What is the seizure and control of an area by armed troops? Military occupation. What is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of politico-economic aims? Terrorism. What is the freedom from negative consequences of an injurious action? Impunity.
Military occupation. Terrorism. Impunity.
To far too many of us, these 4 words have become synonymous with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, the MINUSTAH which, for the past 10 years, has maintained a reign of terror in Haiti.
Don't take my word for it: numerous articles have provided detailed accounts of the UN's presence in Haiti since its arrival in 2004. While there are many articles in Kreyol and French that attest to this, here are a few in English:
In light of this, one is forced to ask, "How is it that an intergovernmental body created for maintaining peace, protecting and promoting human rights and providing humanitarian assistance sounds more like an imperial force?"
Far from being an exaggeration, the aforementioned accounts on what is happening and has been happening with MINUSTAH in Haiti for the past decade unequivocally paints a picture of colluding local elites and foreign interests cannibalistically salivating over Haiti's sovereignty. What else do you call it when an internationally engineered coup (US-Canada-France) followed by an illegal and unjustifiable occupation is set in motion not when the nation faces its bloodiest regimes (the Duvaliers), but rather, after for the first time in its history, the Haitian people democratically elect their own president with 90 per cent of the vote?
We also have to ask, "What about Haiti's sovereignty is so frightening that it leads the US, France and Canada to have no reservation when it comes to obliterating the very human rights and democratic principles they claim to so valiantly protect and preserve around the globe?". We cannot answer this question without evaluating the very fabric of Haiti's sovereignty - namely African liberation and self-determination.
To this day, Haiti remains the dent in imperialism's white-supremacist shining armour. It remains the African nation which successfully expelled imperialist predatory forces to become the first African republic (post-colonization). It remains the African nation which took the empty rhetoric of equality-liberty-fraternity and gave it substance and meaning. It remains the African nation which told the rest of the subjugated world that self-determination by any means was the sweetest revenge.
Haiti is all these things, but because of these feats, it is also the African nation which is constantly humiliated, brutalized and punished in an effort to appease imperialist forces, both internal and external, whose leaders still wake up in sweats like it's 1804.
But the elites are not the only ones to blame for this ongoing treatment of the Haitian people. Engaged global citizens also bear some responsibility for this. Together we have failed to critically see through MINUSTAH's campaign of "stabilization" and see it for what it really is: military occupation, terrorism and impunity.
Maybe it soothes our collective conscious to continuously put our faith in the MINUSTAH, and this, however unrecognizable it has become as an agent of the hallowed United Nations. This may be because deep down, we know that if we ask just the right questions or look closely enough, there would be no going back to the thin innocence of our ignorance. There would be no going back to a time where we could blindly hand over our collective responsibility to the UN and not hold our countries accountable for their actions. There would be no going back to a time where assumptions about the MINUSTAH's good track record outweighed the ever growing piles of evidence telling a different tale.
For many of us, honestly facing the hard facts about MINUSTAH's role and record in Haiti produces cognitive dissonance. We feel it when we come across accounts like those referenced above and desperately try to reconcile them with our indoctrinated images of a just and neutral UN. This dissonance has the potential to revolutionize how we conceptualize international solidarity, but only if we embrace it.
Indeed, we must valiantly resist the urge to bury this dissonance in the depths of Lala Land, so that we may look the disfigured MINUSTAH-creature of our making straight in the eye. Let us, through this renewed gaze, see its monstrosity in all of its might and do what we must to put an end to its violent attacks on Haiti's self-determination.
We have a chance to move in this direction and realize the international solidarity informed of equality, fraternity, liberty that Haitians demonstrated over 200 years ago. Indeed, on October 15, 2014, the UN's Security Council will come to a decision on the MINUSTAH's presence in Haiti as its current mandate expires on that day.
Can we do better? Can we imagine such a solidarity, or is the current MINUSTAH model the best we can come up with?
In spite of everything, I still believe in the dream my foremothers and forefathers envisioned not only for Haiti, but for humanity as a whole. Just as in 1791, at the cusp of what would be the only successful revolt of enslaved Africans, the birth of a new day requires a collective acceptance of this dream as a reality. Surrounded by a sea of deprived human dignity, these heroes and sheroes had to believe that another world was possible. We must believe it as well and let our voices join those of Haitians on the ground demanding an end to yet another assault on Haiti's revolutionary dream. Our collective humanity depends on it.
Lots of organizing is taken place to seize this opportunity to join the ranks of those standing for justice. Find out what's happening near you. Sign and share the petition to put an end to the UN's military presence in Haiti.
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