Gonaives, a key pro-Aristide neighbourhood, is attacked by civilian and paramiliary forces including FRAPH members. House to house searches see at least 26 and maybe as many as 50 killed. Some who flee into the sea are pursued in commandeered fishing boats and shot.

May 1994: The UN Security Council imposes comprehensive sanctions on the Cedras regime for the first time. Two months later on July 31, the UN adopts a resolution authorizing member states to form a multinational force under unifed command to use “all necessary means” to bring about an end to the illegal regime in Haiti and the prompt return of the legitimate President. The resolution expands the still to be deployed UNMIH’s mandate and raises force levels to 6,000 troops and 900 police.

September 19, 1994: Lead elements of the 28-national multinational force (MNF), dominated by the United States, land in Haiti unopposed. Operation Uphold Democracy must be the first staged invasion of a foreign state, broadcast live on US network television. With the cameras all in place before the troops hit the beaches, they follow the troops in their search for and seizure of weapons caches.

October 15, 1994: With the coup leaders, including Raoul Cedras and Michel Francois out of Haiti in negotiated exile, one to France, one to Panama, Emmanual Constant the FRAPH leader opts for New York. Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. It and every government ministry have been looted and despoiled, with everything from computers to taps stolen.

January 1995: UN Security Council determines that a “secure and stable” environment exists in Haiti, making the deployment of the UN peacekeeping, monitoring and training force, UNMIH possible. Two months later on March 31, the MNF, effectively the United States, hands over responsibility for Haiti to UNMIH.

March 1995: The government agrees to the conditions attached to a $31m IMF standby accord and begins the process of negotiating for an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) as part of a World Bank/IMF backed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The government begins to slowly introduce what it considers the more politically palatable parts of the programme: tariff reductions, customs reforms and some budget cuts despite growing opposition.

April 1995: President Aristide begins the process of disbanding the Haitian army. Although never ratified by constitutional amendment, this gradual process is supported by the UN which helps train a new paramilitary police force.The move is ultimately not opposed by Washington. When he leaves office, 10 months later Aristide will claim this as his greatest achievement. Many agree but note that UN forces increasingly fill the void, while cashiered soldiers form paramilitary groups that will play an increasingly disruptive role in Aristide’s second presidential term (2001-2004) and beyond.

June-July 1995: Lavalas Political Organisation (OPL) wins an overwhelming majority of 2,103 parliamentary, mayoral and town council election seats contested in two-stage elections. Although contested by some opponents — others boycott the polls — the main impact is to substantially reinforce opposition to enactment of the neo-liberal economic agenda of the Prime Minister Smarck Michel  in parliament. The Lavalas deputies elected are decidedly more militant than the government. Lavalas is effectively splitting; the government increasingly paralysed.

October 1995: Smarck Michel resigns as the opposition to the neo-liberal economic policies, and by extension the influence of international financial institutions and the presence of foreign troops, intensifies on both the streets and in parliament. The key battleground now is the privatisation of nine state-run industries, including the highly profitable national telephone company. Aristide remains trapped between his popular base, rejecting the reforms, and the international sponsors who have restored him to power, who demand them as the price for loans and aid. His response is to set himself above his government, proclaiming that the country is “not for sale” and he himself has never signed any structural adjustment ageement.

December 17, 1995: Rene Preval, President Aristide’s close ally and Prime Minister at the time of the September 1991 coup, is elected President with 88% of the vote running on the Lavalas ticket. Despite considerable pressure from his supporters, Aristide had conceded that he should not stay in office for another three years to compensate for the time lost in exile.

February 7, 1996: Preval is sworn in but inherits a movement and party with increasingly bitter divisions over the issue that dominates all others in the light of the falling living standards of the majority: what price structural adjustment. Loans and aid remain broadly dependent on implementing it, but Haitians once again appear to have emphatically rejected what is colloquially termed “The American Plan” at the polls.

November 1996: Aristide forms a new party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), breaking from the OPL which in turn renames itself the Organisation of People in Struggle (OPL), a title carrying, confusingly, the same acroymn. Neo-liberal reforms are the basic division but personal criticism of or support for Aristide gradually comes to dominate the debate.

