THE Core Group on Haiti was recently reported as having appeared to “snub” Claude Joseph (who previously announced he was running Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise) in favour instead of Ariel Henry, whom Moise had just designated as Prime Minister but was not yet sworn in.
The Group, comprising the Haiti-based representatives of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Spain, the USA, the OAS and the UN, “strongly (encouraged…) Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form (a consensual and inclusive government).”
Defying consensus, however, the UN member of the Group had, days before, unilaterally backed Joseph on the basis of her interpretation, bewildering to many, of the Haitian Constitution.
In a sharp retort to the Group, PM Dr Rowley fumed that it wasn’t so much Joseph who had been rebuffed. “The real snub and outright INSULT (his capital letters) is the absence of even a mention (far less recognition in any form) of Caricom.
"Haiti is a full member of Caricom, its largest member, and this lack of recognition and involvement combined is an insult to all of us, coming from those who designate themselves the ‘Core Group’…We are either a respectable Caricom or we are fawning vassals deserving of such disrespect.”
I understand how Rowley felt.
But I learned a long time ago that with Haiti, things are often not what they seem. The country, as Winston Churchill once said of Russia, is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
First, what is the Core Group? It was created by a UN Security Council resolution of April 30, 2004 following the forced removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the presidency.
Its mandate was set out in that resolution, which specifically includes Caricom as one of its members. At the time, I was the Special Adviser on Haiti of the late UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and I was present when the resolution was adopted.
Earlier that morning, some of my comments to the council on the Haiti situation had so grievously upset the French Ambassador that he stormed out of the chamber. I was unmoved. I told him subsequently that, as an adviser, I had a duty to give my best advice, which would not necessarily conform with the council’s views.
Second, what role, if any, has Caricom played in the Core Group over the last 17 years? Some historical background is necessary here. Haiti came into Caricom through the intense efforts of former Jamaica PM, PJ Patterson, who felt, rightly, that the country, geographically our neighbour, was isolated from us politically, economically, culturally and otherwise.
Understandably, Patterson was furious at Aristide’s overthrow, especially since Caricom-driven Plans of Action for Haiti had already been drawn up.
I am advised that since 2004, Caricom hasn’t had much to do with the Core Group. Perhaps what the organisation saw as the original sin of betrayal still rankles.
Third, as we know, many negatives on Haiti and Haitians are bandied about. What we hear, repeatedly and contemptuously, is that Haiti is the poorest country in this hemisphere and the backward home of voodoo.
In my experience, Haitians, however disadvantaged they be, overwhelmingly take great pride in being Haitian. Among other things, that means they resent foreign intrusion (of which there’s been far too much these last 200-odd years) into their affairs, and I’m told that Claude Joseph took much flak for requesting UN and US troops.
In that context, many Haitians are hostile to what they perceive as the interventionist arrogance of the Core Group (foreigners instructed by their headquarters) in effectively removing Joseph and replacing him with Henry, whom they dismiss as a “puppet of the international community.”
Caricom is well out of that. But it still doesn’t have its act together, not only on Haiti.