The purpose of this address is to urge Haitians living at home, Haitians in the Diaspora, and the international community to join together to help fight against corruption in Haiti.
The riots in Haiti have once again thrust us into a crisis. As a concerned Haitian American, I wish to call upon my native brothers and sisters, as well as the Haitian Diaspora and the international community, to join together with me to fight the corruption that is destroying the fabric of our Haitian society.
At the age of eighteen, I left Haiti to pursue my education in America. Observing her from abroad, I always dreamed of returning home to the magnificent land of Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, whose blood ran thickly in my veins. My beloved Haiti was once called “the Pearl of the Caribbean,” renowned globally as the first black republic in the history of the world.
At a time in history when millions were shackled by the chains of slavery, our ancestors fought bravely for the abolition of human servitude, exclaiming to the world our resolute belief in the fundamental principle of human dignity. We were proud, self-righteous people who embraced with our very being the equal rights of liberty, equality, and fraternity. These ideals lay at the core of the Haitian soul and who we are as a people.
Our history has inspired millions of people, helping them realize that tomorrow can be a brighter day—that our children can wake up in the bosom of a great country whose forefathers fought the greatest revolution known to mankind and succeeded, becoming an independent nation in 1804. Our history has taught us that there is no limit to what we can achieve today and accomplish tomorrow. And each of us, as a Haitian, no matter who we are or where we live, has a duty to carry that legacy forward.
That is my undying belief!
Like millions of Haitians living in the Diaspora, it has been a struggle to return home due to the shifting political landscape, and especially after 2010 when the crippling earthquake destroyed our country’s capital and brought death to over 250,000 Haitians. As a Haitian American, I can no longer sit idle and watch the suffering of my fellow Haitian brothers and sisters back home without springing into action.
Erecting critical infrastructure, building thousands of new homes, attracting robust investment, establishing an independent judiciary, and guaranteeing a free press immune from governmental pressure—all are critical to help Haiti thrive in the 21stcentury and create economic prosperity for all Haitians.
We must oppose corruption and demand full accountability and transparency from everyone, no matter who you are, where you came from, or where you live. This is core to rebuilding Haiti as a prosperous nation.
Most Haitians are stalwart and strong, never asking for handouts or charity. We want jobs so we can earn fair wages and provide for our families. We have a duty to lead our own collective march to achieve a new prosperity.
The first step toward prosperity must be the eradication of the pestilence that has infiltrated every crack and crevice of our society. Corruption anywhere in Haiti is a threat to all Haitians everywhere. We must fight against corruption by all means necessary and remove it like a cancer that has no place in our society.
Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks Haiti 157th out of 180 countries, near the bottom of the list. And despite close to sixty percent of our population living in poverty and nearly twenty-five percent in extreme poverty, corruption continues to raise its ugly head, harming our sovereignty, hampering our freedoms, and thwarting our economic development.
Today our country is plagued with hundreds of millions of dollars from PetroCaribe that are missing due to the corruption. The anger and frustration of the ordinary, law-abiding Haitian that has sparked this civil unrest must be heard. These critical funds could help alleviate the lives and living conditions of eleven million Haitian citizens who struggle daily to make ends meet. These millions could fund health care, access to quality education, and jobs.
Every Haitian has the right to know where the PetroCaribe funds have gone, and the Ministry of Justice must pursue the law and justice wherever it leads. We must strengthen the judicial system and safeguard its independence from improper influence by other branches of the government, outside sources, and private and partisan interests that could hinder the rule of law.
In this fight against corruption, we must also strengthen the overseer of truth and justice in a free society—the press. To safeguard our democracy and hold our elected officials accountable, we must guarantee the freedom of speech and expression to all members of the press who aim to share information, criticize, and shine light on the most pressing issues of the day.
In the 21stcentury, authoritarian regimes no longer have a place in any society. Strong democratic institutions are the only avenue of sustainable development and individual freedom. We must call upon all citizens to join together in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood to play their parts, individually and collectively, in the rebuilding of Haiti.
Today, corruption threatens the future of Haiti. But just as our ancestors knew that “unity is our strength!” so do we. With the indispensable talents, willpower, and alliance of all proud Haitians, we will overcome all odds and guarantee “a Haitian dream” to all—a bright future that brings opportunity, economic sustainability, and prosperity to Haitians everywhere.
Steeve Simbert is the author of Finding Hope in Chaos: Rising from Crisis into the American Dream and the first Haitian American who obtained a Master of Public Policy from the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.