2010 Haitian Elections

The Haitian elections were scheduled for February of 2010, but delayed as a result of the January earthquake. Held instead on the 28 of November of the same year.

Leading up to the elections was a bit of a circus. The famous rapper, Wyclef Jean had made an attempt to enter the race. But Haitian law had stated that he was not eligible for candidacy as he left Haiti when he was nine. When it was announced in August of his ineligibility, the country ignited for a few days.

By the time of the elections, I had already accepted the offer for my new position within World Vision. My date of departure was set for mid-November. But, with the elections looming and security concerns heightening, I was extended until December 10.

Election Results

Following the November 28 election, there was no decisive winner. This meant that there would need to be a run-off election. The run-off date was set for…December 10. Accusations of election fraud were rampant in the country.

The elections disintegrated into chaos when, after the polls had only been open for a few hours, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates called for the voting to be canceled. The candidates accused the ruling party of rigging the election in favor of its own candidate, Jude Celestin.

When the preliminary results were released, 70-year-old Mirlande Manigat, a law professor and former first lady, emerged as the front-runner.

Supporters of third-place finisher Michel Martelly barricaded the streets of the capital for three days straight. Martelly finished just behind Celestin in the official results, and thus was eliminated from the second round of the race.

The 49-year-old musician known as “Sweet Micky” was now at the center of the political impasse. Martelly proposed that instead of a runoff on Jan. 16, as currently mandated by law, Haiti should just redo the entire election. But Martelly said that first, the Electoral Council should be fired.

Haiti Burns

Between November 29 and December 10, Haiti fell into complete chaos. Fueled by allegations of fraud and corruption, the country tumbled. There were violent protests throughout the country, roads were blocked and fires were lit. HEAT training came in handy!

The interesting thing about Haiti is, tires were the choice for burning. My colleague, Christy, who had been holed up in the Kinam Hotel during this time, asked “Why do they burn tires”. The only logical reason I could think of was, there were no trees! With deforestation, the only things left to burn were tires and garbage.

Speaking of Christy, she had been stuck in the Kinam hotel for several days during these violent protests. Outside of the hotel, fires were burning by the IDP camp in front. We had made a few attempts early to get her out of the hotel, but were unsuccessful. She had befriended a local who was keeping her calm during all of this. After two days, we did make a successful attempt and Christy had been relocated to the team house.

Departing Haiti

The day prior to my departure, protestors were active in all parts of the country. This included marches in front of our team house at the GN plaza.

I will admit, I was not certain I would get out. Earlier, Ton had made efforts to have me extended a second time to after the January second round of elections. My new boss, Steve would not have it and insisted that leave immediately for my new posting in Costa Rica.

The only issue with me leaving, aside from the violence and fires, was the airport itself. It had become closed to all international air travel. This meant that contingencies needed to be identified. For a period, this almost became a “self-evacuation” for me.

Luckily, I was not the only one trying to get out of the country from World Vision. There were a few others that were ending deployments or just leaving for one reason or another. We had found a small charter flight from Port-au-Prince back into the DR. Recall back to the three emergencies, the road routes were iffy with border closures due to the cholera outbreak.

Final day

December 10, 2010 was my day of departure and last day in Haiti. At 0530 my driver along with Ducky, arrived to take me to the airport. My bags were packed (all 6) and ready. The final adventure was about to commence, the drive to the airport.

We wanted to get an early start before the local population awoke and began the fires. It seems they had already arisen early on this day. Driving to the airport was an effort of endless swerving around obstacles and fires. Thankfully as we got closer to the airport, security was increasing.

With all my bags intact, we arrived at the airport with enough time to spare. Entering the smaller section of the airport with all of my bags, I began to feel both relief and sadness. I had come to love working on this small island nation, but relieved to be starting a new adventure.

As we took off to the East, we could see from the air all of the smoke from the fires. The country from above looked like a complete war zone.

WV Haiti Summary

Without a doubt, working with the team we had in Haiti was one of the best times of my life. Over the course of the next 6 years, we would each fall from grace in World Vision. Our team slowly dismantled, I would be the last standing until 2016.

To the team we were, to this day I am grateful for all that we had and were together. Abby, Denozo, Proby, Ducky, and amazing team. And not without exception, a great employee and good friend, Alex Herard, aka Zeva, who passed within a year of my departure.

You are never forgotten.

Alex “Zeva” Herard

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