Can Haiti's wretched misery get any worse? We think soSunday, October 24, 2021
O wretched state, O bosom black as death, Oh limed (trapped) soul, that struggling to be free, Art more engaged (ensnared)! Help, Angels! William Shakespeare's Hamlet
Every time that one is tempted to think that a country's woes could not get any worse, Haiti — Jamaica's French-speaking neighbour and the first free black Republic — proves one wrong. And then some!
It is already such a sordid tale that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Is there to be no end to her long, sad history of poverty, government corruption, brutal violence, dictatorship, civilian and military, and political instability?
From one shining moment in history when its slaves liberated themselves from French colonialism, in a process which came to be known as the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Haiti has suffered invasions, natural disasters of all kinds and a super-rich elite that ships its profits out of the country.
The only activity which thrives in Haiti, it would seem, is narcotics trafficking and gun smuggling — in which Jamaican thugs are ensnared. To this we can add kidnapping for ransom, the latest being American and Canadian missionaries.
For those with a heart and a conscience, it is gut-wrenching to see thousands of Haitians fleeing their god-forsaken country and largely finding doors slammed in their faces in one country after another, roaming the world like stateless nomads.
And recent events do not give any reason to have hope: Hurricanes, earthquakes, increased violence, surging crime, the novel coronavirus pandemic, a drastic rise in kidnapping — 119 cases in the first half of October — and, of course, the turmoil brought about by the assassination of the democratically elected President Jovenel Moïse in July this year.
Yet, we believe it can still get worse, because the country is at this moment sinking into a quagmire of intensified lawlessness, absence of social order and uncertainty of political governance.
The assassination of President Moïse, ostensibly over the length of his term in office, has been followed by uncertainties regarding the very legitimacy of the interim Government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
This is complicated by widespread claims about Mr Henry's alleged complicity in President Moïse's assassination. Parliamentary elections, which allowed Moise to govern by decree after early 2020, are now pushed back into 2022, and presidential elections may not be held until 2023.
Jamaicans cannot afford to feel apart from the horrors of this massive human tragedy. Nor should The Bahamas or the Dominican Republic which, by the way, has its share of the blame, for running out Haitians, including many born in that Spanish-speaking neighbour.
The upheaval could set off another large and unmanageable flow of refugees as desperate Haitians are blocked from entering the United States and repatriated. It is to be noted that one of the chief suspects in Moise's assassination was caught in Jamaica.
It could also increase the flow of illegal guns and ammunition from Haiti into Jamaica, possibly leading to more gun violence here.
Jamaica needs to not just pay attention to events in Haiti but step up its role in the Caribbean Community and the international community to achieve a holistic humanitarian intervention to avert the total implosion of Haiti.