Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Chavannes Jeune looking to reverse 200 years of corruption and poverty
August 6, 2005
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Chavannes Jeune, an influential Haitian Christian leader, pastor and evangelist, will formally announce his candidacy for president of Haiti in his home town of Les Cayes on Wednesday, August 10.
In an exclusive interview with the barrickreport.com at his office here in the nation’s capital on August 5, Jeune said his motivation his simple. “I have the vision that our Christian people can make a positive change.”
While his motivation might be uncomplicated, fixing this nation’s problems will be an entirely different story should he be successful in his campaign, as Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere, where even safe, clean water is a rarity and 20 percent of children die before the age of five.
Electricity is unpredictable and garbage pickup virtually nonexistent, causing an odor and haze to hang over Port-au-Prince because people are constantly burning trash. And, what isn’t burned litters virtually every street, alleyway and streambed.
Still, with an estimated 40 percent of Haitians being evangelicals, Jeune would seem to have an excellent chance at leading this nation, which gained its independence on January 1, 1804. That is, if he can convince Christians to register and vote, no easy task in a nation jaded by two centuries of often corrupt leadership.
In reality, despite being only the second nation in the western hemisphere to gain its freedom, and the first to do so with a successful slave revolt, is not really independent, insists Jeune. “After so many years of independence, our nation is still in bondage,” he said.
The reason it is not truly free, he said, is because the nation was dedicated by a voodoo priest at its liberation, it has been in bondage to the devil for four generations; and presently, because of the political turmoil since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile in February of last year, the nation is essentially under the control of the United Nations, though it does have indigenous leadership, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.
However, Jeune, who is the pastor of Mission Evangelical Baptist Church, and has been involved in leadership of a number of Haitian evangelical and pastoral organizations, is also hopeful because of the people he wishes to serve.
In fact, while it is true that voodoo and its associated satanic rituals do enjoy significant influence in Haiti, it is equally true that the nation is populated by industrious and friendly people that are very family-oriented. Conversely, they have come to distrust politics because of the corruption that has dominated virtually every level of government.
Nevertheless, Jeune, 51, is hopeful that he can motivate enough Christians to vote to swing the election his way. In fact, he has been characterized by at least one American missionary as “the Billy Graham of Haiti.”
Jeune certainly has the credentials to support such a characterization. As the former leader of HAVIDEC (Haiti’s Vision for the Third Century), an evangelical social organization that was established to reach the nation with the Gospel as it began its third century of independence, and to motivate Christians to involve themselves in all aspects of Haitian life, including politics, Jeune – who left the organization to run for president – has seen daily the challenges facing his people through God’s call upon his life.
Out of the efforts of HAVIDEC came a political party, UNCRH, a French acronym for “National Christian Union for the Reconstruction of Haiti.” Jeune was elected as its leader – and my extension its presidential candidate – in January, 2005.
Since then, he has been crisscrossing the nation, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, as he campaigns in remote areas here, as well as to the Haitian Diaspora, which is made up of about 2.5 million expatriated Haitians living in the United States, Canada, France, Africa and other nations. They are eligible to vote and send a documented $1 billion annually to friends, family and businesses back home. Additionally, it is anyone’s guess as to how much cash is sent by family members back home without bank transfers.
He offers an ambitious agenda, but he is not a complete stranger to Haitian politics, as he served as vice president for 13 months at the beginning of the 1990’s under President Ertha Fascal Trouyot. “During that time, the Lord allowed me to make a positive impact on leaders, as he allowed me to witness to many politicians and military leaders who accepted the Lord as their Savior.”
It is that pastor’s heart that guides his platform. In short, he believes Haiti is ripe for a Christian to be elected president, which Jeune insisted would be an embracing by Haitians of Jesus as the nation’s Lord.
In fact, he referred to America’s first president as a model for the first point of his platform. “First of all, we need moral values. That is very much lacking. We have many leaders that are often corrupted. They enrich themselves and rob the people. Like George Washington said, a nation that is not guided by the moral principles of God has no guide at all.”
He continued, “This is a democracy only on paper. Social justice is a major issue. We must decentralize. All the power is in the presidency and Port-au-Prince. Rural, remote areas are left behind.”
As an example of how Haitians can govern themselves, he points to the small national police force. “We have only 4,000 police for a nation of 8.5 million people. Half of those are bodyguards for the big shots, and not helping the people at all. Yet, except for a few pockets, we can move about, live together without problems, even with no police presence.”
