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|Posted November 14, 2003|
|Haiti's Government Deserves Condemnation|
|By RAOUL PECK|
|Raoul Peck has made "Lumumba" and other films. He served as Haiti's minister of culture from 1996 to 1997. He is currently diecting a film for HBO on the 1994 Rwanda genocide.|
Too many African-American leaders seem to have a two-faced approach when it comes to human rights violations, repression and corruption in Africa and the Caribbean.
Last June, the TransAfrica Forum, a progressive African-American organization, released a letter condemning the ongoing repression orchestrated by President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, arguing that "Black American(s) cannot afford to romanticize African leaders if they hope to remain relevant to the struggles on the continent. They must be willing to condemn wrongdoing, even if that means criticizing some revered leaders." That was very well put, but what about Haiti?
In its May 16, 2003 report, TransAfrica argued for the release of frozen foreign aid to Haiti. But it was silent about the deteriorating state of the government. How can Bill Fletcher Jr., president of TransAfrica, explain his organization's unquestioning support for the regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide while taking on Mugabe? These facts about Haiti must not be ignored:
Aristide's return to power in February 2001 was preceded by intimidation and massive electoral fraud that guaranteed the lowest voter turnout since the 1990 elections, with barely 15 percent of potential voters going to the polls.
The Aristide regime's human rights violations are drastically increasing as loyal paramilitary forces threaten opposition leaders, grassroots activists and dissidents, as they impose the president's will on the Haitian people.
The Haitian police are neither neutral nor independent. Two weeks in office were enough to convince newly appointed police chief Jean-Robert Faveur that refuge in the United States was his only salvation once he refused to compromise his force's independence and bend to Aristide's will.
Scores of Haitian journalists have fled Haiti recently because they fear for their lives. Those who remain are subjected to daily threats as the political climate for the press continues to deteriorate.
And, last but not least, corruption at the highest level of the current administration is rampant. Evidence of collusion between Aristide's inner circle and those controlling the flourishing drug business in the country abounds.
How can the Congressional Black Caucus, TransAfrica and other groups like these ignore the murder of Haiti's most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, the lack of cooperation by the government in investigating the murder, the ensuing silencing of Radio Haiti Inter, his radio station, and the fact that his widow, like the police chief, has had to flee to the United States after she shut the station down?
When Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a coup, only a few months after his election in 1991, supporters of democracy in Haiti from around the world rallied to his cause. The Congressional Black Caucus, along with TransAfrica, were in the forefront of the efforts that led to Aristide's return three years later.
Since then Aristide's performance as a leader has fallen far short of expectations.
Today, Haitians across the socioeconomic spectrum are turning their backs in disgust on "the Prophet" and his cronies. Why aren't the traditional allies of Haiti's democratic struggle among African-Americans standing alongside the Haitian people? Why aren't they showing the honesty to acknowledge that Aristide has not delivered for his people?
Haiti will celebrate its bicentennial in 2004. Many prominent African-American organizations are jumping head first on the Haitian government's celebratory bandwagon, without any questioning of the worsening social, economic and moral quagmire that is Aristide's Haiti.
Don't get me wrong. As a Haitian, I am proud of my heritage. We will celebrate and honor the memory of our forefathers, but we will not do so with a despotic regime.
Soon enough, the whole truth about the assassination of Jean Dominique and so many others will be revealed. Soon enough, the details of lucrative telecommunication deals, of money transfers to overseas bank accounts, of scandalous private security and lobbying arrangements - all imprints of the Aristide reign - will come to light.
African-American leaders are doing neither themselves nor their constituency any favors by papering over these embarrassing truths. Worse, it is morally wrong. Aristide is neither a Nelson Mandela nor a Martin Luther King Jr. TransAfrica condemned the repressive government of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. The sooner African-American leaders distance themselves from Aristide's failed government, the sooner peace, justice, freedom, democracy and simple decency will no longer be a dream denied in Haiti.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.
Reprinted from Newsday of November 13, 2003.
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