Exchange With Reporters on Haiti
Q. Do you have a message for the military leaders in Haiti who have——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——so far thwarted our mission?
The President. First of all, the objective of the United States is to restore democracy and President Aristide to Haiti. The instrument of that was the sanctions. It was the sanctions. We never intended, and we have no intention now, of interfering in the internal affairs of the Haitians, except to say that we want democracy and the will of two-thirds of the Haitian people to be honored.
Now, the Governors Island Agreement, which all the parties signed off on, invited the international community to come to Haiti: French speaking forces; advisers to come in and help to train the police; the Canadians and the Americans to come and help to train the army, particularly for civilian purposes. One of the reasons we have so many Seabees going in, for example, is to help the military people change their mission so they can rebuild their own country.
This is different from the other missions we have been discussing. This is not peacekeeping. This is not peacemaking. This is an agreement that has been made, that if honored, would enable our people to come in and simply serve as trainers, 600 of them. So I have no intention of sending our people there until the agreement is honored.
What I intend to do now is to press to reimpose the sanctions. I will not have our forces deposited on Haiti when they cannot serve as advisers, when they can't do what they were asked to do. So we're going to press for the reimposition of sanctions. Mr. Cedras is supposed to resign his post as soon as the parliament can pass a bill separating the military from the police. Mr. Franc¸ois is supposed to leave his post. And they're going to have to go through with this if they expect to have a normal existence. And otherwise the United States is going to press to reimpose the sanctions.
Q. And what else can you do to try to get Aristide back in power? Isn't this whole thing coming unraveled, sir?
The President. No, I think that what happened is they agreed to the Governors Island Agreement. They invited all these nations to come help train the police and train the military and move them away from the kind of state they've had to a democracy where they can rebuild the country.
Now, some of the people who have held onto power obviously are resisting letting it go when the pressure of the sanctions has been let up. President Aristide himself, number one, asked us to lift the sanctions, and number two, granted the amnesty to the people that were involved in kicking him out, just as he promised to do. So he has done his part. The international community has done its part. And they are reneging. There's no point in our even trying to land there until we can do what we were asked to do as advisers. This is not peacemaking, this is about restoration of democracy. So we're going back to the sanctions until those people do what they said they'd do.
Q. With those who are unarmed, is there a chance that the military will go in and then turn around and get in a hostile kind of situation once they're on the ground?
The President. The Department of Defense and our military leaders are convinced that the relatively light arms that our people were supposed to carry as advisers are more than adequate to protect themselves as long as the Governors Island Agreement is being honored. But I am not about to let them land to test it. We have to know. And we don't know yet. And so until we know, we're not going in there. We were not asked to come in there to make peace or to keep the peace. They said they would do that. All they asked us to do is to go in there and help them rebuild their country and train their forces, which we agreed to do.
Q. What's your view of the status of the Governors Island Agreement? Is it dead, has it been abrogated? What's your view of it as the legal standing of——
The President. [Inaudible]—do not think it is dead. I still think it will come back to life. But right now it has been abrogated by people who have decided to cling to power for a little bit longer, apparently once the pressure of the sanctions has been off. We agreed to lift the sanctions because President Aristide asked us to do it, believing that in good faith that if he honored the Governors Island Agreement, the others would. Until they do it, the rest of the international community cannot proceed.
Q. What did Cedras tell you? I mean, what have they told of why they've done this?
The President. Well, they have a lot of different explanations. Mr. Cedras basically denies that he did it, although the soldiers plainly got out of the way for the people that were staging the demonstration against the landing. And so what we want to do is we want to see action. I have no intention of asking our young people in uniform or the Canadians or the people from the French-speaking countries to go in there to do anything other than implement a peace agreement that the parties themselves agreed to. I will say again, this is very different from what we have been engaged in, even in Somalia, very different. So they're going to have to honor this agreement. Otherwise, I'm going to press very hard to put the sanctions back on and enforce them strongly.
Q. Mr. President, how about the Harlan County? What's going to happen to the ship? Is it going to remain offshore, is it going to move somewhere else?
The President. I'm going to remove it from the harbor and put it at a base first and then we'll see what happens. I want the Haitians to know that I am dead serious about seeing them honor the agreement they made. President Aristide has done his part. He issued the amnesty personally. They said that's what they wanted; he did it. He asked us to relieve the Haitian people of the suffering and the sanctions, and the United Nations did that. And now the time has come for the people who are clinging to their last gasp of power to honor the agreement. They made the agreement; they've got to honor it.
Q. Mr. President, does that mean that Aristide won't be coming back to power at the end of the month?
The President. No, I still think there's a chance that'll happen. But it does mean that we are going to have to reimpose the sanctions, I believe. Of course, it's up to the U.N., but I'm going to push strong for it. We've got to get this agreement honored. If the agreement is honored, he can go back without fear of his personal safety. And the Canadians, the Frenchspeaking nations, the United States can go in there not as peacemakers, not as peacekeepers but to help to train people to rebuild their country.
We know what two-thirds of the Haitians wanted; they voted for it. We know that President Aristide has now honored his part of the Governors Island Agreement. I still think we can get the others to honor it. But the way to do it is to press for the sanctions, to show total intolerance of this kind of behavior and not to get into a position where the Canadians, the French, the United States, anybody else's motives can be misunderstood. We are waiting to go there as we were invited by all the parties: to be advisers. That's it. Meanwhile, we're going to push for democracy.
NOTE: The exchange began at 4:08 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, prior to the President's departure for Chapel Hill, NC. In his remarks, he referred to Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, commander of the Haitian armed forces, and Lt. Col. Joseph Michel Franc¸ois, chief of the Haitian police.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters on Haiti Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218502