Whatever Canada does next, Haiti must be involved in the decision, says ex-governor general Michaëlle Jean

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse Wednesday morning is another line in what former governor-general Michaëlle Jean called the “Shakespearean tragedy” unfolding in Haiti.

The assassination came after years of violent protests and political turmoil. Many viewed Moïse as an illegitimate leader who was growing increasingly more authoritarian. As the violence that preceded the assassination continues, Jean said Canadian government officials are discussing “how to save the nation at this point.”

Foreign interventions in Haiti have often worked against the will of the Haitian people. Democratically elected leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown and exiled in a 2004 coup supported by Canada and other countries, which tarnished the country’s reputation in Haiti, according to Haitian-Canadian activist Jean Saint-Vil in an interview with the Star Wednesday.

Canada also provided $1.5 billion to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, as well as providing assistance through 2,000 army, navy and air force personnel in the aftermath.

Jean said whatever Canada does next, Haiti must be involved in the decision.

“I’m hoping that Canada and other countries that care about Haiti will support an inclusive dialogue,” she said. “That’s the best support that could be provided right now to Haiti. It must happen. If (foreign countries) are always talking amongst themselves and not including what Haitians have to say, what they want and what their aspirations are, we’ll go nowhere.”

The people of Haiti, Jean said, often feel as though they are not able to discuss their country’s future with the foreign decision-makers embedded in their country.

“People don’t want to see foreign chanceries coming to conclusions without consulting or including civil society organizations in Haiti, which are very solid, and Haitian think tanks,” said Jean.

“There are people of great quality in Haiti, I know them, I often participate in their works. They feel as though they are always knocking on the doors of these chanceries, but they are never called to sit down and participate. Haitian citizens want to feel recognized in their sovereignty.”

Although Haiti is unfortunately familiar with having its leaders removed though extrapolitical means, the fact it was an assassination this time, as opposed to kidnapping and exile, coupled with the mystery surrounding who carried out the killing and why, has left Haitians in a state of shock, Jean said.

“In all the phone calls I made and received to and from Haiti, I could sense huge anxiety,” said Jean. “The way this assassination happened, you can see a criminal organization is involved. Unfortunately, they have proliferated in the country.”

Moïse and his wife, Martine Moïse, were both shot in their home Wednesday, Martine non-fatally, by a group that interim Prime Minister of Haiti Claude Joseph called “highly trained and heavily armed.”

Their motive is still unknown. Haitian National Police killed four men said to be suspected of participating in the assassination Wednesday night. Two more men have been detained in connection with the assassination, one of whom is a United States citizen.



Ben Cohen is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn

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