Above: Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
While Haiti has made “important progress” since the earthquake in January 2010, it has a “disturbing level of political infighting in a country that can ill afford it,” according to Susan Rice, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations.
Rice was giving her report to the UN Security Council President following its trip to Haiti earlier this month, the first visit by the council to Haiti in three years.
The remarks echoed statements made by MINUSTAH Chief Mariano Fernandez following the resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille.
“Many Haitians shared with us serious concerns about the bitter disputes that divide Haiti’s political leaders, both within and between the executive and legislative branches of government,” Rice said. “Ordinary Haitians told us they want their elected leaders to put aside winner-take-all politics and work together in a spirit of compromise to solve the nation’s problems.”
Rice said that moving forward with the upcoming local and Senate elections was a critical part of that process.
She also said that while many Haitians “acknowledged that MINUSTAH plays a necessary role in maintaining security and stability,” they also shared a desire to see the mission eventually leave, with strengthened Haitian institutions taking on its responsibilities.”
During the Security Council visit, Haitian President Michel Martelly expressed his desire for a Haitian army and strengthened police force to ultimately fill the security vacuum upon MINUSTAH’s eventual departure, but Security Council members “questioned this course of action,” Rice said, instead emphasizing the reform of the Haitian National Police.
Haitian lawmakers shared what Rice termed “very frank and sometimes critical views” about the slow progress of international support, alleged sexual abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, cholera and “what legislators saw as the failings of Haiti’s executive branch.”
The purpose of the Security Council’s visit was to examine Haiti’s security situation, review reconstruction efforts and assess the consolidation of democracy.
The delegation’s trip to Haiti included meetings with the Haitian private sector, a close look at judicial institutions and the new Caracol Industrial Park, which is set to open this year. During the delegation’s meetings with women’s organizations, religious groups, NGOs and civil society leaders, many Haitians expressed a “deep desire” to see the country stand on its own and rely less on international support, Rice said.
According to the Ambassador, the cholera epidemic and allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some MINUSTAH personnel had “badly eroded support for MINUSTAH and undermine its work.”
She said the Security Council delegations was “troubled by these allegations, and expect the United Nations to redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
The UN delegation left Haiti Feb. 16 after a four-day visit.
“Haitians and the United Nations Mission have endured much together, and accomplished much, in the two years since the earthquake,” she said. “With continued dedication and hard work, they can yet build a better future for Haiti.”