Framework for Leadership in Haiti
the freest mind, I take my flight at dawn over the issues
of my time, taking the time and liberty to think differently.
If I brush aside the futile, if I flush away all the
distractions to offer you a fresh new perspective, don't
ask me for more.
In "A Brief Account of Time" posted at www.haitipolicy.org,
I have made the lack of leadership the main culprit of
Haiti's secular woes. Soon after publication, many of
my readers sent praise down my way -- I am grateful for
such tremendous accolade over cyberspace. Two of my readers
did more by asking judiciously: "Ray, I enjoyed your piece.
You are pointing out the problem, but what about the solution?"
They were right since I finished the article on a sober
note wishing to have had a sibylline message and betting
on an event that could change the course of Haitian history
for the better.
I promised my two readers -- whom I respect -- I would
satisfy their request within a week's time. I started
thinking, and then I got discouraged when I took a closer
look at the makeup of the Haitian political fauna, the
stalemate between Mr. Aristide and his feeble opposition,
and the diatribes of the proponents of the so-called
opposition. Emerging from the consternation of my observations,
I kept on thinking man of shallow faith. I
coined man of shallow faith -- in my early
foray into Haitian politics last year -- to characterize
in my best possible style the profile that fits most
But here I am -- two months after, ninety pages into
a story, scores of letters later to a queen -- with
my fresh new perspective on leadership for Haiti. In
spite of the dismal context, and the Lavalas
that sucks or sweeps everything in its way, I will take
a stab at some elements of leadership, and how to bring
them about in Haiti.
I am going to give a loaded check to the now feeble
opposition to get leadership.
FAITH FOR LEADERSHIP
Faith! Isn't faith the cornerstone of leadership? You
have to start believing in something in order to build.
You have to be a believer in order to inspire, and inspire
in order to lead.
Aristide inspired at the pulpit. He nurtured beliefs;
pruned faith for perpetual renewal and advancement of
his cause; and years later, collected the presidency.
As a priest, he led a people in despair to hope for
another tomorrow in dignity. Aristide charmed the vast
majority of Haitians across the board by epitomizing
and living Christian values for liberation under the
yoke of the forces of darkness. (It is largely irrelevant
for the purpose of this article to question the priest's
trustworthiness. I'll leave such initiative to the psychics
and the masters of rhetorical futility.)
Aristide the priest showed faith, hence positive leadership
END THE POLITICAL STALEMATE
It is time for the Haitian opposition to prepare the
alternative to the current gang in power.
The more the stalemate goes on, the more the Haitian
opposition looks like the choir singing under maestro
Aristide's guidance. The maestro leads by default in
a scenario that keeps the opposition busy, begging for
participation, bogging down the nation, and handing
Mr. Aristide a platform for his next crony to seize
power in the next presidential election.
Indeed, while the opposition is singing to Mr. Aristide's
tune, he is busy creating a few jobs, furthering his
literacy program, and doing what he does best, talking
the language of the poor. He lobbies for the good grace
of Washington, strengthens his ties to the Black Caucus
of the U.S. Congress, and shows good faith by welcoming
the OAS initiative for democracy in Haiti.
The anti-Aristide groups will need to focus on the
foundations of a new era for a modern nation. The way
is wide-open for them to distance themselves from one
inept and corrupt administration too many.
Answer the call of history.
STOP THE BLAME GAME
According to many, Haiti's demise is primarily a result
of imperialist policies of nations like France, Germany,
and the United States. That was true to some extent
in the nineteenth century. Later, caught up in the cold
war, Haiti's stability meant more to Washington that
overlooked the barbarian grips of dictator François
Duvalier and his baby.
But while foreign governments used to be in a way responsible
for maintaining a hideous status quo, Haitians could
have had enlightened governments. In spite of all possible
reservations, Christophe's kingdom for example took
root and evolved from a vision of grandeur, pride and
faith that connoted greatness in the black race.
Unless and until the Haitian intelligentsia and political
apparatus start assuming their destiny into their own
hands, stop blaming outsiders for Haiti's problems,
or stop dreaming about lavish retirements in Miami or
the French Riviera, Haiti will continue its apocalyptic
Leadership starts by assuming responsibility, and ending
the blame game.
DO AWAY WITH THE COPYCAT
Why in the world does Haiti have a presidential system
similar to that of the French Fifth Republic? Regardless
of the benefits of such system, I genuinely believe
that cohabitation -- a possibility of having a president
and a prime minister from different parties -- unnecessarily
stresses a democracy in gestation especially in a country
that timidly attempts to embrace pluralism after nearly
two hundred years of neo-slavery and dictatorship. Democracy
in Haiti is in double jeopardy as a result of this copycat
of the French system of government.
Simplify things. Let the executive do the job it was
elected to do. Let the executive govern with a unified
team. Enforce check and balance through parliament.
