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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 02:04 GMT 03:04 UK
Challenges tower over Haiti force
By Nick Caistor
Regional analyst

UN peacekeepers with Brazilian army general, Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira.
The new UN peacekeepers have several hurdles ahead of them
The UN force which is taking over peace-keeping duties in Haiti from 1 June faces a daunting task.

The UN peacekeepers - set to total some 6,700 troops under the command of a Brazilian general, and also 1,600 civilian police - have only been given a six-month mandate from the Security Council.

However, the United Nations itself has recognised that a long-term commitment by the international community is essential if stable democratic rule is to be achieved in Haiti.

Since the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the end of February, the political situation has become calmer, but the armed groups who led the revolt against him still have most of their weapons, as have pro-Aristide factions.

Many parts of the Caribbean country are still not under the control of the interim government led by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, and the troops rushed in from the US, France and Canada have been very cautious in their approach.

No 'occupiers'

The new government has said it expects the UN force to take a more robust approach and to disarm the rebels as quickly as possible, but they will need to avoid any accusations that they are an occupying power, which could lead to more Haitians uniting against them.

A rusty bike in a spot ravaged by floods
The force seems poorly equipped to help Haiti recover from terrible floods
The UN troops face another serious problem.

Although the force was intended to improve security and prevent any outbreak of violence in order to facilitate political re-organisation, the flood disaster in the south of Haiti is now seen as the most urgent task that needs addressing.

But the UN troops are not equipped for humanitarian missions - they apparently do not have any helicopters of their own to use in this kind of humanitarian effort, and it is not clear if they even have a plan for this kind of eventuality.


Nor can they help the interim authorities sort out the country's desperate financial situation.

According to some officials, the Aristide government went on a 'spending spree' during its last months in power, leaving the country almost bankrupt.

Haiti now relies almost entirely on foreign aid. But it is not part of the UN mandate to help reactivate the economy, however important that might be in helping bring stability.

The UN last sent a mission to Haiti when President Aristide was brought back to power in 1994.

Vague mandate

Their mandate then was more wide-ranging - to keep the peace, but also to help reform the police force and the justice system.

On that occasion, the UN was in Haiti for almost six years, before it pulled out in frustration at the lack of progress.

In 2004, the UN mandate seems vague, and there is no commitment to stay beyond six months. There is little evidence to suggest they will be more successful this time.

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