On Campaign Trail, Martelly Pledges to Restore Disbanded Military Force

July 21, 2015

After launching the electoral campaign of his political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), in Cap-Haitien last week, Martelly has renewed his 2011 campaign pledge to restore the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H), reports Le Nouvelliste. In a rally held in the Palmes region in the Southeast department over the weekend, Martelly stated that his previous pledge was not false. He added that since his mandate began, “I have been around the world to meet with representatives of major countries on the issue.”

In February 2014, Martelly formally requested technical advice on the creation of a military from the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), a body of the Organization of American States.  Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the military in 1995 as the force was involved in numerous human rights violations and coup d’etats. Nevertheless, on June 25, 2015, the IADB met with Haitian authorities in Port-au-Prince to officially present a “white paper” outlining the formation of a new defense force. The process has been led by Haitian Minister of Defense Renauld Lener, himself a former major in the FAd’H.

The Director General of the IADB, Vice Admiral Bento Costa Lima Leite de Albuquerque Junior, in announcing the finalization of the “white paper” told the audience:

The principle innovation of the Haitian White Paper, with respect to others, is that it covers the global interests of security, without limiting exclusively to questions of defense. It defines the strategic guidelines of security and national defense that give answers to “all the risks and threats that could make the life of the nation vulnerable” and the interweaving with the economic development and social sustainability of the country. The field of national security includes defense policies, but doesn’t limit itself to it. Other policies, like the exterior policies and the economic policies, also contribute directly to national security.

Therefore, we understand that the Haitian White Paper of also [sic] defines a concrete space of international cooperation in the future, to the extent that the document ordered, systematized and establishes axes and sets areas of priorities for the country.

When Martelly first came to office pledging to restore the Haitian military, the plan was met with fierce resistance, both within and outside of Haiti, with key donor governments including the U.S. opposed to the idea. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press in 2011: “The Haitian army has basically been an army that’s been used against the Haitian people … It was there as an instrument of repression, so it’s hard to see what Haiti gains by bringing back the army.”

A document leaked to the AP in 2011 pointed to internal security as a key aspect of the newly planned force, stating, “The fragility of the Haitian state now makes it vulnerable to the risks of internal unrest that could plunge the country into anarchy.” The “white paper” presented last month has not been made public.

But whereas Martelly’s initial pledge to restore the military was met with resistance from the international community, this latest move appears to have the backing of key regional and international organizations. The IADB Director General thanked both member countries of the Organization of American States and the United Nations for their assistance in the development of the “white paper.” This latest push coincides with the planned drawdown of U.N. troops in Haiti, and indeed Martelly hinted that the new force would be able to replace the U.N. troops, in his speech this weekend.

Martelly appears committed to pushing this newly constituted force through before his term expires in early 2016. In his speech, he said, “Recruitment for the remobilization of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H) will start beginning in October,” adding that recruitment will focus on the youth of the country. This echoes his comments from the campaign trail in 2011 when he told the Toronto Star that he envisioned an army that would “create employment” and “integrate youth.”

With elections four-years delayed, Martelly currently is able to rule by decree, preventing legislative oversight of the process guiding the reconstitution of the army. Under pressure from the international community, Martelly has limited his decree power to scheduling elections. Top State Department officials in Washington, however, have indicated that Martelly has a strong desire not to be a “lame duck” during his last months in office.  Will reconstituting the FAd’H be Martelly’s final act as president?

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