Stand with Haiti! A Day of International Solidarity
On March 29th Haitians and activists all over the world are rising up to demand respect for Haitian sovereignty and democracy. Here at the Haiti Support Group (HSG) we are joining these protests to demand that we fight to support the Haitian people, and protest the authoritarian regime of President Jovenel Moïse
The Fight for Haiti’s Democracy
Thirty-four years ago on this day, Haiti adopted a new constitution. Written in the long shadow of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti’s 1987 Constitution expanded civil liberties and human rights guarantees, and declared Haiti:
“an indivisible, sovereign, independent, cooperatist, free, democratic and social republic.”
President Moïse: Straight out of a Dictator’s Playbook
Moïse’s unchecked power risks undoing this landmark achievement. He dissolved parliament to rule by decree, and later refused to step down when his term ended on the 7th of February 2021. While promising to hold elections, Möise has been calling for a new constitution to further consolidate his power. In the meantime, he has taken dramatic measures to quell any opposition.
President Moïse issued executive decrees, criminalizing protests against the government with 30 to 50-year jail sentences, and forced the retirement of three Supreme Court justices. Police have arrested opposition figures accused of “plotting to overthrow” Möise, and gang members have been doing the dirty work to eliminate threats to Möise’s administration.
Massive and ongoing protests in Haiti offer clear indication that Haitians view their current government as illegitimate and corrupt. A broad coalition of civil society actors have come out to condemn the country’s escalating violence and the authoritarian moves of President Moïse. Contrary to the some commentator’s labelling of these protests as “party politics” they in fact represent the opinions of wide swathes of the Haitian population, including grassroots groups, opposition parties, the Haitian Bar Federation and several diaspora organisations and NGOs.
Solidarity, Not Intervention
Too often foreign powers have seized upon Haiti’s political instability to rewrite their own roles in Haitian politics and to justify new modes of political interventionism. We are often left with an account that portrays Haiti – the first Black republic – as a nation that cannot govern itself and therefore requires solutions from the outside. The US and UN’s claim to “build back better” after Haiti’s earthquake remains a painful reminder of the high human cost of foreign interventions that are so closely tied to the interests of the powerful.
In this latest “crisis” we see history repeating itself. All the main players – the U.S., the OAS and the United Nations – appear to have political amnesia about their own controversial decision-making that led to Moïse’s tenure, and their political and financial backing over the years that have emboldened Moïse’s latest power grab. After all, dictatorships do not happen overnight, nor do they arise without powerful friends.
The U.S. continues to back Moïse’s claim to legitimate rule and to view him as integral to planning future elections, which is its preferred way out of the current crisis. The UN, too, has retained a strong focus on holding elections. Like the U.S., this sidelines the view of Haiti’s opposition that allowing the Moïse government to hold elections will only legitimise his grip on power.
It is not only that international actors are enabling state repression. We can see the sheer disregard for Haitian lives in other ways. U.S. deportation flights to Haiti have escalated under the Biden administration, despite campaign promises and clear risks to those who are being returned. And although state persecution and the targeting of Moïse’s political opponents is on the rise, the U.S. Embassy recently issued a stark warning to Haitians not to flee to the U.S. The decision to tighten borders at precisely a time when its own actions are heightening instability in Haiti constitutes a familiar pattern in U.S. policy.
“Their Project is a Project of Death” #Free Haiti
On social media, the #FreeHaiti hashtag has become a rallying cry against all forms of Haitian oppression – corruption, authoritarianism, imperialism, racial capitalism and white supremacy. Grassroots opposition to another round of foreign political intervention is well-articulated by Sabine Lamour when she says:
“their project is a project of death.”.
Behind this day of international solidarity is civil society’s demand for a democratic transition for the Haitian people led by the Haitian people (that is, led by Haitians chosen by the Haitian people, and not a hand-picked group of Haitian leaders chosen by the U.S. and OAS). No one has put it better than Emmanuela Douyon, from the anti-corruption grassroots group, Nou Pap Dòmi (We Aren’t Sleeping). Testifying at a U.S. congressional hearing this month, she said:
“Haiti is not waiting for the US, France or any other country in the international community. We’ve already decided what we want to do. What we’re asking is for the international community to listen and respect our choice. We have a president whose term ended last February. He has benefited from the support of the OAS [and] the US State Department, despite the fact that most of Haitian civil society acknowledges that his term has ended, according to the constitution … This is what we’re facing now. And this is a perfect example of how when we don’t listen to Haitians, we can’t blame them later for the outcome. We want to end with all this corruption and impunity, we want to end with the old practices. [But] so many people do not want to give us a chance to decide for ourselves.”
Instead of more meddling in Haiti’s affairs, the grassroots organisations we work with want the U.S. and so-called international “community” to examine the roots of Haiti’s recurring crises and their role in them. This has to start with the indemnity forced on Haiti by the French which has haunted the country’s political and economic development.
What you can do to help
There are a number of ways to join this struggle. No matter where you are in the world, you can express your solidarity with Haitians by finding an organised protest on the 29th, or by starting your own. You can add your voice to millions who are calling for a sovereign and democratic Haiti.
Your MPs, congressional representatives and elected leaders also need to hear this message loud and clear.
Finally, you can donate directly to our civil society partners and the wide array of grassroots groups that are organising for social and political change.
#FreeHaiti #SolidarityNotCharity #nonakdiktati