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Haiti on the Brink By Kim Ives

African UnionHaiti on the Brink By Kim Ives
Demonstrators demanding that Ariel Henry step down skirmished with cops on Jan. 30 in Petit Goâve.

Never have revolutionary conditions in Haiti been so favorable.

The government of de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry is completely illegitimate, ineffective, and unpopular. The U.S. empire is preoccupied and overextended in contending with crises in Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, and Yemen. Conflict with Iran, Lebanon, or China may erupt at any moment.

But, above all, the Haitian masses are fed up, hungry, angry, and ready to begin down the rocky road of revolution, by all indications. In other words, Haiti’s “subjective conditions” are ripe.

To start with, last Fri., Jan. 26 delivered two huge legal defeats to the U.S. empire.

Speaking in Kreyòl, Spanish, and English from his base in southern Haiti, Guy Philippe regularly broadcasts, on Youtube and his website, messages to Haitians and foreigners, like this one on Jan. 21 to the people of Kenya.

The first was the ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) in favor of South Africa’s case that Israel was committing genocide with its unrelenting assault on Gaza, which has killed close to 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Haitians took note that the tide appears to be turning in such international bodies which Washington has long controlled.

But the second legal defeat was the ruling by Kenya’s High Court that Kenyan police could not be constitutionally deployed to lead the Washington-devised Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS) to Haiti, endorsed by the UN on Oct. 2, 2023.

Kenyan President William Ruto said he will appeal the ruling, which was over three months in coming, to Kenya’s Appeals Court and even the Supreme Court. So at the very least, the Kenyan cops will not be deployed anytime soon, if ever.

After the ruling, MSS participant Bahamas also demobilized, with National Security Minister Wayne Munroe saying that his troops will not be deployed until the Bahamian government knows exactly what its soldiers would do in Haiti.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti put on a brave face, issuing a statement that its “commitment to the Haitian people remains unwavering” as well as its support for its foundering MSS project.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Petit Goâve on Jan. 30, demanding Ariel Henry resign.

However, the de facto government which asked for the MSS may soon be supplanted by a new revolutionary government, which would surely retract the request.

On Tue., Jan. 30, Henry asked the High Council for the Transition (HCT) – which formally guides the nation – and its titular leader, former First Lady and presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat, for a meeting at noon. The body refused the request.

To make matters worse, there is a good chance that Guy Philippe, the former “rebel” leader and senator-elect who just spent seven years in U.S. jails, will finally arrive in Port-au-Prince this week, perhaps as early as Jan. 31. Since his repatriation to Haiti in November, Philippe has been calling for revolution, organizing a militia, exhorting Haitians in rallies around the country and on social media platforms to rise up against “the system” and oust Ariel Henry, and to fight against “imperialism” and the MSS’s deployment. In response, a growing number of demonstrations, strikes, barricades, and civil disobedience actions have gripped Haiti.

That movement has garnered the support of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, with its current leader, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, last week telling Le Nouvelliste: “Fanmi Lavalas is listening and remains in solidarity with the demands of the population who are demanding profound changes expressed by the “chavire chodyè” [overturn the pot] reflecting their desire to break with this system based on bad governance, social injustices, corruption, and programmed insecurity.”

In addition, former Lavalas Senator Moïse Jean-Charles’ breakaway party, the Children of Dessalines (Pitit Desalin), has held large rallies in the northern city of Cap Haïtien, to express his support for the growing people’s movement and calling for five days – from Feb. 1-5 – of demonstrations, mobilizations, and other actions, not excluding violent ones, to oust PM Henry.

Jeantel Joseph, who the BSAP militia, was fired by PM Ariel Henry on Jan. 23 but refuses to accept his dismissal.

Almost the entire political class has fixed Feb. 7 as the deadline by which Henry must step down, because he promised as much when his government launched the HCT on Dec. 21, 2022. Now almost all of Haiti and its diaspora, including long silent figures like celebrity musician Wyclef Jean, are calling on him to resign.

But Henry appears to be retrenching and even pouring gasoline on the fire.

On Jan. 23, 2024, the official government journal Le Moniteur announced the firing of Jeantel Joseph as the Environment Ministry’s National Agency for Protected Areas (ANAP) director general, who directs the agents of the Protected Areas Surveillance Brigade (BSAP).

In recent months, BSAP has grown from a few dozen agents to become a large militia of over 15,000 troops, and, according to some estimates, perhaps two or three times that number.

“In the Southeast Department alone, there are 20,200 BSAP members,” an unofficial  BSAP spokesman told Haïti Liberté. There are ten regional departments in Haiti.

The BSAP troops, which in videos can be seen assembling in formation in towns across Haiti ranging from the cruise ship destination Labadee in the north to the dusty Central Plateau town of Lascahobas, are not loyal to Ariel’s government but to Jeantel Joseph personally.

“BSAP is still a coherent force under Jeantel,” said a source who works closely with Joseph.

Joseph rejects his dismissal, saying he was appointed to the post by President Jovenel Moïse and can only be removed by a Presidential decree, not that of a de facto Prime Minister.

“I SUPPORT A MOVEMENT TO OVERTURN THE SYSTEM, AND THAT MEANS NOT JUST OVERTURNING ARIEL HENRY AND ALL HIS ACOLYTES.”

Although most of the BSAP troops are unpaid, unarmed, and minimally trained, they are procuring guns, getting more training, and most are glad to volunteer for now, according to sources close to Joseph.

He is the nominal head of Guy Philippe’s party, and, hence, one of Philippe’s lieutenants, making Philippe BSAP’s effective leader.

His plan is to turn BSAP into a well organized armed force that will subdue the criminal gangs plaguing Haiti (“reestablishing security in Haiti in 90 days” is his refrain) and, if necessary, chase Ariel Henry from power.

On Jan. 29, the government banned BSAP members from carrying arms, wearing uniforms, or circulating in towns, while ordering them to register immediately at the nearest Environment Ministry office. The decree stands absolutely no chance of being respected.

Philippe, a former police chief, is calling on the Haitian National Police (PNH) rank-and-file to side with the people’s movement and not combat the BSAP agents.

“There have been some near clashes, but no actual violence, to my knowledge,” said our source close to Joseph.

Although Philippe is presented by many as being the popular uprising’s leader, others characterize him more as a mere catalyst

“Don’t support Guy Philippe, but support the people in this battle, because Haiti has to get out of this mess.” Sherlson Sanon speaking on Radio Tele Eclair on Jan. 19, 2024.

“I don’t say that I’m a Guy Philippe fanatic, but when your house catches fire and you have to put it out to save your home and family inside, you will accept help from anybody who brings water, and afterwards you will examine his face,” said Sherlson Sanon in a viral Radio Tele Eclair interview last week. Sanon is a former security agent who has widely denounced the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) director Pierre Espérance for framing him for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent 10 years, untried, in prison until his release in January 2023. Espérance, a leading 2004 coup supporter, has been attacking Philippe and thereby objectively defending Ariel Henry, Sanon said.

“I ask all the people who believe in me and know that I’m not corrupt, don’t support Guy Philippe but support the people in this battle, because Haiti has to get out of this mess… I support a movement to overturn the system, and that means not just overturning Ariel Henry and all his acolytes,” Sanon concluded.

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