UN chief calls for global help to end Haiti’s ‘living nightmare’

Indian Central Reserve Police personnel served with MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH for 11 years starting in 2008 to the UN operations’ end in 2019.

Arul Louis Jul 07, 2023
 Indian peacekeepers from the Central Reserve Police leave Haiti after the end of United Nations peacekeeping operations there in 2019. (File Photo: UN)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for international help to end the “living nightmare” that the Caribbean nation of Haiti has spiralled into four years after the UN ended its controversial peacekeeping operations there.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday after a visit to Haiti, he said, “The world must act now to stem the violence and instability”.

He described the harrowing conditions there: “Brutal gangs have a stranglehold on the people of Haiti. [Capital] Port-au-Prince is encircled by armed groups that are blocking roads, controlling access to food and health care, and undermining humanitarian support”. 

But he ruled out resuming direct UN operations there and there were no takers for his call last year for a rapid action force to help Haitian police end the anarchy.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has repeatedly asked for international help to back up his nation’s beleaguered police.

This time around, Guterres may find help after he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made personal appeals in Trinidad this week to Caribbean leaders at the summit of their 15-member Caricom group.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, the current head of Caricom, has said that his group was open to helping the Haitian police provided the UN Security Council empowers it and Western nations pick up the tab.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who spoke at Thursday’s Security Council meeting on Haiti, said that there was urgent need for a political solution to the crisis in Haiti.

Earlier this year, he had offered to deploy police and troops in Haiti.  Some other countries like the Bahamas have also shown willingness, but the question of who will lead the operation has put those offers on hold.

Now the search is on for a lead nation for a Haiti operation.

UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti have a controversial history with wavering international support and internal problems making nations wary of stepping into anarchy where their personnel will have to actively confront local criminal gangs.

The UN’s peacekeeping started in Haiti in 1994 after the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was restored after a coup and the first operation known as UN Mission in Haiti operated till 1996.

As Haiti slid further into anarchy after another coup in 2004 ousted Arisitede, the Security Council authorised a new mission, UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, in 2004 and it lasted till 2017.

MINUSTAH’s tenure was marred by a cholera outbreak in 2010 caused by poor sanitary conditions and attributed to peacekeepers from Nepal that claimed an estimated 10,000 lives and sickened more than 800,000 people.

MINUSTAH was succeeded by a less ambitious operation, UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) later in 2017 and it ended in 2019, marking the end of UN peacekeeping there.

Indian Central Reserve Police personnel served with MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH for 11 years starting in 2008 to the UN operations’ end in 2019.


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