• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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How not to help a country: Aid and the collapse of Haiti

How not to help a country: Aid and the collapse of Haiti

Last year, I wrote about how Haiti’s institutions were completely hollowed out by the inflow of aid after the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured another 300,000, displaced more than 1.5 million people, and virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure.

In response to the earthquake, states, multilateral and humanitarian organisations flooded Haiti with various forms of aid and assistance to help the country cope with the devastation of the earthquake.

Over $13.5 billion of aid was donated in 11 years. However, due to the way aid is administered, the massive injections robbed the Haitian government of legitimacy, destroyed its already weak institutions, and destroyed many local businesses and the local economy including health and agriculture by pushing up wages, rents, and prices.

The aid programmes created a huge parallel government run by NGOs and contractors that kept the country artificially alive, side-lined the government and didn’t give it any incentive to undertake necessary reforms. Of course, by the time the aid inflow dried up, Haiti was in a worse place.

Poverty became rife, unemployment skyrocketed, and health outcomes deteriorated since most of the country’s professionals either worked for aid agencies and most local hospitals and pharmacies had closed shop due to the free medical services provided by NGOs.

Worse, all assessments showed that virtually all state institutions had been hollowed out and were in worse shape than before the earthquake. Even the security agencies virtually collapsed since most aid groups hired their own security.

According to some estimates last year, some 60 percent of Haitians are unemployed, half of the country was facing severe malnutrition and kidnapping and crime became the only business in town available to many people. Of course, in no time, criminal gangs took over most part of the country and security and other services became highly privatised.

With the aid agencies taking over most government responsibilities after the earthquake, government officials and the elite became much more corrupt and nepotistic, using their positions to corruptly enrich themselves, and entrench and secure their various selfish positions. So hollowed-out did state institutions become that the nominal task of conducting elections became virtually impossible to pull off.

The hollowing out of Haiti’s institutions finally became apparent when, on July 7 last year, about 50 gunmen stormed President Moise’s house on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, shouting ‘D.E.A, D.E.A’ (American Drug Enforcement), walked passed the hundreds of presidential guards there without firing a single shot, entered Moise’s bedroom, shot him to death, injured his wife, walked out and left the scene without a single shot being fired by the guards.

Although some Colombian mercenaries have been arrested for carrying out the attack itself, the task of unravelling those who ordered the killings remains.

A few weeks after his assassination, his wife, Martine Moise, who was with him when he was killed and had to pretend to be dead also, had told the New York Times that his killers “had been looking for a document, which was later described as a list of politicians and business people involved in the weapons and drug trade.” But just like the many who were denied justice under Moise, there is no sign yet that even he could get justice.

Further investigation by NY Times Maria Abi-Habib has since shown that Moise himself had been part of a vast drug trade and money laundering operation masquerading as an eel (fish) business controlled by a former president’s brother-in-law, Charles Saint-Remy, nicknamed Kiko, even before he was handpicked by the former president, Michel Martelly, to succeed him in office as president in 2016. Kiko is known to be quite notorious and can rough you up, destroy your business, or even disappear anyone who interferes with his business or does not adhere to his rules.

He also personally confessed to being a drug dealer, but he said he left that behind and that his businesses are now legitimate, at least since his brother-in-law became president. However, the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says he is suspected of still being a narco trafficker.

Read also: Kidnappers swarm Port Harcourt

Kiko got so powerful that he operated airstrips in a faraway town with absolutely no government presence. His shipments into and out of Haiti were not inspected or searched by the Customs. While not being able to directly say who was responsible for Moise’s assassination, close confidants of the assassinated leader said just a week before he was killed, he ordered that Kiko’s shipments must be inspected and that the airstrips must be closed.

Besides, there is the tussle for power and conflict with his predecessor and godfather, former President Michel Martelly, who had to settle on Moise because the constitution prevented him from running for a consecutive second term in office. Moise was brought in as a sort of a placeholder or benchwarmer, just as Dmitry Medvedev was for Putin in Russia.

However, Moise felt he was being undermined by the extreme corruption and state capture by the former president and his family and friends. He wanted to assert himself and possibly dismantle the huge cartel that controls Haiti. He never lived to do any of those planned reforms.

Meanwhile, since Moise’s assassination one year ago, the security and economic situations in Haiti have only gotten worse. Haiti is a virtual no-go area now as kidnapping is now more frequent and vicious.

This is besides the unusually high unemployment, inflation, fuel shortages, and food insecurity. Security and government presence even in the capital has almost completely collapsed as rival gangs control various parts of the country and capital and frequent and brutal killings are now the order of the day.

Haitians are desperately deserting the country looking for refuge in just about any other country with many dying at sea in an attempt to escape the carnage at home.