The last thing Haiti needs right now is the return of Baby Doc, the former dictator whose rule in the Seventies and Eighties is remembered for its corruption and the brutality of his private militia, the Tonton Macouts. The people of the island, and the foreign diplomatic community, have been stunned by the unexpected return of the former playboy-despot Jean-Claude Duvalier to his Caribbean homeland for the first time since he was deposed in a coup in 1986.
He could not have picked a more delicate moment. Haiti has by no means recovered from the devastating earthquake which struck a year ago, killing 300,000 people. Almost a million still live in refugee shelters. Aid provision is in chaos, and the island is in the grip of a cholera epidemic. A political crisis has had a paralysing effect, with presidential elections stalled amid allegations of fraud, ballot-rigging, violence and intimidation.
The arrival of Baby Doc is unlikely to be helpful. Some ecstatic supporters have welcomed him back, proclaiming that he oversaw the longest period of stability in the nation's history. But Amnesty International has suggested that Duvalier should now be arrested for systematic human rights violations on such a scale that they constitute crimes against humanity. Other Haitians have responded by calling for the return of the leftist president Jean-Baptise Aristide.
This is not the kind of polarisation that Haiti requires. Whoever wins the presidency will face the task of rebuilding infrastructure: new homes, new streets, an effective sewage system and power grid are needed, as well as new jobs. A chaotic international aid effort needs to be co-ordinated; at present too many donors want to buy new 4x4s or build new hospitals rather than engage in the unglamorous necessity of clearing rubble.
Rich nations have delivered only a fifth of the $5.6bn they have pledged to the reconstruction effort. The cholera gripping the island is a Bangladeshi strain possibly brought to Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal. Haiti has enough trouble at home without importing more from abroad. Jean-Claude Duvalier should go back to France.Reuse content