April 1997: Elections for one third of the Senate plus local mayors and councillors provide the first contest for the former allies. FL comes out on top in the first round but with just 5% of registered voters participating the disillusion with both parties is clear.

June 1997: Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigns and two successors proposed by President Preval are rejected by the legislature, confirming the total government gridlock. Preval rules by decree for 18 months before Jacques Edouard Alexis is accepted by parliament as prime minister in December 1988.

January 1999: Preval dismisses legislators — the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate — whose terms had expired as a result of the failure to hold elections due in late 1998. All local elected officials are converted into state employees. The country is now ruled by decree, with a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL adherents, illustrating Aristide’s continued influence.

May 2000: Parliamentary, provincial and municipal elections finally take place under a rejigged Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). There are no substantive boycotts and voter turnout is put at more than 60%. FL, Aristide’s party, dominates the results with a new right-wing, Protestant Party, MOCHRENA, being the only other group to record significant national support.

June 2000: The problem this time is the method used to count the vote. Although the electoral rules are subject to interpretation and the CEP uses a method that had been used before, anti FL forces reject the system used, claiming an alternative (essentially the inclusion of spoilt ballots in the total vote count) would have produced percentages that required run-off contests in eight Senate seats awarded to the FL. Run-off elections for the House of Deputies go ahead without opposition candidates who withdraw in protest.

July 2000: The CEP President flees Haiti and two of its nine members resign as oppostion claims that they failed to investigate irregularites and fraud as well as endorsing the flawed counting methodology grows. International organisations, including the UN, OAS and CARICOM, seek to delay parliament’s seating as part of efforts to agree a compromise. The US and EU threaten to sever all funding.

August 2000: A parliament totally dominated by FL convenes with the contested Senators taking their seats. Opposition parties coalesce in a new grouping, the Democratic Convergence party whose main initial claim is that the whole election was so fraudulent it should be rerun under a new CEP. From disputed counting methodology in nine Senate seats to complete election rerun in the space of two months: it is the first of many shifts in demands from the DC.

November 26, 2000: Elections for President and nine seats in the Senate are held. With all major opposition parties boycotting the polls, FL candidates win all the Senate seats and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, constitutionally permitted to run for a second/final term which is not consecutive to his previous term, is overwhelming relected with 92% of the votes cast. Voter participation is disputed. In the absence of international observers, estimates vary but initial figures, deemd the most accurate are about 60%. FL, Aristide’s party now controls 26 of the 27 seats in the Senate and all but 10 of the 83 seats in the lower House.

January 2001: Negotiations take place between FL and the DC mediated by Haitian lawyers. The DC demand the annulment of both the May and November 2000 elections and a power-sharing government. FL negotiators reject the demands.

February 7, 2001: Jean-Bertrand Aristide is sworn in for second term as President of Haiti, the first time in Haitian history that a full-term President has handed power to a democratically-elected successor. On the same day, the DC swear in Gerard Gourgue as the “Provisional President of the Government of Consensus and National Union.” Jean Marie Cherestral is approved by parliament as Aristide’s Prime Minister the following month.

April 2001: OAS mediated negotiations begin with the Democratic Convergence. FL offers to rerun the disputed Senate elections. It steadily becomes clearer that for many, if not most of the opposition, the only concession that will suffice is Aristide’s resignation. Negotiations make some progress but are suspended in July without a final agreement. Ironically, by the end of 2001, seven of the eight Senators at the centre of the dispute have resigned. The term of the eighth expires shortly after that in 2002.

April 2001: With the Republicans and George Bush now in the White House, US aid freeze policy threats in the face of the election dispute become more formal and multilateral. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) withholds four loans for social development projects in water, health and education worth a total of $146m. The aid flow constraint will continue for the next three years, giving the opposition much more leverage than their voting totals.

July 28, 2001: Armed men attack three separate police facilities, one in Port-au-Prince, two in the provinces, killing four officers. Presidential spokesmen accuse former army officers of trying to overthrow the government. New moves to disarm militias and crack down on ex-soldiers begin.