True, there will still be the risk of stalemates and
attempts from the executive to preempt the legislative.
In spite of some pains, Haiti could learn democracy
To avoid cohabitation and get carte blanche for his
policies, Mr. Aristide resorted to fraudulent elections.
(If he were truly interested in the development of his
people and his land, he wouldn't have to do that. Popular
presidents can govern with a legislative dominated by
The opposition can lead by campaigning for political
BREAK THE INSULARITY
When we used to be enslaved by our white masters, we
worked under duress to enrich them and produce two-third
of the international trade of France. Partly because
of the sweat of our ancestors, France is standing today
as a great nation. You may not know, but African slaves
fostered the emergence of the increasingly expanding
and strong French bourgeoisie that did the revolution
(Napoleon later imposed the values of the French revolution
to most countries of Europe. He transformed Europe by
force, committed a lot of crimes to fuel his insatiable
ambitions, but in the end played a pivotal role in the
emancipation of all of Europe.)
If Haiti played such a major role in the well-being
and future of European nations, it is now Haiti's turn
to go grasp the best of what the Western world has to
Haiti must be in tune with the achievements of the
world. It is time for Haitians to break their insularity,
and start importing not only technology, but also the
principles of successful governance.
All things being equal, Japan, for instance, is a postcard
for the third world that needs to be pondered. The Japanese
used to be belittled for copying Western technology
in a servile and non-creative way, but no more, for
they have grown up, and beaten the Americans in many
ways, on their terms, and on some of their turfs.
LIVE THE VALUES
Leadership connotes values such as respect for individuals
and groups, integrity, honesty, freedom of statement,
and civility to name just a few.
Many a time, I witnessed the morbid passion of destruction
on the part of Haitians. Someone expresses a thought
to the best of his or her ability -- a thought that
may not be complete but has merit -- and another, to
show uncommon erudition, crushes everything and stands
falsely triumphant on the ashes.
No one holds the reins of the truth, my friends. Besides,
the truth is only good for a time. The truth is an approach,
a means that takes us to an end, but as the end is conquered,
new ends emerge, that require new truths.
That's why Haiti's development require that we all
become lifetime learners, that we accept each other,
learn from the world around us, and from one another.
True leadership knows it does not have all the answers.
It must seek them out by engaging qualified specialists,
by promoting free speech, and listening to public opinion.
In the country of capitalism at its best, the art of
the deal passes through compromise. Whether it is between
the Congress and the executive branch of the United
States, or within its private sector, compromise is
a way of advancing business forward.
Win-win does not mean compromising your values. It
is a necessary negotiation process that allows progress
toward an original common objective. The compromise
is often in how to achieve the goal or alter it.
The current political stalemate in Haiti over the fraudulent
elections of 2000 underlines vividly the lack of a common
objective of advancing the nation as well as an inability
to reach compromise on the part of Aristide and his
Show leadership by ending the stalemate, and start
working on a solid alternative to Lavalas. Think win-win.
Everybody wins some, and loses some.
LEAD WITH VISION OF GRANDEUR
If leadership takes faith and values, and the practice
of the win-win, it primarily hinges on a vision of grandeur.
Without vision, there's no leadership possible.
Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, and Napoleon
Bonaparte offered a vision, and worked feverishly at
carrying it out. All three were obsessed with grandeur.
Napoleon even pondered his legacy at Ste Helena.
Aristide does not offer a vision of grandeur. "De la
misère à la pauvreté dans la dignité,"
he blasts as a slogan.
Leadership energizes, and unleashes the potential of
a people. What people in the world are going to rally
around such a pitiful slogan?
Great leaders always shoot for the stars, and if they
get the moon, so much the better.
Aristide's opposition needs to develop a slogan of
grandeur to rally the masses, and educate them to grasp
the ramifications of a better tomorrow before it actually
Great leaders make believers by inspiring, mobilizing,
energizing, and educating their followers.
Great leaders pick constructive names for their movements.
I have to give it to President Aristide that he has
been forthcoming all along. He baptized his movement
Lavalas. Lavalas, as we all know sweeps
and destroys everything it its way, causing erosion
of the soil, the soul, and hopes of a nation. Lavalas
I knew those things since I was a kid. I have never
seen any nation rebuild in the midst of a flood or a
tornado. I have never seen a people negotiate peace
with Nature in its furry. No, I have never seen the
forces of darkness yield an inch when they reign over
A new beginning is in order now for Haiti through positive
leadership. If not leadership, what? And if not now,
Who's going to prepare for the new genesis? Who's going
to take the lead and rally for the long-awaited true
liberation of the people of Haiti? Who's going to unleash
the potential of the nation and galvanize its people
as stakeholders of a brighter future?
The answers to these questions are in the court of
I have given you my loaded check. If you cash it and
get your leadership, don't ask me for more.