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The Inside Story - Haiti in Crisis | Episode 136 TRANSCRIPT

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The Inside Story - Haiti in Crisis | Episode 136


The Inside Story: Haiti in Crisis

Episode 136 – March 21, 2024

Show Open:

Unidentified Narrator:

This week on The Inside Story...

A Caribbean nation descends deeper into chaos.

The State Department pledges increased support to resolve the crisis.

A Kenyan-led multinational armed force in doubt as disagreement swells in Nairobi.

And hip hop star Wyclef Jean weighs in on his embattled home country's future.

Now... on The Inside Story... Haiti In Crisis.

The Inside Story:

ELIZABETH LEE, VOA Correspondent:

I’m Elizabeth Lee in Washington.

Today we focus on the situation in Haiti as that island nation descends further into chaos.

National Police are working to regain some control of the capitol Port Au Prince as rival gangs fight amongst themselves… and civilians cower in their homes.

How did we get here, and is there hope the world could come together to stop the violence?

All this on today’s Inside story.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry recently announced his resignation one day after the United States pledged another $100 million to a United Nations-backed multinational security force. The money is for assisting the country’s police in combating gangs.

The U.S. pledged an additional $33 million in humanitarian aid. VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching starts us off this week from Washington.

NIKE CHING, VOA State Department Bureau Chief:

A political crisis and rising violence have created an untenable situation for the Haitian people.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has agreed to step down after a transitional authority is established that will govern the violence-plagued nation until new elections are held. The United States is urging him to expedite this transition.

Amid the ongoing crisis that threatens Haiti's stability, the U.S. on Monday increased its commitment for the Caribbean country’s security and humanitarian support.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State:

The United States Department of Defense is doubling its approved support for the mission from $100 million to $200 million. And that brings the total U.S. support to $300 million for this effort. I'm also announcing additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Haiti: $33 million to further support their health and food security.


At the United Nations, diplomats hope the deployment of the U.N.-endorsed multinational security support mission to Haiti will help the country stop the violence.

Some analysts believe the mission can create the security conditions necessary for upcoming elections.

Georges Fauriol, United States Institute of Peace:

Some of it is financial support to actually support this mission. The United States Southern Command is already on record as indicating that they are in process of providing planning assistance, information sharing and intelligence relating to the situation on the ground in Haiti.


Others are skeptical of foreign forces pouring into Haiti.

Ana Rosa Quintana-Lovett, The Vandenberg Coalition:

You've seen members of Haitian civil society come to testify before Congress have said: 'We don't want additional forces in our country, because forces have come in here, they've raped our women. They've spread disease. They've, you know, collaborated with criminal elements.


The Caribbean Community said the transitional council for Haiti would consist of seven members representing political coalitions and the private sector, plus two non-voting civil society members. This council will appoint a new prime minister and initiate preparations for upcoming presidential elections.

Nike Ching, VOA News, Washington.


The United States’ relationship with Haiti dates back nearly a century to 1934. It’s been at times -- a troubling history marred by corruption and ever-changing dynamics between the two nations. For more on how we got here, VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us this timeline of events.


The United States occupies Haiti from 1915 to 1934.


Following the U.S. military withdrawal in 1934, a new Haitian military force was created.


Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier elected president in 1957. He rules Haiti until his death in 1971.

His Son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier then rules the country until ousted in 1986.


The Number of Haitian refugees rises as thousands flee the homeland.


Influxes of 18,000 Haitian and 125,000 Cuban refugees onto U.S. soil result in the Carter Administration creating a new immigration classification – called 'entrants' – neither refugees nor asylum seekers without any real legal status.


The Reagan Administration establishes an interdiction-at-sea program. Hundreds of boats intercepted. Tens of Thousands of Haitians are returned to Port-au-Prince from 1981 to 1991.


Jean-Bertrand Aristide is elected president in February 1991. Ousted by a coup in September. President George H.W. Bush establishes a 12,000-person refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba & when the camp fills up, he orders the return of all Haitians picked up at sea.


President Bill Clinton commits the U.S. to restoring a democratic government in Haiti. President Aristide returns to power in November and remains in office through end of term in 1996.


Reelected Aristide returns to presidency in 2001 only to be ousted again in a 2004 coup, remaining in exile until 2011.


