Capacity Building for Peacekeeping: The Case of Haiti (National Defense University)

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Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS)

This is strongly related to the problem of State absence in the territory, and will have consequences that will be mentioned over this article. Taking such action, mainly Duvalier but all the Haitian governors involved in this practice, would create a status in which force was strictly controlled by the political power, autonomous of the Institutions themselves.

This idea is crucial to understanding some of the problems this research is addressing. Haiti Confronting the Gangs of Port-au-Prince.


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United States Institute for Peace. There has been a clear political overtone behind gangs in Haiti, which relates to their tight link with political elites, which were using them as an instrument of political warfare.


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According to Kolbe this relationship of interdependence between government and gangs has shaped the security situation but also the development of the country. The new President managed to bring political stability in , and since Duvalier was strongly related to voodoo magic, the idea of a catholic President reinforced the dichotomy with Duvalier, giving more legitimacy to the newly elected Head of State.

However, even though Aristide took office with the intention of reverting Duvalier practices, he would end up using his own armed gangs. In February Aristide started losing support and people claiming his resignation gained force. As a consequence, he had to resign this month, leaving the country in a situation of extreme volatility, in which the gangs were a considerably stronger group of young uneducated boys heavily armed and without any possibility to insert themselves in the formal economy. In this context, the situation in Haiti was presented as a threat to international peace and security, and the UN Security Council considered an intervention in the island as a Multinational Interim Force MIF - Resolution During this period, from to the general elections in , MINUSTAH had to start taking actions in order to protect the civilian population from the several threats illegal armed groups were posing to them.

However, confronted by non-conventional non-state military forces enjoying high — but very localized — social legitimacy, the UN Mission struggled between and to embed the use of force in a larger strategy of State consolidation. Cockayne, James. The gangs enjoyed great legitimacy, achieving celebrity status in some areas, and appearing on TV while flaunting their impunity.

Powerful gang leaders achieved celebrity status, appearing on television while distributing money and stolen merchandise to their followers, assisting the needy with handouts and payment of school fees, and providing entertainment by operating dance halls. Oddly enough, the gangs were more credible than the UN. The high local legitimacy gangs enjoyed in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince was opposing the negative image the foreign powers had in the island.

Dziedzic, Michael and Perito, Robert M. This perception was softened once Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile and Uruguay took control of important contingents within MINUSTAH, the foreign presence was perceived as less hostile by the local community and, therefore, brought more legitimacy to UN action. Latin American troops were capable of creating a more empathetic relationship with the Haitian society, enabling the UN to act in the ground. International Peacekeeping. In Preval was sworn as President and took a stronger stance toward the gangs threatening security in the country, in which both the government and the UN forces started to take a more robust and offensive posture towards the gangs operating in Port-au-Prince.

Press article. Marc Lacey. Following this introduction, I will intend to brief on the four main challenges the UN peacekeeping Operation, MINUSTAH, had at the time of dealing with criminal organizations in a context of protection of civilians: misconceived threats at the first deployment; absence of the State and the need for capacity-building; interconnected threats faced by the use of intelligence and a more robust approach; and legitimacy problems for in the field.

In order to understand the way in which MINUSTAH was influenced by the action of organized crime, it is crucial to understand how the threats were perceived at the time of the first deployment, at the beginning of This time of the year was marked by the desertion of Aristide, the request for new elections, but also by an extremely unstable security situation, as armed groups were taking over several Haitian cities on the way to Port-au-Prince.

In this first deployment, it is possible to see that some actions taken as a response to an older paradigm of foreign interventions, mainly focused on controlling political uprisings. This can be exemplified by the fact that the MIF deployed battalions across the entire country, overlooking that the main problem for the civilians was the threat posed by criminal gangs based in Port-au-Prince.

On the meantime, in this context, the Security Council was seeing how Aristide could not control the forces that used to be loyal to him, witnessing increasing violent demonstrations against the President, in a situation that led to violence and instability.

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The situation in Haiti was highly volatile years before the scape of Aristide, and it was related to uprisings against the government. Groups such as the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front were formed by both gangsters and former FAdH soldiers, also related to drug trafficking. The reports from the Secretary General Record of U. We can observe from this context, prior to deployment, that there was a clear need for immediate action, but that the main threat to the security in Haiti was perceived to be an armed rebellion, with political intentions, which clearly differ from criminal organizations in their means and aims.

Once deployed, the MIF did not fully understand the nature of the problem, or the long-term evolution of the instability, as they thought it was another revolutionary movement wanting to take control of the government. This misconception of the threat can be seen in the analysis of the first MIF deployment on February The force deployed wanted to protect the population from a situation of anarchy, as it was the case.

