USAID Field Report Haiti Aug 2005

Report
from US Agency for International Development
Published on 31 Aug 2005


Program Description
In response to growing political turmoil in Haiti, OTI initiated the Haiti Transition Initiative in May 2004 with implementing partner International Organization for Migration. The program emphasizes stability-building measures in key crisis spots through the implementation of quick, visible small projects and activities that promote peace with the following objectives: enhance citizen confidence and participation in peaceful political transition, with specific focus on disaffected communities; promote peaceful interaction among conflicted populations; and constructively engage groups that threaten the peaceful political transition.

Country Situation

MINUSTAH steps up operations - A 12-hour operation in Cite Soleil signaled an increased level of assertiveness by the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) following months of criticism. However, the U.N. concluded that the Cite Soleil section of Port-au-Prince remains under gang control, and security forces are still unable to enter inner areas or conduct foot patrols. One of Haiti's most powerful gang leaders, General Toutou, said he would be willing to surrender if U.N. peacekeepers guaranteed his safety. It is believed that Toutou, whose real name is unknown, is behind many of the kidnappings and killings that have added to the instability in Haiti.

Mass deportations from the Dominican Republic continue -- The Dominican Republic resumed deportations to Haiti in August, returning more than 1,000 people. Haiti recalled its top diplomat to the Dominican Republic after three Haitian migrants were beaten and burned to death in an attack in that country.

Reports accuse Aristide government of stealing -- According to two new reports by the Central Unit for Economic and Financial Investigations and the interim government in Haiti, former President Jean-Bertrande Aristide's government illegally channeled at least $55 million in public funds into private firms that existed only on paper. Government investigators allege that the money was sent into Aristide's charities. Aristide denies any corruption.

Election schedule revised -- Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council twice extended the deadline for political parties to register for upcoming elections, agreeing on Sept. 15 as the final date. Various political parties and groups in civil society have expressed the hope that this additional time will allow moderate candidates from former President Aristide's Lavalas Party to register, thereby ensuring a broader participatory process. On Aug. 9, the interim government announced that local elections will be postponed until a date in late December; presidential and legislative elections will be moved up one week from Nov. 13 to Nov. 6, with a runoff election to be held Dec. 11. Also, a new political coalition was formed in August, regrouping four conservative parties, including the CREDO Party of former President Prosper Avril.

Rebel leader released from prison -- A Haitian rebel leader, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, who once led a paramilitary group accused of killing and torturing thousands of people, was released from prison in August. He was jailed in April 2004 on two counts of murder. He also took part in the armed uprising that ousted President Aristide in February 2004.

Change of guard -- The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley, who had led the U.S. Embassy in Haiti since May 2003, left his post in August. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Timothy Carney, former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.

USAID/OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

The Office of Transition Initiatives is continuing to build strong relationships within the municipalities of St. Marc, Petit Goâve and Cap Haitien, and in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Significant effort is being put into increasing the number of grants approved each month to boost the level of engagement of community members in municipal-improvement activities and to offer short-term wages for labor projects, especially for at-risk youths, in conflict-prone communities. An expansion of activities to the southern city of Les Cayes, where the Haiti Transition Initiative (HTI) team will open a new sub-office in the coming weeks, also has taken place. Many opportunities in Les Cayes have already been identified through a field visit and coordination with MINUSTAH.

Twenty-six "Play for Peace" summer camps were held throughout OTI target cities in August. Camps in Port-au-Prince finished at the end of the month, but other camps were to continue into September for Cap Haitien, St. Marc and Petit Goâve. The camps in Cap Haitien have been particularly appreciated by the community because they not only provide a healthy alternative to violence for local youths, but they also ensure that roughly 3,200 impoverished youths receive at least one meal each day. Complementing the camps are four projects that will train select camp participants in the art of crafting radio stories about the camps and their impact. These projects will establish a mentor system for the youths with the assistance of the RAMAK community radio network.

Staff in St. Marc will build on the positive momentum generated in La Scierie, a St. Marc suburb, by the Play for Peace camps to strengthen the Haiti Transition Initiative's presence in this extremely sensitive area. The political situation in La Scierie continues to grow more tense as political pressure mounts to free former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, currently jailed (without charge) for his participation in the alleged La Scierie massacre. HTI staff recently paid a visit to the municipality of St. Marc, where the deputy mayor expressed his view that the Neptune issue remains the single factor that could destabilize the town.

In Cap Haitien, HTI staff members continue to build the program's presence in troubled areas of town. In August, HTI took staff from the country's electrical utility on a tour to meet with disaffected community members. The coming weeks will see HTI staff make field visits to Milot, a critical locale outside the Cap Haitien metropolitan area. This place is known as the point from which all northern protests by former President Aristide's Lavalas Party are coordinated.

Violence broke out during one of HTI's Play for Peace summer youth activities in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Aug. 20. Widely reported in both national and international press as a lynching, the incident was described by HTI partners in this way: National police arrived with members of a gang, and the gang members proceeded to single out "informants" and attack them with machetes. Fatality figures vary from six to 30. Following the incident, the youth camp was suspended, but activities resumed five days later.

