Haiti's Landlords and Absentee Government
The land and my machete are my president
In beautiful tropical lands that should be paradise, landlessness gets hazardous to one’s health. We trim, blend, and append two 2011 articles from (1) IRIN, Apr 26, on Haiti, and (2) Truthout, Apr 27, on Ivory Coast by: Vince Warren and Laura Raymond.
by IRIN by Vince Warren & Laura RaymondAfter farmers in Duékoué in western Côte d’Ivoire were gunned down on 28 November 2010, the day of the presidential run-off election, many displaced people who fled to the Catholic mission told IRIN the assailants were supporters of the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, who had wanted to lash out at people seen as backing the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo.
Farmers told IRIN that regardless of who is in power, only a grower’s sweat and toil make it possible for him to support his family.
“We live off the land… We just want to get back to work so we can feed our families. We are not proud of staying here [at the Catholic mission] but we were scared of what we saw with our own eyes… We are not opposing anyone. Whoever is in power, he’s the leader.
“The only way we’re able to eat is by our own hands, our own might. It’s not the president who’s going to manufacture food for us; it’s our machetes [which we use to work the land]. We have nothing to do with these politics.
“Peace is the only thing we seek. Just to be left alone to go about our lives. Imagine -- I’m a simple farmer who goes to the field to find cassava or bananas, and I get shot dead, for nothing. I’m innocent -- I’m not affiliated with this or that president -- the land and my machete are my president.
“During the years the father of our nation [founding president Félix] Houphouët-Boigny was in power, we never saw this -- we were never victims of war, we never heard this kind of weapon fire except on television.
“When you know you’re being watched by people with guns, all you have is fear…Living here at the mission, we are not at ease, our hearts are not at peace. Everyone wants to return to the village, but how?
“Maybe if Licorne [French peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire] or UNOCI [UN operation in the country] could put up a camp in each village for our security, we would get back to our work.
“We fled gunfire. Now, if someone says, ‘Go ahead, you’re going to return to your village’… return to the fire? That’s disconcerting. If the army of the new government would really convey to its soldiers and supporters to no longer shoot at just anyone, we would return.”
To see the whole article, click here
JJS: From one poor group stampeded into a camp, to another poor group being booted out of a camp.
Haiti's Displaced: Greedy Landlords and an Absentee Government
The Barbancourt II displacement camp in Port-au-Prince Haiti is home to 310 families who lost their homes in the earthquake and have set up tents, tarps, and corrugated metal structures with the few possessions they have left. There is a several feet deep, fetid pool of human and other waste that has taken over a large area of the back portion of the camp. Set up on the corner of an industrial company's property, its owner has notified them that they will be evicted in a week.
Last November, the owner showed up with 24 police with guns drawn. Regardless of what the landowner might like, international law concerning the treatment of internally displaced people does not permit him to effectuate (or the Haitian government to permit) forced evictions of this population. The Inter-American Commission said as much in the precautionary measures it issued to Haiti.
The camp residents have no place to go and if they are evicted they will be out on the streets.
When the residents took matters into their own hands and attempted to dig a drainage ditch to have the waste water flow into an external canal located adjacent to a neighbor's property, a man on the neighboring property waived a .38-caliber pistol and threatened to shoot any resident who tried to drain the water from the camp. When the residents complained about the pool to the Ministry of the Interior, the entity charged with dealing with these camp issues, they were completely ignored.
In many ways, the stakes for Haiti are higher now than they were just after the earthquake. The international community is pulling its operations out of Haiti. The Spanish Red Cross will soon stop delivering water to the camp as their contract has run out. Many of the large NGOs that made themselves indispensable for people's survival failed to properly link up with, help strengthen and build the capacity of the Haitian government. Now, the money is drying up and they are readying to move on to the next disaster zone.
After a year of inaction on any kind of a resettlement plan or reconstruction, the landowners and the Haitian government are anxious to remove displaced persons from private property first and then get around to finding somewhere decent for them to live at some undisclosed date in the future.
To see the whole article, click here
JJS: Are those landowners paying their society the socially-generated value of their land? It seems not. Or if so, government seems to not be spending the raised revenue in any equitable fashion.
A little over a century ago, another society that suffered a massive earthquake was able to rebuild, and without outside help. What their government, guided by a mayor who was a follower of the popular economist Henry George, did was to collect as much of the rental value of land as possible. Even after the earthquake and fire, land still had value in the port city of San Francisco. Spurred by such “land dues”, the owners of the valuable parcels rebuilt their city -- and did so faster than other whole cities grew.
Geonomics works as medicine, it works as a healthy diet, too.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Compared to other cities with corruption …
Resource Rights and Human Rights
Can We Help Make Haiti Better Than Ever?
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?