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Haiti, facing a prolonged crisis, is preparing for the biggest shake-up of government seen in decades with a constitutional referendum and national elections slated for this year

President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti has embarked on the biggest political shake-up the crisis-ridden country has seen in decades.

Haiti’s president knows he has a problem: Governing a country that at times seems to verge on the ungovernable is hard enough when you have a lot of support.

Jovenel Moïse clearly does not.

In a recent interview, the Haitian leader lamented that he has the confidence of only a small sliver of his people.

He won the 2016 elections with just under 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million. And now many are angry over his refusal to leave office in February, amid a dispute over whether his term ended then or should extend for one more year.

Yet Mr. Moïse, 52, has chosen this moment to embark on the biggest shake-up Haiti’s politics has seen in decades, overseeing the drafting of a new Constitution that will restructure government and give the presidency greater powers.

The need for a new Constitution is a rare point of agreement between Mr. Moïse and his many detractors. What concerns some observers is the president’s unilateral approach to writing one. Others just don’t trust him.

Mr. Moïse, critics charge, has become increasingly autocratic and is relying on a small circle of confidants to write a document that, among other changes, will give the president greater power over the armed forces as well as the ability to run for two consecutive terms. It would also grant Haiti’s leader immunity for any actions taken in office.

Mr. Moïse says the broader powers are necesary:

“We need a system that works,” he said in the telephone interview. “The system now doesn’t work. The president cannot work to deliver.”

Haiti won its independence in 1804, after Haitians rose up against colonial France, but it was not until 1990 that it had its first election widely regarded as free and fair. Even then, in a country with a long history of dictatorships and coups, democracy has never fully taken root.

Many Haitians say a new Constitution is needed. The current one has created two competing power centers in the country — the president and prime minister — which often leads to friction and a fractured government.

The draft Constitution would abolish the Senate, leaving in place a single legislative body elected every five years, and replace the post of prime minister with a vice president that answers to the president, in a bid to streamline government.

Haitians will vote on the new Constitution in June, ahead of national elections slated for September.

But some take little reassurance from the ballot casting ahead.

“People need to realize that elections are not inherently equivalent to democracy,” said Jake Johnston, a research associate for the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Every time there is a political crisis in Haiti, he said, the international community tends to call for elections. That leaves the country limping from one paralyzed government to another, instead of trying to reform the electoral process and work to engage voter participation.

“When an election actually ceases to represent the will of the people, what kind of government do they expect that to produce?” Mr. Johnston asked.

Since 1986, after nearly 30 years of dictatorship, voter turnout has steadily declined in Haiti. Only 18 percent of all eligible Haitians participated in the 2016 election that brought Mr. Moïse to power.
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Now, the country’s deep economic and social morass may only encourage more Haitians to stay at home when it is time to vote on the new Constitution and then for a new president.

Unemployment is rampant and desperation is at an all-time high. Many Haitians are unable to step onto the street to run basic errands without worrying about being kidnapped for ransom.

A market in Port-au-Prince. Many Haitians are unable to run basic errands without worrying about crime, including being kidnapped.
A market in Port-au-Prince. Many Haitians are unable to run basic errands without worrying about crime, including being kidnapped.Credit...Chery Dieu-Nalio for The New York Times
Mr. Moïse says he, too, is concerned about voter participation.

“There is a silent majority,” he said. “Many Haitians don’t want to participate in something they think will be violent. We need peace and stability to encourage people to vote.”

As the June referendum on the Constitution approaches, the government is trying to register five million voters, Mr. Moïse said. His goal, he said, is to inject the process with more legitimacy than his presidency had.

According to the United Nations, there are at least 6.7 million potential voters in Haiti. Others say that number is an undercount, since many Haitians are undocumented, their births never registered with the government.

In an effort to placate critics, and ease concerns that he is positioning himself to benefit from the new Constitution, Mr. Moïse has promised not to run in the next election.

But to fix the country before he steps down, he says, he needs to accumulate enough power to take on an oligarchy he says has paralyzed Haiti to profit off a government too weak to regulate or tax their businesses.

“We are suffering today from state capture — it is the biggest problem we face today,” Mr. Moïse said.

Some view with deep skepticism Mr. Moïse's claims that he has made an enemy out of big businesses by trying to regulate them. They say the president is simply trying to stoke populist sentiment to deflect from the failures of his own government and sideline political opponents.

Police officers clashing with protesters demanding the resignation of Mr. Moïse.
Police officers clashing with protesters demanding the resignation of Mr. Moïse.Credit...Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Others are willing to be more charitable, but say he has not done enough to build support.

