I have to take everyone’s word for it, that all around me Haiti is burning. Several of us attempted to get to work this morning, only to find blockades along the major roads and some of the backalleys. Reports continued to stream in of protestors positioned in key locations for maximum visibility and, by extension, minimum mobility of traffic. For the moment, I’m housebound, and playing the waiting game.
It seems most of Haiti is playing the same game as well. The crowds that I did see on my attempted route to work consisted of neither the normal melange of vendors and buyers, nor the reported clumps of violent protestors. Instead, I saw Haitians waiting. The local radio stations mimick the same tone. Haitian journalists from around the country report widespread unrest, with an undertone of “what next?”
The results of the Haitian presidential election, announced late last night and only after the much less followed senate and deputy races, came as little surprise to many, but were nonetheless disagreeable to most. Former first lady Manigat came out on top, followed by Jude Celestin, who was a hairs width ahead of the much favored Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), the former musician. Therein lies the controversy. Many Haitians believe that Manigat and Martelly are the two true winners of the presidential election, and should therefore move on to the second round of voting on January 16th. Even Le Nouvelliste, one of the local papers, published a cartoon the day after election day of Manigat and Martelly dancing and singing “we made it to the second round!”
As it is, though, it seems only Manigat and Celestin will move forward. It’s also worth mentioning that Celestin and the current prime minister are concomitant to the same political party. (If all this is confusing, NPR published an easy to follow, well-detailed article this morning.) At the same time, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has not definitively said whether or not the top two or the top three will move on. The U.S. Embassy and other international observers have already called the election results into question. The tertiary candidate Martelly has yet to voice a response. And, of course, there are still official dissent channels that can be utilized in order to challenge election results. Thus, Haitians everywhere are waiting.
But it’s waiting in a manner like we are unused to in the United States. Even right now, there’s a mass of protestors gathered outside the U.S. embassy, not because the group has any particular qualms against the U.S., but because that area, the road in front the embassy, is one of the most safe and secure in the area and will allow for demonstrations to take place without fear of injury or violence. Although there are those who are taking the opportunity of Haitians’ frustrations to engage in violence, it seems the majority of Haitians are expressing themselves peacefully in large numbers in what many of us might adequately describe as civil disobedience. It’s the same waiting I observed when, during election day, many Haitians faced frustration at the polls and were not able to vote right away. They waited, frustrated, but patient (the photo above is actually a photo I took from such a scenario, with voters outside the gate waiting patiently for their opportunity to vote, despite logistical setbacks at the polls).
This is the way Haitians wait, and to be honest, it’s very dynamic. It’s a waiting that demands a response, and demands to be acknowledged. My hope is that this waiting, this coalesced mass of concerned voices from Haitians, is dutifully met with a response that allows the country to move forward as one.