The University of Texas at Austin
  • Haitian grad student: "This is a shame"

    By Jean-Élie Belleroche
    Jean-Élie Belleroche
    Published: Jan. 29, 2010

    “Man-Yiti (mother Haiti),” why you again! Beloved country, how can we, Haitians, turn your present tragic and shameful situation into a promising future?

    Jean-Élie Belleroche For the last few days, like many Haitians, I have been asking why my country should experience all of these tribulations. I have yet to come up with plausible answers. Thus, I have told myself: excuses put us where we are today. They will always keep Haiti as the lone least developed country in the Americas, and possibly move it to the top of the Unites Nations’ world’s poorest countries listing, if we Haitians, for God’s sake, don’t finally say as the Creole saying goes: “fout tone, enough is enough!”

    For the past few decades, Mother Nature surely has struck our country hard. In 2008, four major storms — Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike — hit the island. These hurricanes ruined several cities. In the city of Gonaives, thousands were killed, missing or injured. At least one million people were affected throughout the country.

    The recent earthquake, by far, is the worst disaster we’ve seen. We may never know the exact number of people who have lost their lives, but it is massive. According to several official sources, the death toll may go beyond 300,000. In Port-au-Prince, at Titanyen alone, tens of thousands of dead bodies are anonymously buried daily without ceremony, without dignity.

    This is a shame.

    The Haitian authorities show no respect for their people; they made no effort to identify their country’s victims. They continue to dump bodies in mass graves along with debris picked up in the streets. In the entrails of their beloved country and its cities, Haitians are powerlessly waiting for assistance, as their loved ones are still trapped in the wreckage of collapsed buildings.

    The international community’s response has been coherently strong and instant, but Haiti’s poor infrastructure and its government’s incompetence have slowed the rescue and relief efforts.

    Corruption, poor governance and political instability have always been Haiti’s serious challenges. From the Duvaliers’ era until today, Haitian leaders have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from our country and mismanaged our resources. Half of Haiti’s population today is still illiterate. The country’s child mortality rates are among the highest in the world, life expectancy has gone down and most Haitians are living under $2 a day.

    Deforestation is our worst nightmare, but we have not done much to address this problem. Less than a century ago, about 70 percent of the country was forested; just over 1 percent of Haiti is wooded today. On the island charcoal is still the primary fuel.

    Haiti has more than 100 political parties, but few of these have a strong organizational base and national representation. The Haitian political leaders don’t live up to the high expectations of their people. Consequently, there have been more than 30 coups in Haiti’s history. To acquire power, Haiti’s leaders are constantly ready to fight each other, compromise Haiti’s interest and kill their people. Haitians need leaders with a common vision for a better tomorrow. The Haitian political and dominant classes should quarantine their unscrupulous practices. If they don’t, our beloved country’s future will be worse than its tragic present.

    We Haitians are resilient people. We surely can make the impossible possible again. We can turn Haiti’s tragic and shameful situation into a promising future. This will be possible when we:

    • Start loving our beloved Haiti.
    • Take our country’s destiny at hand.
    • Are determined to foster hope among ourselves, in line with the rest of the world.
    • Address the serious problems of governance and political instability that is like a cancer and ruins “Man-Yiti (mother Haiti).”
    • Stop corruption and misuse of public funds.
    • Agree on a concerted plan to solve Haiti’s chronic poverty problems.

    It is easier to accuse other countries and to use excuses to justify our innocence and our nation’s failure rather than accept our responsibility. However, just as our ancestors fought powerful nations for freedom, forced the abolition of slavery, sounded the death knell of the global slave system, and echoed their desire to “live free or die” to humanity, we must be resolute and map out strategies that will lay the foundation for a wealthy Haitian nation today.

    Haiti can be the Pearl of the Caribbean again — our beloved country will smile at last!

    Born and raised in Haiti, Belleroche studied journalism at Haiti State University and taught French and Haitian literature in high schools in Port-au-Prince. He worked as a news journalist and talk show host for numerous radio stations in Haiti and is available to share commentary on the day-to-day life of the Haitian community, and how Haitians turn to local radio stations for comfort.

