Time to End Thirteen Years Of U.N. Scandals And Occupation In Haiti

<em>“Neg Mawon” or “Unknown Slave” statue; on the boulevard Champ de Mars. A powerful symbol of slavery and freedom, the conc
“Neg Mawon” or “Unknown Slave” statue; on the boulevard Champ de Mars. A powerful symbol of slavery and freedom, the conch was used to call escaped slaves to gather.

One of the world’s biggest scandals has been ongoing for thirteen years in Haiti, while the mainstream media focuses on lawsuits powerful women file against equally powerful men here in the U.S. A populace wrapped in the Kardashian culture cries crocodile tears over sexual harassment at home while sex sells everything from cars to toothpaste. Meanwhile, a mere hour flight from Miami, United Nations troops have raped children and forced women into a well documented sex slave trade in Haiti since 2004. Why is no one shouting about this? Why do the stories that come out from independent sources like the Haitian Lawyer’s Leadership Network and even Al Jazeera’s Fault Line series get ignored?

Where are all the so-called "Progressive" writers on this issue? Research is easy. Reams have been written, studies have been bought and paid for, and even the United Nations has been touting a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual abuse in its ranks. Unfortunately, the zero tolerance policy has resulted in, well, near zero reform in thirteen years.

Here is the latest statement from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres:

Guterres pledges to finally end sexual abuse, but perhaps the best and only way to accomplish this in Haiti is to go beyond Guterres’ recommendations and remove the 2,370 troops on April 11 when the mandate expires. No more will heinous crimes be wrapped in the mantle of the UN flag--not for one more day, not for one more hour, not for one more minute, and certainly not for another six months.

Guterres issued a strategic assessment that seems reasonable, but falls short in that it is well past time for the occupation to end.

“We therefore recommend, in line with the findings of the strategic assessment, that the mandate of MINUSTAH be extended for a final period of six months and that the Mission close by 15 October 2017. The military component should undergo a staggered but complete withdrawal of the 2,370 personnel within this time frame. Likewise, the Mission’s civilian tasks would be reduced immediately, in a phased manner.”

The danger in this phased approach is that it is always too easy for the international community to find a reason for the U.N. to stay. Six months could turn into six years for any number of reasons ginned up by either the government of Haiti or international interests. It is up to the U.N. Security Council and the Trump Administration not to extend the U.N. mission when it comes up for extension on April 11, but to totally remove it from Haiti.

Blomberg reports that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, President of the Security Council, has been taking a close look at United Nations’ peacekeeping operations as part of a goal to reduce contributions to the international organization.

Haley wanted a significant troop reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo, going so far to say that a “predatory” regime was working hand in glove with the U.N. there.

In an exclusive report, Foreign Policy suggests why Haley “blinked” after threatening to withhold backing for the U.N.’s Congo mission if member nations did not vote to draw down the 17,000 troops by 1,500. She settled for a paltry 370 troop reduction.

“The Security Council — fretting that an abrupt draw-down would create a security vacuum in a country roiled by violence ahead of presidential elections early next year — called her bluff, betting that the United States would not want the blame for cutting and running from a country in chaos. They were right.” (Foreign Policy, March 30, 2017)

How could this happen? The U.N.’s internal reporting puts Congo and Haiti in the dubious running for having the most incidents of sexual abuse. Well, let’s call it like it is, pedophilia, forced prostitution for food, sex for protection—think of the worst without having it spelled out for you. These situations will never be adjudicated in a sterile courtroom with high-powered lawyers in three-piece suits. Restitution will never be made to these women and children—children of both sexes.

Foreign Policy suggests that the Trump administration did not want to be saddled with the blame of a failed state in Congo. This makes sense. Congo is spiraling out of control in a year when the brutal regime of Joseph Kabila has ramped up political persecutions.

But Haiti is a different story, and next week, the U.N. (with major lobbying by the U.S.) can end the abuse in Haiti once and for all. If President Trump also appoints an ambassador to Haiti who can help clean up the rest of the internationally induced mess, it will certainly go a long way for a brighter future for the island nation.

The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) puts it this way in its “Evaluation of the Enforcement and Remedial Assistance Efforts for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations and in Peacekeeping Operations:”

“Sexual exploitation and abuse (henceforth SEA) by military, police and civilian personnel of peacekeeping missions is one of the most conspicuous and consequential departures from the ideals of the Organization. When it occurs – as it does regularly – it can not only damage and destroy the lives of victims, but also taint the reputations of individuals, even countries.”

“Four missions have accounted for the highest number of allegations: the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and United Nations Missions in Sudan and South Sudan (UNMIS and UNMISS). The largest number of allegations involved military personnel, followed by civilians and then the police,” according the OIOS document.

For readers who still do not get it, in November 2007 114 members of the 950 member Sri Lankan Army peacekeeping mission in Haiti were accused of sexual “misconduct.” 108 members, including 3 officers of the 950 member Sri Lanka peacekeeping contingent, were sent back. Their conduct was “alleged.” This was nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Troops had raped children as young as 7 years old.

The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network in the person of Ezili Danto sent a letter to the U.N. in 2009 on the subject of “zero tolerance” and Sri Lanka.

“The newly released U.N. data on abuse falls short of such responsibility and is reprehensible. The investigation into the 114 Sri Lankan soldiers accused of sexually abusing minors and running a brothel in Haiti must be made public to the Haitian people and the victims offered assistance, especially the minors whose childhood innocence cannot be returned."

Perhaps the above video by Al Jazeera’s Fault Line series will convince The Trump Administration to hold the line on Haiti. Watch these women and men, all dignified despite what they have had to endure, offer the best possible reasons why it is well past time for the blue helmets to leave.