Police Nationale d'Haïti (PNH)
By: Wim Sonneveld
Often associated with tragedy, Haiti is a unique country in several ways. It was the first independent nation in Latin America, and the only nation born from a slave revolt. Once the richest French colony in the Western Hemisphere, it is nowadays considered the poorest country in the hemisphere. In its 200 years of existence, Haiti has suffered no less than 32 coups d’états, and instability of government and society has clearly hampered its development, which can be considered sort of an understatement given its widespread poverty.
Foreign forces have entered Haiti on numerous occasions, to aid in stabilizing the country. In the second half of the 20th century, after the last US military forces left, Duvalier’s dictator-dynasty ruled the country by applying military force against its own people, until it was overthrown in 1986. In 1990, hope among Haitians rose high when their first democratically elected President, Mr. Aristide, was installed. Unfortunately, hopes were bashed soon, as the President was overthrown by the military within a year, resulting in widespread chaos.
Against this background, the United Nations set up its first peacekeeping operation in Haiti in September 1993. Dubbed UNMIH, for United Nations Mission in Haiti, it was only fully deployed after July 1994, when the military leaders had given up power under international pressure, which allowed Mr. Aristide to return to the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. The United Nations deployed a 20,000 strong multinational force to facilitate the President’s return, and to maintain a secure and stable environment and promote the rule of law. Furthermore, UNMIH aided in the disbandment of Haiti’s armed forces in the mid-90s and in the creation of a new, civil, national police force, the Police Nationale d’Haïti (PNH).
By 2004, instability had worsened, and developed into outright chaos. Under mounting national and international pressure, the government officially requested United Nations assistance, which included the authorization for international troops to enter Haiti. On 1 June 2004, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1542 establishing the Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH’s mandate was, and still is, to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights.
For those interested in military aviation, Haiti is not a country that comes to one’s mind at first. Even more so, the Corps d’Aviation d’Haïti, as the air force used to be known has been disbanded in 1995, along the rest of the armed forces. Thus, years of meddling in politics by the military, which resulted in numerous coup d’états, came to an end. Although the military’s domestic law enforcement duties were taken over by the newly created Police Nationale d’Haïti, the armed forces were never constitutionally abolished. Even until today, the United Nations-mission in Haiti is tasked with disarming militias and gangs originating from previous military structures, whilst providing security. It remains to be seen if the disbandment of the military air arm will ever be revoked.