December 17, 2001: Some 30 armed gunmen storm the National Palace in an apparent coup attempt. Twelve people are killed in the raid which is repelled. The government blames former army officers and the opposition. Pro-government groups attack the homes and offices of opposition leaders. One person is killed.

January 2002: The OAS Permanent Council adopts a resolution calling on the Haitian government to address the political stalemate with the DC, the growing violence and increasing human rights absues. It authorizes the establishment of a special mission to Haiti to facilitate these ends and in March begins working with the government on “strengthening Haiti’s institutions in security, justice, human rights and governance.”

March 2002: Yvon Neptune, the former President of the Senate, is appointed Prime Minister replacing Cherestral.

April 2002: A deteriorating security situation is compounded by a rapidly weakening economy — partly a function of the aid constraints — which in turn fuels a deteriorating security situation. Armed gangs, some with political affiliations, start to emerge, particularly in the poorer neighbourhoods of slums like Cite Soleil. Aristide’s regime is accused of arming and paying some of them. They become known as chimeres and are effectively seen as the armed defenders of the regime.

July 2002: Haiti is accepted as a full member of the Caribbean Commmunity (CARICOM) trade bloc conferring prefential access to key markets and demonstrating improving regional ties with neighbouring states.

December 2002: A new opposition coalition, the Group of 184, or G-184, declares itself. Led by Andre (Andy) Apaid, a wealthy Haitian-American businessman, it takes its name from the supposed number of groups making up the coalition. It has close ties to two right-wing, anti-Aristide, US organisations, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Haiti Democracy Project (HDP).

January 2003: G-184 calls a general strike. Its support base — among upper class entrepeneurs, some of the middle class in the media and education — is reflected in the businesses that heed the call.

September 2003: An armed rebellion against the government erupts in Gonaives when “Cannibal Army” gang leader Amiot Metayer is found dead. His followers blame Aristide, who he had once supported. But, on arrest for arson in May 2002 and subsequent escape from jail in August, he had begun to lead violent desmonstrations against Aristide. Amiot’s brother Buteur becomes yet another implacable Aristide foe and soon becomes a key ally of Chamblain and Philippe (see below) in a small but effective armed rebel movement dedicated to Aristide’s overthrow.

November 2003: A G-184 demonstration outside the National Palace is met by Aristide supporters who outnumber them. Tear gas is used by the Haitian police to disperse both groups and two G-184 members are arrested for possession of firearms. The following month a combined G-184/DC demonstration tries to break through the Palace gates and perimeter fence. Fearing a coup attempt, Aristide supporters mass. The opposition call publicly for Aristide’s removal, accusing him of tyrannical rule, gross human rights abuses, corruption and drug trafficking.

January 1, 2004: Haiti marks the 200th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence with President Aristide using the media attention to pubilicise his claim for reparations from France. He wants the 90 million gold francs paid between 1825 and 1947 to France by the Haitian state as compensation for the plantations, machinery and slave work force abandonned after the Haitian army’s victory in the war of independence, repaid. The President and his economists say the equivalent sum in today’s currency is $21.6bn.

February 2004: A tiny armed opposition, about 50 strong, establishes itself on Haitian soil with the capture of the central plateau town of Hinche after months of hit-and-run tactics against police stations from across the border in the Dominican Republic. The leader is Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a notorious death squad leader who emerged after the Duvalier’s overthrow and became a key figure in FRAPH under Toto Constant.  Chamblain has already been convicted in absentia of Antoine Izmery’s murder.

Februrary 5, 2004: The “Cannibal Army”, now trading under the name of the Artibonite Resistance Front, seizes control of Gonaives from the government.

February 14, 2004: Guy Philippe crosses the border in the north and within eight days has captured Haiti’s second-largest city Cap Haitien after just a few hours fighting. Philippe, who has received specialist training from the US in Ecuador, was a former police chief in Delmas, in Port-au-Prince, and is quickly granted command of the rebel “army” by Chamblain and Metayer. Philippe’s cv is little better than Chamblain’s. He is wanted for summary executions of alleged gang members as a police officer and is accused of leading terrorist raids across the border in 2001 and 2002.

