Haiti Rocked by Political Earthquake


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:01 PM EDT, 24 February 2012

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille abruptly resigned Friday after less than five months. He didn’t provide an explanation for his departure when he submitted his letter of resignation to President Michel Martelly.

According to the Associated Press, “Conille, a physician who previously served as an aide to Bill Clinton in the former U.S. president's role as U.N. envoy to Haiti, was ratified by the opposition-dominated Parliament in October after Martelly's two previous picks for prime minister failed to win support from lawmakers, delaying the formation of a government by about five months.”

In a statement Conille said, "I feel obliged to present to you my resignation as Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Haiti. Please accept, Mr. President of the Republic, the assurance of my patriotic sentiments."

Some people suspect that Conille's resignation may be the result of escalating disagreements with Martelly and his inner circle as well as other Parliamentary officials. Conille’s resignation is another blow to a nation still recovering from devastating earthquakes that rocked the country in January of 2010. The catastrophic effects of the quake exacerbated the preexisting and endemic problems of poverty and instability.

This latest crisis, which is viewed by many Haitian experts as another case of self-sabotage, will cripple the ability of the Haitian government to overcome the enormous challenges it faces in trying to rebuild the infrastructure of the country.

After the 2010 earthquake, people from around the world pledged in excess of $4.5 billion in aid but only half of this amount has been released. Because the new Haitian government has been preoccupied with one crisis after another, it hasn’t had the opportunity to focus on the management of reconstruction efforts.

With the departure of the prime minister and the uncertainty of when President Martelly will appoint a new official or how long it will take the person to be confirmed; existing donors may be reticent to honor their pledges, which would further hamper reconstruction efforts.

One of the donors, the World Bank-run Haiti Reconstruction Fund, has more than $100 million on hold pending the government's approval of projects to be carried out in a transparent and coordinated manner.

Many, including the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Mariano Fernandez, said in a statement issued on Friday that Conille’s departure signifies to the world that a rift has occurred in Haiti government that is to the detriment of the country.

After years of brutal dictatorships and political instability, it was hoped that the democratically elected Martelly would be able to lead Haiti into a new era of economic growth, self-sufficiency, and political stability.

Unless this situation is resolved quickly, it will affect legislative and local elections which fall under the purview of the Prime Minister who is responsible for scheduling these elections. The terms of 10 senators, or one of third of the Upper Body, are slated to expire this year.