Haiti’s earthquake victims step up demands for housing

By Roger Annis & Kim Ives, July 4, 2012

The following article was published on the Haiti blog of Rabble.ca. It also appears in the July 4 issue of Haiti Liberté newsweekly.

The plight of some 400,000 Haitians still living under tarps and tents since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake has surged into the streets and headlines in recent weeks, highlighting one of Haiti’s most explosive and intractable issues. A new grassroots campaign, an international petition, several new reports, and street demonstrations are underscoring the problem’s urgency.

On May 31, dozens of protesters mobilized by the Forces for Reflection and Action on Housing Matters (FRAKKA) demonstrated in front of the office of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to denounce the broken promises of Haitian government officials to provide housing for earthquake victims. “We in FRAKKA have noted the growing speed of forced expulsions against the displaced people camps,” said Rénel Sanon, FRAKKA’s Secretary General.

For almost one year now, the government of President Michel Martelly has trumpeted a program entitled ‘16/6’ under which about 30,000 residents of six large camps would be resettled to their original but repaired 16 neighborhoods, all of which were badly damaged by the quake. The program has been heavily supported by foreign governments, including Canada. To encourage people to leave camps, residents were told they will receive a one-year rental subsidy of $500 per family.

Continue reading Haiti’s earthquake victims step up demands for housing

In the News: The legality or not of President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes

Interview with lawyers Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon: How President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes are illegal

Interview by Kim Ives and Roger Leduc, published in Haiti Liberte, June 14, 2012

Haitian President Joseph Michel Martelly recently announced his intention to publish amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution during the month of June. Once published in the government’s official journal Le Moniteur, laws are supposed to go into effect. But according to Haiti’s existing 1987 Constitution, amendments made during one administration are not supposed to take effect until the following administration.

Martelly’s plan to publish the amendments, which were partially and faultily drafted under Haiti’s last president, René Préval (2006-2011), has provoked a storm of protest among constitutional scholars, lawyers, politicians, and activists who charge that it would be patently illegal. But the U.S. and its allies continue to push Martelly to publish the amendments despite widespread and vehement objections.

On June 7, Kim Ives and Roger Leduc interviewed Mario Joseph, the lead lawyer of the Office of International Lawyers (BAI) based in Port-au-Prince, and lawyer Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) on the radio program “Haiti: The Struggle Continues,” broadcast every Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m. on the Pacifica Network’s WBAI-FM in New York (streamed live and archived on www.wbai.org). What follows is an edited version of that interview. Mario Joseph’s responses in Kreyòl have been translated into English.

Kim Ives: Brian, can you briefly explain what are the key amendments to the Constitution that have been drafted, and what has gone wrong with their publication?

Brian Concannon: One overarching theme which is often lost in this discussion is the whole idea of why you have a constitution. Constitutions are by design hard to amend because they are supposed to set down your bedrock principles that can’t be changed quickly or easily. Constitutions are hard to change, you have to do it with a two-thirds vote, and, in almost all constitutions, you need to do it through some specialized procedure. The basic problem here is that the Haitian Constitution’s drafters made amendments a fairly easy procedure.

The way you’re supposed to do it is this. An outgoing legislature in its last session votes a law, and then the next legislature – which comes in with the next president – votes on the same law, up or down, just after an election, after the people have had an opportunity to have some say. The people get their input by having the elections.

What happened was this: in October 2009, the outgoing legislature voted a law, and then in 2011, a new legislature changed it, making a very different law. The hard part is that nobody really knows what that law is. The legislature claims that it has one version; former President Préval claims that he has another version. There’s lots of problems with both versions, and nobody really knows what’s in both.

A lot of people like some of the proposed changes, like those which allow double nationality and set a goal of 30% participation of women in government. But some of the changes might affect the fundamental democratic structure of the country. For example, the new law allows the president to name local officials instead of having them be elected; it changes the terms of senators and deputies in ways that might suggest the changes should not be made in the haphazard way they’ve been done.

Read the rest at the CHAN website.

In the News: United Kingdom to establish first embassy in Haiti since 1966

Haiti will soon be home to the first United Kingdom diplomatic representation in Haiti since 1966, according to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. The new British Embassy in Haiti will report to the UK’s Ambassador in the Dominican Republic.

“It will place us in a stronger position to support our objectives in Haiti and the region,” Hague said in a statement. “The UK is a major contributor both to reconstruction and development in Haiti through multilateral agencies.”

The UK is also one of the major financial contributors to MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. “It is in Britain’s interest as a P5 member of the UN Security Council to play a more active role in guaranteeing stability and creating the conditions for growth and prosperity,” he said.

Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said he welcomed British authorities’ decision, according to a release from his office. Lamothe said he saw the move by the United Kingdom as an opportunity for Haiti to move closer to the UK through “fruitful cooperation for the benefit of the Haitian people.”

Caribbean Journal

Review of Leah Gordon’s photo exhibition

‘The photographic representation, Haiti’s external perception, is the crucible of racial anxiety’, Leah Gordon tells me. Her black and white photographs of the pre-Lenten Mardi Gras Kanaval in Jacmel, Haiti intervene in this cultural milieu, but act less as ethnographic documents and more as performed ethnography, as Myron M Beasley, Professor of African-American Studies at Bates College has categorised them. Existing between portraiture and reportage, the photographs tap into the cultural memory and history that the characters captured re-enact, through the uncanny, the grotesque, the hyperbole celebrated and exorcised through this folk ritual. ‘I was very impressed by the fact that the production of culture is still in the hands of the subaltern class in Haiti, which makes a co-existence with the production of history’. Through the confident gaze of the camera- a 50 year old Roleiicord twin lens reflex- this history becomes an Artaudian spectacle, one in which identity is displaced, tapping into an otherness that is dominant and reflexive.

a-n Magazine‘s review of Leah Gordon’s exhibit: “Leah Gordon: Kanaval – Vodou, Politics And Revolution On The Streets Of Haiti”

Details about the show

Al Jazeera on MINUSTAH

I was looking around on YouTube for some new videos to highlight on THAC’s new WordPress blog, and I stumbled upon this video by Al Jazeera about MINUSTAH:

I confess that I’m usually fond of Al Jazeera’s coverage. In the days after the earthquake, they were one of the few news agencies to really hone in on the relationship between the last decade of destabilization and Haiti’s lack of readiness or capacity to respond to the disaster. But this video left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied.

Continue reading Al Jazeera on MINUSTAH

Brian Concannon talks about social justice work

I just discovered this video of the IJDH’s Brian Concannon talking about refining his social justice work and the work he does in Haiti. It’s a pretty interesting talk.

I particularly like his “four take-aways” for working in social justice/human rights work:

  1. Plan and prepare your career path, but be prepared to take advantage of unexpected opportunities
  2. It is possible to have a fulfilling and rewarding career, but be flexible about what that means
  3. Be confident in your role, but never be certain that what you’re doing is the right thing to do
  4. Fill your toolbox. Develop a variety of skills that could include fundraising, networking, etc.