What happens when you are in the middle of a cholera epidemic then national elections take place? Most of the time, the interest of the majority is sideswiped while the powers-that-be struggle for dominion and control. This is especially true when fragile government institutions are often hijacked, when there are no systems in place to counter-balance greed, and when citizens are vulnerable not only to diseases, but also to those with guns, goons, and gold. Such is the fate of Haiti and her people.
After a devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and displaced 1.3 million Haitians, a cholera epidemic struck. As if it were not enough, violence erupted after complaints of alleged electoral cheating took place.
The United Nations (UN) together with its partners is calling on candidates to pursue legal electoral channels and avoid violence. In a communique issued by the UN and signed by the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU), and the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, Germany, Spain and the US, the international community appealed to the leaders of Haiti to use all legal ways to advance a credible electoral process.
Candidates are given until Wednesday to file their complaints at a special verification committee that was proposed by the Provisional Electoral Council. The communiques called on all candidates to participate in this process.
“The international community urgently calls on all political and state actors to do everything possible to advance reconstruction and allow health personnel and Haitian and international humanitarian workers to continue, in full security, to provide the vital response to the cholera epidemic. Thousands of people need it,” the communique said.
The UN warned that the violence was halting the fight against the cholera epidemic. The epidemic has already claimed over 2,100 lives while 50,000 more are still in hospitals trying to survive.
“The international community deplores the acts of violence which, among others, has paralysed economic activity, prevented school children and students from continuing their studies and, more tragically, impeded the access of cholera victims to medical treatment,” the communique said.
Thousands of protesters have been rampaging through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The protesters are accusing the ruling government coalition for rigging election results. The provisional tallies of the November 28 presidential and legislative elections announced last week put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and outgoing President Rene Preval’s party candidate Jude Celestin in first and second place making them qualify for January’s run-off.
Supporters of Michel Martelly, a popular musician and candidate, started burning barricades of timbers, boulders and tires after Martelly was excluded from the run-off. Martelly was less than one percentage point behind in third place. Haiti’s electoral council said it will recount the ballots.
The communique exhorted all candidates to call on their supporters to avoid all recourse to violence. “[The] sole victim is the entire Haitian people,” it added.
The UN has maintained a stabilization mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, currently with nearly 12,000 military and police personnel, since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.