HTI staff members believe that the change in mandate of the U.N. Police (UNPOL) has enhanced citizen confidence in the U.N. force, which now has the authority to carry out law enforcement tasks, rather then simply observing and advising. Through the creation of a toll-free crime hotline, UNPOL is helping citizens report criminal behavior, rather than taking the law into their own hands. HTI is working with UNPOL to avoid any more incidents like the attack that took place on Aug. 20 In Martissant.

In Gonaives, tensions also are growing as the anniversary of Hurricane Jeanne approaches. In late August, residents of the Raboteau neighborhood demonstrated to express their frustration with the absence of government assistance in the post-hurricane reconstruction efforts.

B. Grants Activity Summary

In August, OTI approved 40 grants for $691,003. To date, OTI has approved 189 grants for $4,325,245.

In Cap Haitien, four canal rehabilitation projects will put a new, cleaner face on the city. The build-up of trash in drainage canals has become a point of contention between communities and the municipality, leading to protests and civil disturbances. These projects will bring together local residents and the Ministry of Public Works to conduct a deep cleaning of the canals, providing employment to 40 to 70 community members for up to five weeks.

OTI approved two labor-intensive projects in the Bel Air and Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhoods of the capital of Port-au-Prince. The clean-up of roads and canals in the Fort National section of Bel Air will bring together several well-respected community groups to collaborate with the Ministry of Public Works to improve a neglected area and employ 50 people. In Carrefour-Feuilles, an area of previous Haiti Transition Initiative involvement, more than 1,500 residents will be employed on a project to prevent erosion and deadly mudslides. By terracing the hillside and building 36 kilometers of drywall, the project will bring much-needed short-term employment opportunities to a volatile population and enable the government to gain stronger control over environmental degradation.

Also in Port-au-Prince, latrine-cleaning grants were approved for public housing projects in the Delmas, Bel Air and Cite Soliel sections. These grants are designed to resolve an existing conflict between residents and the government agency that manages the housing units. In previous years, a nominal fee paid by residents was sufficient to cover the costs of the annual cleaning. However, because of the country's political transition, residents have not paid the fee, leaving the agency insufficient funds to clean the latrines. Responding to a critical community priority, these grants will also focus on building dialogue and restoring trust in the housing organization to return it to a sustainable state.

OTI initiated a Play for Peace summer camp in Petit Place Cazeau, the Port-au-Prince stronghold of Lavalas Party presidential candidate Father Gerard Jean-Juste. In addition, the staff met extensively with residents and local activists to develop a list of community priorities. Three new grants came from these discussions: the rehabilitation of the national school and two "Terrains d'Ententes," a football field and a basketball court. The fruits of these efforts were seen during a recent demonstration attended by 200 people. At the same time that the demonstration was taking place, 300 people were enjoying the summer camp activities. It is believed that this camp prevented the demonstration from being larger and giving greater legitimacy to the protesters. The coming weeks will see a deepening of OTI activities in Petit Place Cazeau, where events like the summer camp will become increasingly important now that Father Jean-Juste has been arrested. His imprisonment has inflamed pro-Lavalas fires in the area and made him a martyr to some Haitians.

HTI Office
New Grants in August
Total Committed
Grants
Amount ($)
Grants
Amount ($)
Cap Haitien
10
$149,260
17
$ 292,060
Gonaives


11
$ 460,530
Port-au-Prince
21
$411,748
89
$2,134,396
Petit Goâve
6
$ 91,655
43
$ 802,100
St. Marc
3
$ 38,340
29
$ 636,159
Total
40
$691,003
189
$4,325,245

C. Indicators of Success

Often it is the small victories that have an impact, and in St. Marc in August a few "little things" collectively demonstrated the positive effect of the Haiti Transition Initiative in target neighborhoods.

  • In Portail Montrouis, the entire community showed unparalleled unity around the Play for Peace summer camps by enthusiastically assisting with the organization of events and coordination with the government.

  • Construction of the vocational training school was progressing more quickly than anticipated. The workers were so excited to see activities at the school begin that they asked to work on weekends.

  • Three HTI projects concluded with positive results. Workers at the vocational training school were pleased when workers from the nearby canal-cleaning project started helping them remove dirt from the construction site. With tools from the Municipal Tool Bank, the workers then used the dirt to fill in holes in the road.

Representatives of the government electrical utility group, EDH, accepted the uncomfortable task of visiting Cap Haitien on a "listening tour." The tour stopped at some of the most neglected neighborhoods of the city. The EDH engineer was peppered with difficult questions, including why EDH was unable to meet the electricity needs of the population. After an animated discussion with leaders of neighborhood committees, the community members endorsed a project proposed by EDH to bring electricity to their neighborhoods. Following a successful model of community-government cooperation used in Petit Goâve, HTI will soon submit electrification and public lighting projects for Cap Haitien.

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

In the next month, USAID/OTI Haiti will:

  • Deepen program expansion in new areas such as Cap Haitien and Petit Place Cazeau in Port-au-Prince.

  • Establish a new office in Les Cayes and approve first grants.

  • Continue to work with the International Organization for Migration to improve coordination with MINUSTAH.

  • Develop an evaluation strategy/methodology to assess the impact of the HTI program to date on stated program objectives.

For further information, please contact:

Katherine Donohue, OTI Haiti Program Manager, 202-712-0498, kdonohue@usaid.gov