“…You expect the Haitian people to be ashamed of choosing the actor/entertainer/ musician Sweet Mickey who has entertained most of us with his jokes, beautiful melodies, and acting on set for over 20 years? Why?”(A question posed to Bookmanlit.)
Michel Martelly is no newcomer to Haitian politics, but with the help of the public relations firm Ostos and Sola, the shrewd Compas artist, who has had many of Haiti’s most notorious politicians as his patrons, deftly presented himself as the candidate of change. Amazingly, he did this without having to repudiate his links to FRAPH and to the Duvalier regime. In choosing Martelly, many Haitians, particularly those under 25, yearned for someone different from the countless ineffective politicians in office:politicians who ignore the language of the people and speak French; politicians who enjoy the perks of office without making an effort to solve the country’s ailments. Is Martelly a departure from those politicians or does he share their attitudes but has simply never held office? His first press conference after obtaining the people’s vote, may have given us a clue. His speech was delivered almost entirely in French without Creole translation. The majority of Haitians were shut out from whatever it was that he said.
What will a Martelly administration look like?For those of us who lived through the years of the Duvalier dictatorship, and for the families and friends of the estimated thousands who were killed by the regime, it is alarming to learn that Duvalierists were active in Martelly’s campaign- and are likely to be part of his government.Shouldn’t we be concerned about a return of Duvalier sympathizers to office? Or are Micky’s jokes, melodies, and antics so entertaining, they can make us forget his tacit approval of governments that have not protected the human and civil rights of the Haitian people.
The majority of Haitians are too young to remember the repression of the Duvalier years and Haitian schools are predominantly run by foreign NGO’s and Christian groups that have done a miserable job of teaching Haitians their history and culture.Until schools pick up the task, it is the duty of the older generation to remind the new of what occurred under Duvalier. If this generation is not instructed about what truly happened, the brutality, the menace, and the repression of those years can make a comeback and that will not be to Haiti’s benefit.
Already there are people encouraging Martelly to do as he pleases, singing, “Prezidan vire dada w jan w vle; peyi a se pou wou.” It is a song adapted from “Divalye, vire bouda w jan vle, peyi a se pou wou.”That’s a worrisome sign because the reality is that “peyi a se pou nou tout.” One should never give a president license to do whatever he wants. We need to hold him accountable. “Tout chèf san brid move.”When leaders, at our behest, are encouraged to ignore law and order to do as they please, it is always the people who suffer.
Although most rulers want free reign, Martelly’s great task is to show that he wants to rein himself in. When people take to the streets and say do as you please, the reality of what they are saying is that they want to do as they please, and in return Martelly can depend on their support. That is how it worked with Duvalier’s macoutes.For the sake of a better Haiti, Martelly needs to make it clear to everyone that he is here to work within the law and not to do as he pleases. If Martelly is able to do that, he will offer real change: the kind of change that says that my supporters do not rule the streets; the law does.
It is expected that some Martelly fanatics will shave their heads and join a chorus of Martelly cheerleaders. If this is a show of joy and excitement for change, then there is nothing wrong with it. If however, it erodes into a pink militia, then it will be a setback for the country, and not the way to blaze a new trail. It will be no change at all.We have been there before.
We have given Martelly the job of leading the country. If we want him to succeed, we must be demanding of him and we must be demanding of ourselves. We must choose to be advisors, builders, supervisors working together to buttress our democratic institutions and to demand of each arm of our government that they respect the limits of their power. Neither the president nor the congressmen, the judges nor the police, the citizens nor the senators should have the right to do as they please. None of us should “vire bouda n jan nou vle.”. Real change is when the President makes that clear to all.
Update: No One in Haiti Should Have the Right to Rule by Decree
Real change will come to Haiti only when we break with the past and we acknowledge the failure of Duvalier's autocratic rule. Real change will come when we embrace a democratic future. As January 12, 2015 approaches, Haiti is once again heading perilously towards despotism and dictatorship as failure to hold elections in the past 4 years has resulted in a dysfunctional Senate and Congress made up of presidential appointees rather than elected representatives. As the term of many of these officials expires on January 12, Martelly has been theathening that he must now rule by decree. No one in Haiti should have the right to rule by decree. Too many Haitians have given their lives so that the voices of all Haitians can be counted. Hopefully, the Haitian people will not swallow this setback to their democracy. Hopefully, on January 12, Martelly will not repeat Duvalier's fatal error of telling Haitians "Sak pa kontan, anbake". Hopefully, he will embrace a a more democratic future that acknowledges that every Haitian citizen has something to contribute "pou fè Ayiti avanse."
Updated on December 5th, 2014.
This essay has been updated from a previous essay which was originally written on April 7, 2011
208 years ago, on April 7, 1803, one of Haiti’s founding fathers, Toussaint Louverture died in a cold dungeon in France far away from his beloved Haiti. He left behind a population of people who had become the masters of their own fate. Even as he perished, Toussaint knew that the final victory was his because the Haitian people, courageous as they are, would carry on the fight to create a brave new world built upon the principles of human rights, justice, and self-determination. It is now time to get the job done, for the betterment of our lives, for the honor of our foreparents and for the respect of our children. Viv Ayiti.
1.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfrV8Qw2Pms&feature=related This is a video of Michel Martelly’s first press conference as the new President elect. Creole is given lip service in the introduction and conclusion of the conference. The French language is then used to conduct business as usual.
2.http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/04/05/sweet-micky-is-haitis-next-president-reliable-democrat-or-reckless-demagogue/ This Time magazine article reports that many Duvalierists were involved in Martelly’s campaign.