February 19, 2004: Washington says it is open to Aristide stepping down, saying his departure could be a way out of the crisis. The statement seems to mark a change of stance from that of US Secretary of State Colin Powell six days previously when he had warned the opposition against ousting Aristide.

February 23, 2004: Some 50 US Marines are sent to protect US facilities. Washington preses opposition politicians to accept a power-sharing deal.

February 27, 2004: Rebels calling themselves the “Assailants” take the town of Mirebalais, less than 30 miles from Port-au-Prince and take control of a key road junction.

February 28, 2004: Aristide leaves the country in the middle of the night and is flown to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. When able to get to media outlets, he claims he was kidnapped and his supporters denounce a coup d’etat. Washington and others claims he chose to resign and leave the country in the face of the rebel march towards Port-au-Prince. Riots erupt as the news of the President’s depature spreads. At least four people are shot by police in the Bel Air area downtown.

February 29, 2004: Boniface Alexandre, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is sworn in as President. The UN passes a resolution “taking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing in of Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the constitution.” However, a number of regional governments, including Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela and all the members of the African Union, refuse to recognise the new regime.

March 2, 2004: Philippe and his paramilitaries retake control of the former Haitian Army headquarters opposite the National Palace. “The country is in my hands” he declares. The pursuit of Aristide supporters, activists and officials begins. One of the most prominent, the Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, is unable to leave his office as his home is burned and looted. US marines guarding his residence shoot dead two gunmen outside.

March 3, 2004: With no reference to the Haitian constitution, “a council of the wise” is set up to select a new Prime Minister. Gerard Latortue is designated on March 9, although he is not even living in Haiti at the time. He is sworn in three days later when he arrives in Port-au-Prince from the United States. Canada, the United States, all the members of the European Union and the United Nations, all recognise the new regime.

March 27, 2004: The provisional government bans Yvon Neptune and 36 other senior Aristide officials from leaving the country as corruption investigations get underway. In June, hearing news of a warrant for his arrest, Neptune surrenders to Haitian police and is held without charge.

April 30, 2004: The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the latest version of a UN intervention force, is established with a military component of 6,700 (1,622 police, 550 civilian staff and 1,000 local staff). It is led by the Brazilians and composed mostly of Latin Americans. Its main declared aims are: disarming, demobilisation and reintegration programmes for armed men and the restructure and reform of the Haitian police.

September 15, 2004: Tropical Storm Jeanne causes floods and landslides in Gonaives and the north-west of the country. Some 1,870 people are declared dead, 884 people missing, presumed dead, and 2,620 injured. The disaster follows another flood in the south just five months previously (May) that killed more than 1,000.

September 30, 2004: A major Port-au-Prince demonstration demanding Aristide’s return six months after his ouster is shot at by police. Local and international human rights groups report a major surge in killings as reconstituted death squads — mostly former army soldiers, some of whom have established themselves at police stations — wage war on FL supporters and activists in a rerun of the slaughter that followed Aristide’s ouster in 1991. Chimeres or their remnants and other pro-Aristide gangs react, leaving the poor in the most vulnerable areas caught between the two. Extrajudicial killings are put at 60-70 per month.

April 18, 2005: Yvon Neptune begins a hunger strike to protest his detention without charge. In May he is reported to be “near death” but it is not until September that a formal statement of charges against him appears. They include participation in a massacre in La Scierie, St. Marc. The UN criticises the handling of the case and his treatment.

July 5, 2005: MINUSTAH makes a major incursion into Cite Soleil. Some months earlier the Brazilian commander of MINUSTAH, General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira had told a congressional commission in Brazil: “We are under extreme pressure from the international community to use violence.” He cited Canada, France and the United States as the sources of the pressure. Ribeiro resigns less than two months later on September 1.

July 21, 2005: Gerard Jean-Juste a liberation theology priest, a close associate of Aristide, and considered by many to be the leading candidate for the presidency on the FL ticket in the 2006 elections, is arrested for murder but never charged. He is not granted bail until January 2006 and then only for treatment for serious leukemia.

January 7, 2006: The Brazilian MINUSTAH commander, General Urano Teixeira Bacellar is found dead in his hotel room. He is replaced ten days later by General Elito Carvalho de Siquerira.

