UN (MINUSTAH) Pakistani Soldiers Rape 13 Year Old Haitian Boy in Gonaives

It happened again! This time, in the Département de l’Artibonite in the city of Gonaives.  The victim, 13-year-old Roudy Jean; the pedophiles, three Pakistani UN soldiers.  The MINUSTAH, for those who are unaware, is the Mission of the United Nations to Stabilize Haiti.  They have been there since 2004 and they arrived shortly after former president Aristide was whisked away in an American airplane en route to South Africa.  Yes, the MINUSTAH…powerful multinational deployment comprised of nearly 40 different countries represented by their military units.  Each with a mission, carefully written down and drafted with the utmost care.  What goes on in Haiti is a different story and has very little to do with what is on paper.

Late in January 2012, in Gonaives, at around 8:00 Pm, in a van parked near the Place d’Armes des Gonaives (symbol of our Independence), 13-year-old Roudy Jean was raped by three (3) Pakistani soldiers.  That vile act was witnessed by 3 of Roudy’s friends who happened to be looking for him that night.  Roudy, nicknamed Ti Tet (small head) is a victim of choice for those soldiers; not only is his family very poor but he suffers from some type of developmental delay.  It appears that this rape was not the first one; the Pakistanis would give him either money or food to bring home every time they forced themselves on him; reportedly this ignominy happened 6 or 7 times.  This time, unbeknownst to them, there were three witnesses who went to the local Police and told the story.

When the  commander of the Pakistani unit found out the story had reached local authorities, he and a Haitian accomplice (who is now in jail) kidnapped Roudy Jean and took him to Cap-Haitien to another MINUSTAH unit where he was asked to be kept until February 27th.  The Gonaives head of Police acted quickly and was able to locate the Haitian accomplice who confessed and Roudy was brought back from Cap-Haitien two days later and was seen by doctors.  The medical report confirmed that the 13-year-old had been repeatedly raped and was suffering from multiple lesions and bruises in the anal area.  Kudos to Senator Youri Latortue who was in Gonaives to assist and witness the investigation; these details I have, come from the Police and Medical reports which he shared with the population during a live interview on Vision 2000 (Haitian radio) this morning.

What are Haitian authorities going to do?  According to Senator Latortue, this is the 12th (reported) case of rape by MINUSTAH soldiers.  Not one soldier has been prosecuted to date; in a similar case in Cap-Haitien couple of years ago, the UN Secretary General refused to lift the immunity of the criminals.  Senator Latortue hopes for a different outcome, he feels that this case is stronger because of the many witnesses.  The Haitian Senate is going to officially request that the immunity of the Pakistani soldiers be lifted by the Secretary General.

We Haitians have to raise a very loud voice to denounce these crimes. Our children who are already prey to kidnapping and poverty have to contend with one more dangerous predator…the MINUSTAH.  This is certainly not limited to the Pakistani unit; Uruguayan, Peruvian and Brazilian units have all been involved in similar cases.  Why is it that the Cap-Haitien unit agreed to keep this 13-year-old boy, a minor, without his parents/guardians consent?  In so doing, they involved the entire organization.  Senator Latortue asks (and so do I) whether there is within the MINUSTAH an understanding to hide and conceal such occurrences.

Haiti is a small economy, 2/3 of the population is living with less than $2 per day because most citizens don’t have a stable income.  The middle class is small and most children do not have access to basic healthcare and education.  This is how we are seen by the International community which has decided that the best thing is to turn an entire nation into a charity case.  We see ourselves differently, we are the proud descendants of slaves who won their independence in blood.  We sponsored and financed freedom wars throughout the Americas, we have a beautiful culture…We have tripped but we’ve not fallen, we have dignity and we deserve respect.

It is inconceivable that such things continue to happen and it is a shame that the UN continues to dismiss those cases as unimportant in order to save their reputation.  Roudy Jean is the proof that we have not taken care of our children, we Haitians have not worked hard enough to empower the less fortunate.  It is our responsibility as Haitians to not let these rapes and other crimes go unnoticed.  The International Community will not rebuild Haiti, the MINUSTAH will not protect Haiti, NGOs will not promote development….Those are things we Haitians must do if we ever hope to reclaim this land as ours.  “Ki yes kap di ou mo pou Roudy Jean”?

Cassandra Honorat

February 6 2012

Power or Leadership?

Susan Ward defines leadership as: ” the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal”.  This is certainly a concise, precise and to the point approach of a concept which has been debated throughout our recorded human history.  Our aim here is neither to redefine nor discuss the meaning of Leadership rather than it is to underline the differences that exist between that concept and the one of Power and how confusing both has hurt Haiti tremendously.

If we go back for a minute to Susan Ward’s definition, the responsibility of the individual who aspires to lead rests in his/her ability to direct others.  Therefore it would be fair to add that those who are meant to be led determine whether or not the leader is successful.  If the common goal isn’t reached and if people are not motivated to work toward that said objective, then the leader has failed.  On the other hand, those who have power don’t depend on those they rule or direct to succeed.  They depend on the tools available (legal system, army, money) and on their ability to use those tools effectively to get what they want.

What is Power? The dictionary offers an array of definitions depending on the context.  We’ve retained three:

1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.

2The ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority.

3A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others.

Power! When limited to the political realm, it simply means having within the hands of the individual, social class or political party the legal means to exert authority over the rest of society.  Those who run for office usually do so in order to gain power but, in order to succeed, they must possess those qualities needed to become a good leader.  One who has leadership qualities will sooner or later gain power; however, most who have power don’t necessarily lead because they are too concerned with controlling.  Throughout human history, the less fortunate, who happen to be in greater numbers, have been kept in line because of power and because of a realistic fear of what it can do.  There have been times when leadership was born out of grave injustices to right the wrongs of our world.

Having just spent 16 days in Haiti, one cannot help but ponder those two concepts.  Before the magnitude of the work to be done, one has to ask whether or not our collective illness isn’t simply due to a terrible deficiency in quality leadership.  Oh, there is plenty amount of power in Haiti and countless numbers of Haitians who vie to hold it for as long as they can and by all means necessary.  Since 1804, and because of national and international conspiracies, the Haitian people has not been properly led.  We’ve had our fair share of powerful and authoritarian heads of state.  A small group of families, whose interests do not align with those of the rest of society, has been very successful at holding and keeping power and all means of production; they have yet to lead a society desperate to find itself.

There is an infrastructure that needs rebuilding and modernizing, construction codes to be updated, an educational system in desperate need of restructuring, jobs to be created, a legal system that needs a facelift and our collective dignity to be regained.  Power only begets more power and it has the uncanny ability to quickly corrupt the foolish.  But honest and effective leadership begets true vision and wisdom to lead a people onto the path of human progress.  Haiti today needs builders of nation and makers of dreams to rise once more out of the ashes of destruction.  Two fundamental questions remain:  Can a society that is deep in crisis recognize those qualities that make a good leader?  Is Haiti forever condemned to having as heads of state those power seeking individuals who never concern themselves with leading?  The answers, I leave to you.

Cassandra Honorat

February 2, 2012