Friday, March 6, 2015

The political regime in Haiti

Haiti is the first 'Black' nation of slaves to have successfully revolted against colonial rule and fought their way to their independence. It is therefore important for us, as Kenyans and as Africans who also had to fight for our independence from colonialists, to understand how it happened and relate it to our personal experiences in the past.
People from Haiti, unlike other African nationals, take great pride in their independence that they actually compose songs in praise of their solidarity to their country. It is however interesting to note that the politics of Haiti  have often been defined with conflict when strongmen have taken over the government. Only within the later part of the twentieth century, has normal political activity established.
Haiti has had a series of presidents who have been ousted from office for various reasons including corruption allegations, misappropriation of funds, food shortage among other social reasons.
Parliament seems to have a lot of power bestowed upon them in the Haitian government as in 2008 it voted to dismiss President Preval's Prime Minister following severe rioting over food prices. His selected replacement for the post was rejected by Parliament, throwing the country into a prolonged period without a government. This is a situation unlikely to be seen in other African or European Nations.
Political corruption is a common problem in Haiti.The country has consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt nations according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, a measure of perceived political corruption. In 2006, Haiti was ranked as the most corrupt nation out of the 163 that were surveyed for the Index. In 2012, Haiti was #165 out of #176. The International Red Cross reported that Haiti was 155th out of 159 countries in a similar survey of corrupt countries. Here is a comparison of Kenya to Haiti: 

French has been the major language in Haitian politics since the colonial era. Scholars have since referred to Creole, the other language of Haiti as linguistically inferior. Creole grammar is said to be simplified and lacking sophistication compared to its European ancestors. This original demotion of the language created an subordinate sociopolitical, economic, and biological status for the country's majority that had been relocated by slavery.
Today, Creole is spoken by 90-95% of the country. The remaining are bilingual and speak both French and Creole. Per the 1987 Constitution, both Creole and French are official languages of Haiti. However, French is still the main language taught in schools and used in politics. With only 2-5% speaking the language of the politics, Creole speakers are politically disenfranchised. Haitian Creole and French are mutually unintelligible, so the vast majority of citizens cannot communicate with leaders in the language of their choice.

This disenfranchisement is furthered by the lack of a systematic educational system. Literacy programs failed in the 1980s, and French is still the language being used to instruct students. Haitian linguist, Yves Dejean, recalls warnings posted in the principal's office forbidding the use of Creole. In the 1970s, only one percent of the children who entered kindergarten stayed on track to obtain state certificate at the end of the sixth grade. Even after the literacy programs of the 1980s, 90% of the teachers ten years after the decree were still not able to encompass the Creole language into the education system. The language handicap makes education and furthermore, political enfranchisement almost impossible.

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