February 2006: Elections, delayed four times since October 2005, finally take place and see Rene Preval, Aristide’s former Prime Minister and President from 1996-2001, win office at the head of a new political grouping Lespwa (Kreyol for Hope). However the poll is marred by another voting dispute over the same issue: counting methodology. Preval is close to the 50% plus one needed to avoid a run-off after the initial count. If the suspiciously large number spoilt ballots are not included in the total he has won outright; if they are not, there will be a second election. Mass protests, successfully demand the former, as supporters suspect another attempted fraud. Preval’s closest rival the Christian Democrat Leslie Manigat has just 12% in the final vote count.

April 2006: Run-off elections determine the composition of parliament. It looks splintered and incohesive. Lespwa does not have a majority in either House and the affliations of those who do support it are in many cases tenuous. The three main parties, themselves split into factions, are: OPL, FL and Lespwa.

June 2006: New government takes office with Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis now confirmed. Edmond Mulet of Guatemala takes over as the civilian head of MINUSTAH.

July 28, 2006: Yvon Neptune is released after two years in jail without trial but only on “humanitarian and health grounds.” His release draws attention to the fact that hundreds of other supporters and officials of the Aristide administration remain in jail, uncharged and untried.

September 2006: Launch of a UN-run scheme to disarm gang members in return for grants and job training, a belated recognition social activists say that the key problem in areas like Cite Soleil is poverty and destitution.

January 2007: After the carrot, the stick is wielded again. UN troops launch another tough new offensive in Cite Soleil smashing through armed roadblocks and barbed wire barricades designed to keep them out. Four are killed and six injured in exchanges of gunfire. In February there is another attack: 700 UN troops flood the Cite, with major gunbattles following.

August 2, 2007: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrives in Haiti to assess the role of UN forces amid a growing international outcry about killings and abuses during UN operations and questions about its role. MINUSTAH announces it has arrested 800 alleged gang members in the previous three months. President Preval says if Haitians were asked if they wanted the UN forces to leave “they would say, yes.”

April 2008: Major riots protesting the price of food with five deaths reported. The immediate cause is the worldwide spike in the price of basic grains, illustrating graphically for the first time the price ordinary Haitians have paid for the reduction and elimination of import tariffs on foodstuffs and the consequent collapse of indigenous staple production of crops like rice. Eighty per cent of Haiti’s rice is now imported; 15 years before only 20% had been imported. The government anounces an emergency plan to cut the price of staple foods in a bid to halt the unrest but parliament votes to dismiss Prime Minister Alexis on April 12 saying his plan is “too little too late.”

May 2008: The US and World Bank announce a total of $30m extra in food aid for Haiti.

May 2008: Brazil agrees to boost its contribution to the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti in response to appeals for Rene Preval for more help in combatting a wave of kidnappings for ransom.

June 2008: Michelle Pierre-Louis is nominated as Haiti’s second-ever female Prime Minister by President Preval following parliament’s rejection of his two previous nominees.

August-September 2008: More than 800 people are killed and hundreds left injured as Haiti is hit by a series of devastating tropical storms and hurricanes. Storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna all hit the north and center of the country within days of each other, with Gonaives, the centre of which is completely flooded, worst hit.

September 5, 2008: Michelle Pierre-Louis succeeds Jacques-Edouard Alexis as Prime Minister but her programme and cabinet line-up which have to be approved by both houses of parliament are fiercely contested. She requires a second vote to get a one vote majority for approval in the Senate.

May 2009: Former US President Bill Clinton is appointed the UN Secretary General Special Envoy to Haiti. Clinton declares his intention to work with the Haitian people and the government, not just to repair the damage of the previous year’s storms but to “lay the foundations for the long-term sustainable development that has eluded them for so long.”

July 2009: The World Bank and IMF cancel $1.2bn of Haiti’s foreign debt to the multlateral institutions, some 80% of the total, after judging that the country has met economic reform and poverty reduction conditions.