    • Quote 2
      Julia F. said on May 8, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.
      Dear Mr. Belleroche, thank you very much for your thought provoking article. I am the co-founder of a non-profit organization called The Change Mission, and our launch project is the reconstruction of a school in Haiti. I would very much like to speak with you, and will be in the Austin area soon and also in Haiti. You can contact me through our website,
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      Yami said on Feb. 9, 2010 at 12:36 p.m.
      Hello Belleroche, It is unfortunate that tragedy had to happen to our mother land but one thing we know for sure that God is in control and hopefully something good will come out of it. How is your family? Anyone in your family was affected? How is your mother?. Keep in touch. All the best.
    • Quote 2
      Know Article – Haitian grad student: “This is a shame” said on Feb. 3, 2010 at 1:29 p.m.
      [...] Great story by Jean-Eile Belleroche on the Know website. [...]
    • Quote 2
      GinetteF said on Feb. 1, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.
      I think that Haiti's problem is not only a lack of good governance also a lack of good citizens. Individualism is more important than globalism. Collectively people are not standing to find ways for a solid strong Haiti. It seems that, people who are in change and/or the elites, are only there to fatten their pockets. The rotten smell of the capital does not disturb them. Sanitation issue is nothing to them. I often hear that saying "microb pa touye Ayisien," but they live miserably. Their lifespan is shorten due to poor quality of life.
    • Quote 2
      Pat said on Jan. 31, 2010 at 10:43 p.m.
      keep up the good work Brother. Kenbe fem pa moli!
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      Durossert said on Jan. 30, 2010 at 9:53 p.m.
      I totally agree with you. It's more than about time we do take our destiny at hand. No one is going to do for us what we need to do for ourselves. We must get rid of the few useless politicians by sending them to their town not killing them per se but give a chance to the country at large and watch closely the countries that are imposing their will on us.
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      Vladimir Petit-Frere said on Jan. 30, 2010 at 6:05 p.m.
      Dear Ti Lepè, my brother, If we must mention shame, it should be aimed at the so called 'international community' which has been destroying our beloved country for the past 500 years. 300 years of slavery, 200 years of an apparent independence under the total control of that same international community. We have never had a Head of State after Dessalines. We've had a bunch of puppet dictators who have not even been in control of our 'Man-Yiti'. Spain, France, America, Canada and others are responsible. Our history is clear. If the man they put in charge refuses to do what they want him to do, he hall be kicked out of the country or else. That was France to Aristide in 2003, and America sent the president to Africa for reminding them they have moral and economic responsibilities towards Haiti. They stole our money, they destroyed our agriculture in the 1900s to get ready for the 1914 war. We had to pay France to recognize our 'independence'. America recognized our independence 30 years after our ancestors officially proclaimed it. They occupied us for 19 years, leaving us with what we have today. Who is guilty, my friend? Who is in charge of the country? Answer those two questions truthfully, and you will agree with me that the responsibility lies with the 'international community'. I thank God every day for America. I am who I am partly because of that wonderful country that also teaches me not to ever forget. The 'International Community' destroyed our beloved Ayiti, let us hope that they have the courage to rebuild it. They will not be able to make it as beautiful and extremely rich as it was, but at least make my native land 'livable' for the courageous men and women who still live in the land of Dessalines. Tears are falling down, I need to break. Kenbe Rèd, Ti Lepè! Ayiti pap Mouri. By the way, nice picture! Vlad.
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      Bithcer Prophete said on Jan. 30, 2010 at 6:10 a.m.
      Good job on the piece Elie. Although angry at the so-called Haitian leaders, my love for the Nation has not diminished. Leaders, I wonder how they sleep at night? For all I’m convinced that Haiti will not perish, it will rise again. God is still on His throne.
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      bergson cayard said on Jan. 29, 2010 at 3:07 p.m.
      My dear brother, it is really a shame like you say it in your article. We, Haitians, need to revive our country by any means necessary. First, the incompetence of the government has really hurt the effort of the international community to help the hoi poloi. We need to pray for Haiti so the people can seek solace in the divine being. As usual Jean, your writings always evoke the elitism of what is dear to us. Keep up the good work my brother.
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