The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, has announced his intention to send military aid to Haiti. According to AP News, Haiti is experiencing "a fuel siege blamed on the country's most powerful gang."
The United Nations warned that Haiti was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe in late 2022. So far, 2023 has offered no respite from the chaos.
What is happening?
Across generations, Haiti has endured misery due to widespread poverty, limited resources, and devastating natural disasters. Much of these complications are linked to being a former colony of France. After Haiti won independence in 1804, France found another way to exert its power over the island. They imposed obscene taxes it knew Haiti couldn't afford. There was no other reason for this, other than cruelty and spite.
Haiti finally settled the debt in 1947, but continues to be chronically insolvent. Modern efforts to persuade France to compensate Haiti continue to be unsuccessful, which isn't surprising. France's refusal to acknowledge its crimes against Haiti, stems from the belief that the past is the past, and it's time to move on.
As noted by AP News, Holness' announcement "comes a week after U.N. special envoy for Haiti, Helen La Lime, said she hoped that the U.N. Security Council would deal 'positively' with the pending request from Haiti's government for international armed forces despite the U.S. and Canada showing no interest."
Holness said Jamaica "would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters, to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace."
Ultimately, however, Holness stated that it'll take more than the military might to bring order to Haiti.
"We continue to believe that any solution must be driven by the will of the Haitian people," Holness said. "The developments over the past week demonstrate that progress towards restoration of democratic institutions and the rule of law remains highly fragile."
What caused the fuel siege?
Politically, Haiti has been on edge since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Since then, there's been a spike in kidnappings, gang violence, and general unrest.
The present leader of Haiti, Ariel Henry, narrowly survived an assassination attempt himself in January 2022. After announcing that his government couldn't afford to subsidize petroleum, protests ensued and gangs took action.
Jimmy Chérizier, the most formidable gang leader in Haiti, wants to put other gang members in political positions. In November, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, "Chérizier would lift a blockade at a key fuel terminal that has strangled Haiti's capital for nearly two months."
Some Haitians see Chérizier as a modern-day revolutionary. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette explained that some call him "father" and "Mr. President," on social media.
If Jamaica does deploy its military to Haiti, will it make any difference? Time will tell.
Jamaica and Haiti's shared history
Like other Caribbean islands, Jamaica and Haiti have similar histories.
One figure who helped spark the Haitian Revolution was a man connected to Jamaica named Dutty Boukman. Born in Senegambia (modern-day Senegal and Gambia), Boukman was a slave first in Jamaica, then in Haiti. Boukman's links to Voodoo were instrumental in helping him liberate Haiti. He had an imposing presence, and most thought twice before crossing him. Moreover, he was literate, which made him a direct threat to French colonizers.
Travel Noire explained, "it goes without saying that the French wouldn't allow Boukman to live. After his capture in November 1791, the French executed Boukman and put his head on public display. The purpose of this grotesque act was to deter other rebels, but the tide had already turned in favor of Haiti's liberation."
There are parallels between the religious and spiritual practices of Jamaica and Haiti as well.
According to My Island Jamaica, "while Haiti practices Voodoo, a minority of Jamaicans observe Obeah, which centers around spirits and has similar practices."