President Barack Obama’s administration adopts a “metering” policy limiting the number of migrants entering U.S. territory.


A Massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake strikes Haiti in January 2010. More than 300,000 people killed. More than 1.5 million homeless. That 2010 earthquake was the worst in 200 years.


Hurricane Matthew makes landfall in October 2016. 500 deaths and widespread destruction.


In December 2018, President Donald Trump’s administration announces the creation of a Migrant Protection Policy (MPP) that requires asylum-seekers to await their proceedings in Mexico.

July 2021:

Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumes office following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

August 2021:

A Magnitude 7.2 earthquake strikes Haiti August 14, 2021. Two days later, Haiti suffers a direct hit from Tropical Depression Grace.

Present Day:

Today, Haiti is a country marred by gang violence with some estimates placing nearly 80-perecent of the capital under the control of warring gangs. In just the first eight months of 2023 more than 24-hundred people in Haiti were reported killed, nearly a thousand kidnapped and more than 900 injured according to recent UN statistics.

In October 2023, the UN Security Council approves the deployment to Haiti of a multinational armed force led by Kenya to restore order. The United States pledged as much as 200-million-dollars to the effort.

Arash Arabasadi, VOA News


Garry Pierre-Pierre is a journalist who previously worked for the New York Times and later founded The Haitian Times, a publication focused on Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Cristina Caicedo Smit sat down with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for his take on the situation both in and out of Haiti.


Garry Pierre-Pierre, can you please explain an historical reference how Haiti initially got into this impasse?

Garry Pierre-Pierre, Journalist:

Well, first of all Cristina, thanks for having me. Haiti got where it is since the day after it became an independent nation essentially. This is a country at the dawn of its independence was isolated because you have to remember it was because not too long ago it was a slave – they were slaves. It was a French slave colony. And so they were able to defeat Napoleon’s army. And after the end of the war and Haiti gets independent, then it was isolated.


Now in recent weeks or months, why do you think the situation has worsened?

Garry Pierre-Pierre:

Well, it’s just a continuation into the abyss headed to the bottom because the police have really been weak. And so it has emboldened the gangs. So therefore, there’s a leadership vacuum. And the opposition, if you will, in this case, criminal gangs, they just go from one extreme to another.

And the political void has really created that to me as much as anything else. Because when you are unable to come to any sort of political consensus, then you have these gangs who are heavily armed and wandering rampant with very little pushback from the police, then you get to where we are now. I would imagine that in the this is not the end of it.


Now, for the players involved in the Haitian conflict, and why
are the players involved?

Garry Pierre-Pierre:

Well, first of all, obviously, Ariel Henri was the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Then you have the gang leaders. Chiefly, most Americans will know of Jimmy Cherizier, known colorfully as “Barbecue” and then you have a whole host of other gang leaders who are equally powerful.

Then you have some of the political opposition principally the Montana accord people which is the opposition. You have the international community, of course, the UN the US and you have another element that just recently developed is the arrival of Guy Philipe, who was a former soldier, officer and police officer just recently came back and was deported from the United States after spending years in jail for money laundering and other illicit activities.

And so this guy he also was part of he led a coup rebellion against Chavez for Aristide in 22,004. And so now he's back and is a major player and a destabilizing force in the country right now.


Mr. Pierre-Pierre, we have noticed in the last couple of days how the international community and the international media also is interested on finding a solution but what is the role that the international community is doing right now in Haiti and do you think it may have success?

Garry Pierre-Pierre:

Well, right now the US and the UN are trying to get as Kenyan led force into Haiti to civilize the security situation and that’s the extent of it. What they should be doing is that and then some. There should be a comprehensive plan of action – how fo we move Haiti forward with some key sectors, with people from Haiti themselves.

The Haitian diaspora – in the case of America – Haitian Americans – and then the international community itself. The US should have a strong partnership, Bring those of us in the diaspora an people in Haiti then come up with a plan that will address the social economic issues and the security issues and development issues.

Haiti needs a reset button. This is a moment where I’m hoping we can seize a moment of opportunity and move forward.


