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Op-Ed: A Rebirth in Haiti’s Champs de Mars; President Martelly Keeps His Word

Above: the Toussaint Louverture Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

By Vladimir Laguerre
Op-Ed Contributor

PORT-AU-PRINCE- “Finally, I can bring my children to Champs de Mars. This is where I learned to ride my bicycle, and this is precisely where I met their mother … I’ve always wanted to come back here with them. My children will finally be able to know what life was like before Jan. 12, 2012.” — Charles Jean Luma, 47, father of two children.

This Park surrounding the National Palace is the largest leisure centre in Haiti’s capital, Port-au Prince.

Champs de Mars, which once made people happy, became, after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, the largest centre of refugees and a symbol of devastation. Some 27,960 people and 4,651 families occupied it.

They were found everywhere in the parks of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion, Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, Catherine Flon, Marron Inconnu, the Constitution, Artists, Martyrs, and the Kiosk Occide Jeanty. Champs de Mars is no longer what it was.

The process of relocating these refugees is a success story for the Martelly government. It only took four months; contrary to critics who estimated the process would take upwards of a few years.

Those who used to frequent this place smile attractively again, and begin to relive the highlights of the past. Strollers walk through the park.

“I never believed that President Martelly could accomplish this mission in such a short time, the situation is so complex. Now, I finally understand that officials may act for the benefit of all if they want,” said a student during a debate on the Place Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines Park

Successful Haitian-Canadian cooperation

President Martelly may indeed be proud of having made a firm commitment to end this situation, which had people living in precarious conditions for too long.

Mr Martelly, satisfied with this step, has noted that he is the kind of president who has made every effort to fulfill his promises. This resettlement project was successful, in part, thanks to a generous contribution of about $20 million from the Canadian government.

“We promised that those affected will be relocated to permanent homes, now it’s done: They are no longer on the Champs de Mars. I have a results-oriented team, and these are the results,” the President stated, assuring that while there are still many families to be relocated, the emptying of Champs de Mars is a success story that has created the momentum to help people believe that better days are, indeed, ahead.

Of the 1.5 million displaced persons who were living in camps, one million have been relocated into transitional or more permanent housing.

On Former Canadian International Cooperation Minister Beverley Oda’s trip to Haiti in January 2012, Canada announced that it would be supporting the re-settlement of families and re-location of small businesses operating on the Champs de Mars.

“Haiti is a long-term priority for the Government of Canada and in each of the past two years, Haiti has been the largest recipient of worldwide aid from Canada. Canada is on track to meet its $400 million post-earthquake reconstruction commitment to Haiti,” said Canadian Ambassador M Henri-Paul Normandin. “The Total Canadian engagement totals more than $1 billion from 2006-2012. Canada’s engagement in Haiti is multi-dimensional. Canada is working with the Government of Haiti, its Canadian partners, and its international counterparts to assist the most vulnerable and to rebuilt Haiti in accordance with Haiti’s action plan. Canada is committed to working closely with the Government of Haiti and other donors to deliver aid in an effective, transparent, and accountable way.”

Up to the Carnival of Flowers

For now, the cap is placed on the redevelopment of Champs de Mars, which is preparing to host on July 29, 30 and 31, the first edition of the “Carnival of Flowers,” at the initiative of the Presidency.

Everything is already set in motion to achieve this major event, which aims to showcase our rich culture and our flora. 35 million gourdes have been allocated by the State. The organizers, encouraging Haitians here and abroad and foreigners to make the trip, promise a quality show.

Champs de Mars, transformed in two years

The Martelly-Lamothe Administration wants to remake the image of Champs de Mars, which is lined with many buildings dating from the thirties.

The National Palace, in ruins since the devastating earthquake, the Musée du Panthéon National (MUPANAH), the former Triomphe, Movie Theatre the REX Theatre and the National Bureau of Ethnology and the Faculty of Ethnology, all represent symbols.

Through a project as yet undisclosed to the public, Haiti’s officials plan to build a museum of Heads of State and several other buildings.

The centre of the attraction will be completely transformed for the good of everyone. That rehabilitation work will be completed in January 2014.

Vladimir Laguerre, a native of Port-au-Prince, is the Foreign Media Liaison Chief at the Presidential Palace in Haiti. He is a former contractor for the New York Times covering Haiti and a former sports commentator for Telemax and Magik Stereo.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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