PORT-AU-PRINCE — Just three months into the year and there have already been more than a dozen protests throughout Haiti to denounce ongoing violence and political instability, as well as to demand better wages. On March 29, the 35th anniversary of Haiti’s 1987 Constitution, more than 40 organizations plan to protest in various cities, including the two largest, to once again demand change.
“The results have been little compared to what we were waiting for,” Ricardo Fleuridor, an activist, said of the previous protests. “[But] it’s the anniversary of the constitution, and the constitution gave us the rights to protest, to have freedom of speech, to eat, go to school, have an equal society. So we will say nothing else but ‘no to kidnapping, insecurity, high cost of life and corruption.’”
Some activist groups holding March 29 protests are Nou Pap Konplis, of which Fleuridor is the spokesperson, Nou Konsyan, Fòs Delmas, Fanm Djanm Kap Lite in Port-au-Prince and Avant-Garde Activists of the North (OMANORD) in Cap-Haitien — despite that city being on a heavy rainfall warning.
The march will be the start of a series of movements aimed at forcing the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry to assume its responsibilities, according to the organizations.
Haitians have been protesting on a regular basis since the late 1980s following the fall of former president Jean-Claude Duvalier who ruled the country with an iron fist and did not permit dissent. The 1987 Constitution was written about a year after Duvalier was overthrown and it was meant to start a new system of government after his dictatorship.
Many other key dates in Haiti’s history have also turned into a day residents protest like Independence Day on Jan. 1, Oct. 17, the day Haiti’s first leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines was assassinated and more.
Last year on March 29, demonstrators took to the streets to demand that former President Jovenel Moïse resign, arguing that his term had ended Feb. 7, 2021. Although unsuccessful, some are optimistic that protests against the current environment will bring change eventually.
“Look at Chile, in 2019 there were protests and now today they have a constitutional reform and another type of state,” said Ebens Cadet, a Nou Konsyan spokesperson. “Only the Democratic tools can bring changes.”
However, Cadet added that some of the demonstrations have been “deceptive” so residents must learn from their mistakes. For one, protesting in Haiti comes with risks, and demonstrators as well as journalists are often attacked — sometimes fatally — by police officers. Last month, an officer shot and killed reporter Maxiben Lazarre during a protest. At least four other people were injured during the incident.
Fleuridor said there will be groups of lawyers, human rights defenders and civil society organizations watching the march for the potential of violence. Nou Pap Konplis have also notified the police about the protest.
“The people will take it to the streets and they can’t stop them,” Fleuridor said. “We have to ask for things to fall into place in the country because we can’t live in a country where no one can function.”