However, instead they were attacking and containing the political uprising.

Why the UN Can’t End Wars

As it was previously mentioned, the first deployment can be characterized by two main aspects: the urgency to protect civilians and the understanding of a political nature of the uprising. The problems the international presence had understanding the criminal nature of the threats could also be related to the fact that the armed groups recruited former FAdH soldiers mixed with civilians.

This strong military component within the armed groups could have been perceived as military groups with political motivations, as it was the case when interviewing a Navy officer deployed in Haiti. Once the MIF was established as a rapid reaction force, Resolution April noted that the situation in Haiti continued to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region. Having analyzed the comments from scholars, diplomats and peacekeepers deployed in the ground, and having read the reports from the UN at the moment, it is possible to find an explanation for this misconception in the tight links between the gangs and the political Haitian systems.

The threats to security and stability at the moment of the first deployment were also a consequence of the inability of the State to control its territory. This is why the absence of the State will be addressed in the same section. Once the UN managed to diminish and control the action of the gangs it had to fulfill the vacuum of power created by the absence of the State in the areas where the gangs were operating. The strong presence of gangs in the slums was directly related to the State absence and its lack of capabilities to provide the population with basic services security and law enforcement.

We cannot understand the action of the gangs without addressing the State absence in the slangs of Port-au-Prince. It is possible to see that the relationship between the security problems of Haiti and the lack of State presence in the field is shared among several academics writing on this topic.

Some scholars have studied Cockayne, James. While the monopoly in the use of force should be held by the government, the State was just another stakeholder in this struggle, competing for the control of territory, assets, weapons and people. The control of the territory was very important, and so providing the services the gangs were providing before.

The vacuum of power needs to be filled, or the problem remains by changing the illegal organization in the area. This situation would increase the responsibilities of MINUSTAH, not just to eliminate the action of the gangs, but to keep their presence in the territory and to avoid the gangs retaking the area. On the other hand, the State absence allowed the gangs to act with total impunity. An interviewed diplomat accredited to Haiti explained that the high number of members the gangs had, plus the inability of the State to control the territory, would allow them to work with impunity, killing and controlling the circulation in the country.

They would impose tolls in the route, charge for water access and medicine. The high level of organization of the gangs contrasted with the lack of resources and organization in the Haitian Public Administration. After the elections of , the Security Council called the new elected government to work on ensuring a secure and stable environment. To achieve this, it was important to strengthen the democratically elected institutions, foster national reconciliation and create a national dialogue.

Since peacekeepers were not meant to take the place of the government in the territory, once heavily armed gangs were disbanded, MINUSTAH worked closely with the civil society and international NGOs in the field. This is indeed a topic that has not been subject of much study, as scholars mainly focused on the robustness of peacekeeping, but not that much on the expansion of its activities.

Nation-building, crisis management, peace support operations

The use of clear words such as monitoring, mentoring and training in the text of the Resolution, allows us to see the strong collaboration to rebuild the capabilities of the Haitian Public Administration. It can be argued that creating the required capabilities for the Haitian Government to secure the situation in the field was one of the top priorities of MINUSTAH, and its importance grew as the mission was controlling the immediate action of the gangs. Security Council Resolution April According to these last actions, it is possible to argue that the future UN presence in the country would be mainly related to the work on State capacity building.

In this context, it is important to address the characteristics of the gangs that would influence the modus operandi of MINUSTAH and how was the mission facing them through two main actions: the use of intelligence and a more robust approach. It is possible to consider from the interviews, that the bazes were nothing but occupiers of this vacuum of power created by the lack of State presence. However, at the beginning the leaders of MINUSTAH were unable to calibrate the level of danger and harmful power of the Haitian bazes, due to their ambition of wealth and power, the lack of ideology or political will, and operating in an environment of absolute impunity.

Haiti's UN Peacekeeping mission draws to an end

This impunity was reinforced by the fact that they were not operating in rural areas nor identified by military uniforms or any other distinction as combatants in conflicts. The bazes operated in urban areas, mixed with local civilians, living with them and encompassing in the normal daily life.

John T. Fishel

Unlike politically aimed movements, criminal organizations have different objectives, such as maximizing profits by performing illegal activities and providing goods that were demanded by society. Varese, Federico. General Introduction: What is organized crime? In this scenario, MINUSTAH had to deal with a conflict, not just with two parties being involved, but by different clashes among criminal bands interconnected amidst them.