Haiti Democracy Project

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May 4, 2002

A Framework for Leadership in Haiti

By Ray Killick

With 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 Haitian politicians.

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 then.

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 freefall.

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 quicker.

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.)

The opposition can lead by campaigning for political reforms.

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 of 1789.

(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 offer.

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.

PRACTICE WIN-WIN

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 opposition.

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 happens.

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 deprives.

NEW BEGINNING

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 humankind.

A new beginning is in order now for Haiti through positive leadership. If not leadership, what? And if not now, when?

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 the opposition.

I have given you my loaded check. If you cash it and get your leadership, don't ask me for more.

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