PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti: The United Nations Security Council has agreed to renew the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for one year. However, the mission’s numbers will be reduced to “pre-earthquake levels.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said after the unanimous resolution was adopted that he “envisions a gradual withdrawal” over the upcoming years. According to journalist, Ansel Herz, many Haitians have been protesting some aspect of MINUSTAH’s presence for at least a year. “There’s a (wide) range of demands,” he said.
“Some people want MINUSTAH… to simply leave… Others are asking that they transform their mission from one of military so-called peacekeeping into development.”
From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem unclear why many Haitians are indignant about the presence of UN peacekeeping troops in their country during such a tumultuous period. However, there have been a number of reports that the protests are a response to accusations of severe misconduct and neglect by a relatively small number of UN troops. These include the appearance of cholera, likely an inadvertent import from Nepalese peacekeepers.
These long-running reports tell the story of a supposed humanitarian group troubled by a series of isolated incidents of abuse and neglect. An in-depth overview of MINUSTAH’s history on the island, however, depicts a security force which seems to systematically serve foreign interests over those of the Haitians.
Local residents are indignant because they see MINUSTAH as a tool of the United States’ self-interest in the region, and because the UN forces have allegedly suppressed democracy, failed to address authentic humanitarian concerns, and even perpetrated violence against Haitian citizens.
By suppressing the Fanmi Lavalas party and other social and political movements, for example, MINUSTAH has actively excluded Haiti’s poor majority from political participation, working against the interests of Haitians fighting for progressive economic and social reform.