“The problem is that the way that Moïse has gone about it,” said Alexandra Filippova, a senior staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, an organization that provides legal representation for victims of human rights abuses. “He is unilaterally pushing it forward.”

The draft Constitution, for example, released last month, is available only in French — which the vast majority of Haitians do not read — instead of Creole.

And no members of civil society were invited to take part as the document was drafted. Mr. Moïse instead appointed a special commission to do that. That, critics say, dims the chances for real progress.

“Constitutional change is supposed to reflect a social consensus of some sort,” Ms. Filippova said.

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Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has passed dozens of decrees

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Queens congressman Gregory Meeks said that the current status quo in Haiti, including an increase in kidnapping and gang violence, is unsustainable.

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When it comes to Rap Kreyol in Review, especially female rap artists, the group 4x4 immediately comes to mind. They were originally formed in Port-au-Prince Haiti in 1998 during the height and domination of top bands like Original rap staff and King Posse era. The band’s tenure was short-lived, due to the fact many of the members went their separate ways to focus on other things than music. One of the key members who was Jamaican went back to Jamaica, one of them traveled  to the United States and the others are still missing in action. Since HB’s radar is aiming everywhere, I was able to detect the lovely member who came to the United States and her name is Mia. Let’s get straight to the questions.

HB- Who is Mia?
MIA- She is an introvert, a reserved woman born in Gonaives Haiti raised in Christ Roi She’s a mother of a boy. A former folklore dance instructor, a personal stylist


HB- Growing up, how important was music in your life?
MIA- Music has always been very important and a key aspect in my life especially as a dance instructor. Grew up in the church, being part of the choir. Music has always and will continue to be a part of my life.


HB-VCan you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be part of 4x4?
MIA- I was invited by a friend at the studio during the band rehearsal and I could not help my excitement with the beat so I formed a choreograph for the band, which resulted in the members asking me to become part of the band.


HB- Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
MIA- No , it was not a difficult choice. It was an excited moment in my young life.


HB- How old were you when you joined 4x4?
Mia- I was 19 years young.


HB- For those who probably did not know 4x4, can you explain what this group was about, who were the members and what kind of music it played?
MIA- 4X4 was 4 females rap kreyol singers. The group was based in Haiti. The members were: Vicky, Sofia, Beoty and myself in 1998.


HB- What was your role in 4x4?
MIA- I was one of the vocalist and a choreographer in the band.


HB- Did you help write lyrics or conduct choreography?
MIA- Mostly helped with choreography. That’s one of the main reason I was invited to join. I choreographed the carnival hit song “shake the boom boom” then right after carnival I left Haïti to the United States.

HB- What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge while you were in the band?
MIA- My biggest challenge was hanging with all the girls. it was new to me and hard to adjust due to the fact I grew up with my brothers…all boys. However I did get more comfortable as I started to spend more time with the band.


HB- What has been the best part about it all?
MIA- The best part was having fun together because we all had a passion for music.


HB- Your 2 favorite songs when you were in 4x4?
MIA- “Shake the boom boom” was favorite song and I also like “ba’l glwa”


HB- What was your favorite kanaval song from the band?
MIA- “Shake the boom boom.”


HB- What happened to 4X4?
MIA- Not sure what really happened to 4x4, I was to busy adapting with my new life in the States. I could not keep up with the band activity.

 

HB- Was it difficult to be a female artist in the HMI back then and why?
MIA- Yes it is extremely difficult because the market is male dominated so it’s quite challenging, especially competing during carnival season.

 

HB- Fast forward, what is Mia doing now?
MIA- She’s raising her son, living in NYC and currently working on a traditional voodoo album. I participated in a few cultural fashion show. One of them was featured in Vogue Magazine.

HB- Family life, are you married with children, single life?
MIA- I am not single.


HB- With this Coronavirus, how are you coping?
I am taking it day by day, staying home spending quality time with my son. Cooking, exercising, singing, dancing, and meditating. Working on my album project. I tune in on the news to stay alert on current affairs and information on the pandemic that we are all experiencing. I want to take this time to encourage everyone to still take proper precautions, stay home if you have to and wash your hands.

 

HB- Do you continue to sing privately, like when you are in the shower or for your family and friends?
Yes I sing a different style of music out loud on my free time.

 

HB- Can 4x4 fans expect a surprise return by you releasing some new music?
Yes I’ll be returning to the music scene as a solo artist in the future. I’m working on it.

 

HB- What would you like people to take away from this interview?
MIA- Fok Ou kon kote w soti pou kon kote w prale, identite yon moun se sa ki enpòtan pou li... pa kite rezo social fe w bliye kiyes ou ye.

 

HB- Would you like to share anything else about yourself?
MIA- Not really.

Published in INTERVIEW

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