It is those pockets of violence that must be immediately addressed before other points of his platform can be initiated, he acknowledged. “We can create jobs and encourage investment and tourism if we end the violence. It is a very beautiful country.” He continued, “It is too bad the poverty and sense of oppression and lack of employment has led to violent actions.”
So, beyond the belief that Christians must provide a moral example as leaders, he said, “The number one problem is security.” The government must also be stabilized, he said, and jobs created because, “Poverty encourages violence.”
The nation essentially has a year-round growing season, so production of agriculture must increase, he said, so the nation can export less food, saving extremely limited resources and providing desperately needed food for its population. So, working on infrastructure, such as irrigation, is critical, he said.
He also wishes to improve Haiti’s standing in the international community. Jeune acknowledged that will require a balancing act, as he does not wish Haiti to be subservient to other nations, but knows also that it must collaborate with them to help the Haitian people.
“Haiti cannot do well if it does not have good relations,” he said. Jeune said he would begin international cooperation with the Dominican Republic, the nation to the east that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and accounts for two-thirds of the land mass.
“We must try and see whether we can develop electricity. We share a big river that could accomplish that.”
He continued, “Also, we have the United States only 600 miles away. We have to understand the role of the U.S. and smooth our relations, not see them as wanting to occupy and control Haiti. We must work together. The American people are inclined to help. We need the means without being subordinated.”
He noted also that Haiti has a cultural connection to France, the nation that established Haiti as a colony. French is the primary language spoken and is taught in school. He also spoke of establishing strong relations with Canada, where a large percentage of the Diaspora live, as well as Israel, Japan and even China. “We need a government that knows how to approach these nations as partners, to get collaboration but not submission.”
Jeune believes that Haiti has the culture and history that will demonstrate its value in the international community. “First of all, we have a wonderful culture. We are a very hospitable and industrious people.” As examples, he pointed to the arts – in particular music and painting – and to the number of professionals the nation has produced. In the latter case, there are many Haitian doctors, but more live in Canada than in Haiti, he noted.
But first, he must convince Christians to register and vote. He said at least three obstacles stand in the way of that critical endeavor – violence in past elections, an under-funded and understaffed effort to register voters, and the belief held by many pastors that Christians should not engage in politics because it is so corrupt. He said flatly, “If the security is not resolved, we will have problems.” The most violent area is Cite Soliel, a neighborhood of 100,000 here in the capital that is presently surrounded by U.N. troops.
It is there that leftists are disrupting missionary activities, feeding programs, and other relief efforts. Some have even criticized the Brazilian leadership of the U.N. mission here, saying they “volunteered” to lead the security effort to purposely sabotage the reform efforts, and so that they will be in a position to back a leftist candidate for president.
Jeune acknowledged, “Everybody understands they are not efficient. Everybody knows they have not brought peace.” Yet, insisted Jeune, “I really believe there is some progress being made.”
As for getting Christians involved in the election, he is hopeful. “The turnaround in the minds of the Christians about being involved is a pleasant surprise,” said Jeune. “If we all come out to vote, and vote in unison, we will win,” he insisted. Undeniably, he does come from a region – the south – that could propel him into the White House, for an estimated 57 percent of the residents there are Christians.
While there is another pastor, Dr. Luc Mesadieu, considering a run for the presidency, Jeune said he believes that he and Mesadieu – who lives in the northern part of the country – will at least sign a “nonaggression pact” so that their testimonies will not be harmed by the competing for votes.
And, he believes he must appeal to the Diaspora, so he is speaking to a worldwide convention of it in New York in September. “The leaders must acknowledge them. They have trade and skills we desperately need. If we can repatriate them, they are a rich source of ideas. Too often though, the leaders of this country have not utilized them and put their ideas on the shelf.”
Though he faces many obstacles – the problems of Haiti itself, not to mention raising enough support for his campaign – he is determined. “I am in this endeavor to see if I can be of use to this country and use my testimony and Christian faith to influence our nation for good.”
© LibertyPressNews.com, 2005.
Michael Barrick is the Executive Editor of www.barrickreport.com, the Internet news source of www.libertypressnews.com, which offer in-depth exclusives, field reports and commentaries on secular and sacred news. You can read his daily musings on Christian living and other vital topics of the day at www.michaelbarrick.com. To contact him, write firstname.lastname@example.org..
For reprinting information, visit www.libertypressnews.com.