The United Nations peacekeeping mission there is one of the longest-running in the world.
Its legacy is filled with accomplishments and controversy.
CGTN’s John Zarrella is in Port-au-Prince with a look back and prospects for the future.
Brazilian peacekeeping troops, on one of their final patrols, drive through the streets of Cite Soleil.
This may be the single most impoverished spot in all the Western Hemisphere. People here have nothing.
The role of the U.N. peacekeeping troops has been to bring stability to Haiti and here to a place like Cite Soleil by showing their presence. Now that role is ending, and their jobs are being turned over to the Haitian police.
The soldiers are part of what is called MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Now, after 13 years, it will end in October. U.N. Special Representative Sandra Honore heads the mission.
“I believe the time is right for the mission to end. I believe that the time is right for Haiti to assume the task that MINUSTAH has been performing,” Honore said.
For the most part, the U.N. has accomplished what it set out to do shepherding the country through peaceful elections, assisting during natural disasters, ridding places like Cite Soleil of violent, murderous gangs. Robert Maguire of George Washington University has studied Haiti for 40 years.
“And I would say the peacekeepers, the troops here that keep the peace, they are really no longer needed. In fact, many Haitians have given them a derogatory nickname instead of MINUSTAH, they call them tourista because they would see the troops standing around and not doing much,” Maguire said.
And there has been a darker, much less flattering side to the U.N. legacy here. There are unresolved cases of sexual exploitation of Haitian women by the soldiers.
And, an epidemic of cholera linked to peacekeepers who arrived after the 2010 earthquake. It took six years for the U.N. to issue an apology for that.
“I must say that ever since the outbreak of the epidemic in 2010, the United Nations has stood solidly by the government of Haiti, the Ministry of Public Health and the population of Haiti and has supported the government in mobilizing some $360 million worth of support to fight the cholera epidemic,” Honore said.
Against this backdrop, many Haitians are quite ready for the peacekeepers to go. They are often referred to as an occupying army. But, the country’s new president, Jovenel Moise, said the exit is too sudden.
“It’s a very bad thing for MINUSTAH to just decide to brutally withdraw everybody the way they’ve decided to do it,” said Moise.
U.N. officials said it’s far from sudden. Last year, the U.N. decided the peacekeeping mission would end this past April with withdrawal complete in October.
A small contingent will replace it to train Haiti’s police force. Of course, what no one knows is whether Haiti will be able to go it alone once the U.N. security blanket is gone.