Like most matters of international cooperation, nuance exists between what leaders say they will do and what their citizens want them to do. While some Kenyans support President William Ruto's insistence on sending a police mission to Haiti, many others wonder -- why they should lead a multinational force when other, more powerful and better equipped nations have not stepped forward. For more, let's go to VOA Nairobi Bureau Chief Mariama Diallo.

MARIAMA DIALLO, VOA Nairobi Bureau Chief:

Passions are running high in the streets of Nairobi over possibly deploying the country's police to Haiti.

Stephen Ng'a Ng'a, Nairobi Resident:

Why are we sending police instead of the military for such a thing? That's my question.

Damaicline Masaki, Nairobi Resident:

It does nothing because we are going to lose our beloved ones. Kenya, we don't have that power like the other countries such as the United States.

Joseph Mule, Nairobi Resident:

I think it's a noble idea because we are all human beings, although people are complaining about the procedure, which has been used.

Henry Mutreru, Nairobi Resident:

We should urge the government to at least follow the court orders.


President William Ruto, who recently signed a long-awaited bilateral accord with visiting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to pave the way for 1,000 Kenyan police officers to lead a proposed multinational, U.N.-backed force that would help restore security in Haiti, insists it’s the right thing to do.

William Ruto, Kenyan President:

It is a mission for humanity. It is a mission in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti.


However, signing that accord was immediately followed by a fierce

battle between Haitian police and armed gangs who blocked Henry's return to the Caribbean nation, and eventually pushed the prime minister to say he will resign as soon as a transitional council is put in place.

Attorney Ekuru Aukot was among a group that filed a petition before Kenya’s High Court that argued sending the country's police to Haiti was unconstitutional. He says the recent signing was "misleading."

Ekuru Aukot, Lawyer:

First of all, it's a bogus agreement because it has no legitimacy both in law or even on the person representing [it]. Ariel Henry, for you to be able to enter into a contract, you must have capacity to enter into a contract.


And there are still problems whether this mission will go on or not because all the legal benchmarks have still not been satisfied, he says.

Ekuru Aukot, Lawyer:

When Jovenal Moise was killed in 2021, Henry was only supposed to be in power for 120 days. For him to take over the role of prime minister under the constitution of Haiti, he must be ratified, vetted, and approved by parliament. He never was. So really the question then, coming to the agreement, who is this, who actually signed this agreement with the republic of Kenya.


George Musamali, a security consultant based in Nairobi, says it's time to rethink the Haitian issue.

George Musamali, Security Expert:

What people have not focused on is the reason for this turmoil. To date, Haiti has not seen peace. Basically, the solutions we've been putting on the table, are they working?


There have been several unsuccessful interventions, including efforts by the United States and the United Nations. It's time to try something new, he says.

George Musamali, Security Expert:

Basically, what they are going to do is to deal with the same same people they are calling gangs that the American intervention tried. It tried again in 1994, it did not work. We tried again under the U.N. in 2004, but it still did not work.


With such a hostile and volatile situation now in Haiti, Musamali says it's hard to envision that a military or police intervention will work.

Mariama Diallo Voanews Nairobi.


Despite doubt that any peacekeeping body could be effective given the chaotic situation, outgoing Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been calling for the UN to intervene since the General Assembly in October.

Speaking back then he urged Article 7 of the UN Convention to be invoked. That would allow the UN to deploy peacekeeping forces in Haiti.

Ariel Henry, Haitian Prime Minister:

Haitians' daily life is painful. That is why the (U.N.) Security Council, which has the power and the authority, must act urgently under Chapter 7 (of the U.N. Charter) to authorize the deployment of a multinational mission to re-establish security, comprised of police and military personnel to help us combat the gangs and establish order.


President Joe Biden also urged the Security Council to act quickly.

President Joe Biden:

I call on the Security Council to authorize this mission now! The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer.


But they are still waiting. The UN has passed some targeted sanctions on at least one gang leader but remains reluctant to put UN troops on the ground.

VOA’s Creole service has several of its own reporters reporting from Haiti. They are experiencing the same dangers as the citizens who call the island home. For more on the challenges our reporters and their team back in Washington face, Robin Guess from our Press Freedom desk spoke – with the chief of VOA’s Creole Service, Sandra Lemaire.

ROBIN GUESS, VOA Press Freedom Correspondent:

Given the crisis in Haiti, how dangerous is for journalists with boots on the ground?

