A past the Haitians can do without
AT A TIME when Barbadians are being warned of the dangers of creating a political dynasty, Haitians would do well not to forget their last dalliance with such rule.
They could hardly put out of their minds a once popular figure who became increasingly authoritarian and eccentric, such that his presence would become an anathema to them.
History recalls that at the tender age of 19, in 1971, Jean Claude Duvalier inherited the title of president for life from his father, Francois
“Papa Doc” Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957.
“Baby Doc”, as he was aptly referred to, went on to govern in pretty much the same iron-fisted manner as his did father. That’s until the people said with certainty “no more”.
The Duvalier era – marked by tremendous bloodshed, torture of political opponents, an atmosphere of fear and repression and massive corruption – abruptly came to an end by way of a bloody 1986 popular rebellion.
A period of reprisal killings also followed in which angry Haitians targeted regime loyalists, as well as members of Duvalier’s bands of secret police, otherwise called the Tonton Macoutes.
Thankfully that era is now over – or so it was thought until the surprise news this week of the return of “Baby Doc” to Haiti after 25 years in exile.
It is reported that the 59-year-old former dictator, wearing a dark suit and tie, arrived on an Air France jet from Paris to hugs from supporters at Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture Airport.
“Baby Doc” is yet to make clear his intentions, but his return has certainly reawakened many fears.
While there is no disputing his legitimate right as a Haitian to return to his homeland, it must be asked: Why now? Also, will he be made to face justice for the deaths of thousands of people and the alleged theft of millions of dollars?
Duvalier’s wife is already on record as saying that his return to Port-au-Prince has “nothing to do” with the current leadership crisis facing Haiti in the aftermath of last November’s inclusive first-round presidential election. But, at the very least, it seems opportune.
Even though it could clear the way for the return home of the country’s first democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide, those quick to forgive only need to look at the troubled faces of ordinary Haitians scarred by an undemocratic past that continues to dog their future.