The Haitian Armed Forces (FAD’H); to Be or not to Be?

A distant cousin to the Indigenous army which secured freedom and independence in 1804, the FAD’H (Forces Armées d’Haiti) has been at the forefront of the political life in a country where Coup d’états are as famous as they are numerous.  After one century of regional rivalries and military confrontations the U.S., concerned with the presence of an increasingly influential German community in Haiti and taking advantage of a volatile political situation, intervened and occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.  A ruthless and repressive occupation that left very little including the first version of a professional military institution, the Gardes d’Haiti which became in 1958 the FAD’H.

From 1804 to present day, never have the armed forces been truly subordinate to the civilian power for the benefit of society.  They have always been either directly in power, a tool in the hand of the government and the elite to repress the people or, even worse, a tool at the mercy of the international community.  Those are the things we debated during the show on radio Mega ( where I was a guest of Mr. Alex St Surin who hosts a rather popular daily show called “Carrefour”.

You see, the FAD’H were disbanded in 1994 at the request of then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and with the diligent “assistance” of the U.S. Armed Forces.  180 years after we defeated the almighty Napoleon army and 50 years after the U.S. marines bid farewell, foreign boots were once again on our soil.  Their objective this time was to render the FAD’H useless.  In so doing, soldiers and officers, guilty or otherwise were humiliated as was an entire nation.  Those who remember celebrating the departure of the americans in 1934 wept profusely and so did I.

The new administration has expressed on several occasions their commitment to returning the FAD’H to its rightful place as prescribed by the Constitution of 1987.  This has provoked countless reactions from Haitians in Haiti and abroad, as it should.

In a country where an entire geographical department still resembles a post-war zone after 1 year and 10 months since the devastating earthquake, there are priorities of priorities. There is an institutional reform to be had, infrastructure to be repaired, jobs to be created, schools to be built, Cholera to be eradicated, gang violence to be dealt with and a Police force in desperate need of a facelift.  Many feel that bringing back the military should be the least of our worries. Perhaps…

If we are to be once again independent and sovereign, we will have to do without the services of the MINUSTAH sooner or later (I’d prefer sooner).  We must be able to protect our territory and defend it against all enemies both domestic and foreign; it is after all our prerogative as a free nation.  Across the border in the neighboring Dominican Republic, nearly 45,000 men, well-trained and well-equipped.  Who decides that one is not entitled to its own army on one’s own territory?

Well, if your survival as a country depends on foreign aid, if you are home to 9,000 UN soldiers, if your elections have to be paid for by the international community, if you run to the DR at the first sight of internal conflict to seek “counsel” from the neighbor president, then indeed those “friends” that feed you will tell you loud and clear what they don’t want and, most importantly, you will most likely have to do what they want.  It’s called survival.

Looking forward to better days, looking forward to days of nation building where the notion of sovereignty and freedom mean just that, and where the children of that said nation will do the utmost to defend, protect and care for this land gained in so much sweat and in so much bloodshed.  We dare to dream…

Cassandra Honorat