Sandra Lemaire, VOA Creole Service Chief:

It is extremely, extremely dangerous right now. It's actually a concern that I have every single day.


We have documented in 2023 that journalists in Haiti have been killed in Haiti. They have been kidnapped and they have been the victims of just extraordinary violence. At this point. To what degree would you say it is an act of courage for reporters to keep doing what they're doing?

Sandra Lemaire, VOA Creole Service Chief:

It is, absolutely. They are very passionate about reporting. And so that's what gets them out onto the streets.

Not only obviously the gangs are a huge threat, but law enforcement also has really no respect for reporters. Just recently, last week or the week before,one reporter just about lost his eye he lost the division in an eye because they were shooting tear gas, one of those tear gas canisters hit him in the eye, and he ended up you know, in the hospital, and to them, it's just collateral damage.

They don't care that you're there to report so Haiti is a country that on paper has freedom of the press. But the press has been abused for many, many years in Haiti.

My biggest fear is that they'll be killed while reporting which I would be beyond heartbroken about because you know, I care a lot about all of them. I've known them for many years before I became a leader of the service We just in January of this year towards the end of January had training for them on hostile environment training. So my Haiti reporters who are in the biggest danger they all attended this training.

And you know, they've by the grace of God had been saved except for the one reporter I mentioned he was reporting on the situation in prison where inmates had died because they weren't being fed and poor conditions in the jail in the north of Haiti, and he was threatened by a police National Police Officer at gunpoint, threatening him to say don't publish this because it makes us look bad. And it's a lie and he said, No, I talked to him officially officially in progress. So we're gonna go with it.

And he pointed the gun in his head and said, You know, I could kill you right now if I wanted to. So of course, we complained to the police. The person was reassigned so they actually did act. But it's not like I have a lot of faith.

My second biggest fear is that they are kidnapped and abused and tortured. Because that also, you know, it would be heartbreaking for me and nerve racking and, you know, to me, there was no story that's worth losing your life over. I value life over, you know, reporting. I mean, of course, the story is important, but not more important. than their lives so that's really my biggest concern.


He was one of the music world’s biggest stars in the 1990s as a founding member of the Fugees. Since then, Wyclef Jean has become a seven-time platinum selling artist with three Grammy Awards to his credit. Nine albums and 78 million records sold; he is an internationally recognized name. He has also not been shy about his presidential aspirations. VOA recently spoke with Jean.

Wyclef Jean:

I'm, I'm talking from experience I was in Haiti when the entire

UN force was there.

VALERIO ST. LOUIS, VOA Creole Service Correspondent:

What has it done since then?

Wyclef Jean:

I was there in Berlin(?) , but that's then people will tell you, that's then.


Now we're talking about a Kenyan force that has a specific mission now going into Haiti and fighting by gangs, stabilizing…

Wyclef Jean:

Again, you see all this energy that's being used now in Aerial Henri, why don't you take that money and put it in Haitian, institutions?


Which institution?

Wyclef Jean:

I would put the money in the police force.


The police force is corrupted, according to the US government and the reports…

Wyclef Jean:

Again again, not all the police forces corrupted, It's like you talking to me right now and we talk about the US and I say, oh, the police forces are corrupted, right? We know this is partly true , so I know that there's parts, right. The National Army might restore that, right, you have a real organization, a base set up.

All I'm, saying, is, in, conjunction, why are the Haitian institutes never included as part of that, and the number? One thing is corruption, then why, don't, you, vest fighting in an anti corruption unit, right, I do believe in, remember, I do say this, I do believe that, our Kenya, Africa, brothers, and sisters going into Haiti, a thousand people and going against the gangs. Remember I told you I just see a forecast again of just, disaster. I don't agree with that policy.


No, you don't agree. So you don’t agree with the the Kenya going to Haiti?

Wyclef Jean:

And then people say to me, all right, take Ariel out and then what?


Right, that's the question, but I always wanna come to this big question, right, this question. So take them out, and then what?

Wyclef Jean:

The people say to me, leave him in and what do you see that’s happening?


Thank you for being with us on The Inside Story.

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For all of those behind the scenes who brought you today’s show, I’m Elizabeth Lee.

We’ll see you next week for The Inside Story.