August 2009: Bill Clinton announces the appointment of Paul Farmer the world renowned doctor and developing world public health expert as his deputy. Farmer is the founder of a leading Haitian health NGO, fluent in Kreyol and the author of the seminal work The Uses of Haiti.

October-November 2009: Jean-Max Bellerive becomes Prime Minister after the Haitian Senate passes a motion of censure against his predecessor, Michelle Pierre-Louis. The MINUSTAH force is reinforced: it is now up to 6,940 soldiers and 2,211 police officers.

October 2009: Clinton leads a delegation of 500 businessmen to Haiti proclaiming “this is the right time to invest in Haiti.”  There are, in fact, by the second half of 2009 some tenuous signs of economic improvement and stability in Haiti.

4.53pm January 12, 2010: A 7.1 Richter scale earthquake epicentered just to the west of Port-au-Prince devastates the capital, Leogane and Petit Goave. As the death toll mounts — it still unofficially lies between 230,000 and 305,000 — it becomes clear that this is the most deadly natural disaster the world has seen since 1945, the death toll hugely inflated by the overcrowding, lack of planning and urban migration that have plagued Port-au-Prince for 30 years. A massive response by international relief agencies and NGOs succeeds in preventing a second disaster in the form of epidemics or hunger but aid agencies have no hesitation in describing it as the most complicated relief effort they have ever engaged in.

January 14, 2010: It becomes clear that 96 UN personnel including the UN mission chief Hedi Annabi of Tunisia have died in the earthquake, hampering the international community’s response. US troops and engineers take over the damaged airport and port and amidst a fierce controversy about priorities, military versus humanitarian, relief supplies and personnel begin to arrive by air, road from the Dominican Republic and eventually, through the heavily damaged port.

January 30, 2010: The scale of the disaster finds expression in firmer figures. Some 1.5 million Haitians are homeless, relief agencies say, living in tents, makeshift shelters or under tarpaulins, at least 4,100 have had emergency amputations after being pulled from the rubble. The main priority is a race against the onset of the rains, then the hurricane season that follows.

February 2010: The Haitian government launches a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PNDA) which the following month becomes a glossy, comprehensive reconstruction plan. There is plenty of input from multilateral funding agencies and major donors but Haitian civil society organisations (CSOs) and even foreign non-governmental agencies (NGOs) at the forefront of the relief effort complain bitterly of their almost total exclusion from the consultation process.

March 31, 2010: A high profile one-day international donors conference to secure pledges for the reconstruction of Haiti is held at the UN in New York. The Haitian government plan — published the previous day for the first time — secures pledges of $5.3bn over the next two years with a further $4.6bn to follow making a total of $9.9bn from over 100 national donors and multilateral funding agencies such as the World Bank and IDB.

June 2010: Haiti’s Interim Reconstruction Commission meets for the first time in Port-au-Prince and approves projects worth nearly $50m in the context of receipt of less than $150m of the $5.3bn pledged in March. Co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, it is composed of 50% foreign donor representatives and 50% Haitians representing various sectors. However, the only CSO representatives are non-voting members.

June 30, 2010: UN force is bolstered further to 11,578 troops and police with 1,253 local staff. There is widespread criticism that the UN and the Haitian police are doing nothing to boost security in the camps in the face of hundreds of reported rapes and assaults.

July 12, 2010: The sixth-month anniversary of the earthquake brings another bout of media scrutiny. Rubble clearing let alone reconstruction has barely started while a mere 3,170 hurricane-proof shelters, a key priority, have been erected. However despite incredibly squalid and confined conditions in the camps, epidemics have been avoided, even two months into the rainy season.

August 8, 2010: At least 20 candidates register to run for President in elections the Haitian government and the UN remain committed to running on November 28. They include Wyclef Jean, the internationally renowned American-Haitian rap singer, two former Prime Ministers, Yvon Neptune and Jacques Edouard Alexis, Leslie Voltaire, former minister and government liaison to the UN, Charles Henry Baker, a textile factory businessman and key Aristide opponent in 2003-04 and Michel Martelly (“Sweet Mickey”), a well-known popular musician and entertainer with links to ex-Duvalierists.

JOIN HSG NOW…

SIGN ME UP!