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Remarks at a Meeting of the Multinational Coalition on Haiti

September 16, 1994

President Aristide, Prime Minister Arthur, distinguished Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, Charges, the Representative of the United Nations, my colleagues in the United States, I begin by saying a simple thank you. Thank you to all the nations here represented for joining an international coalition to restore democratic government to Haiti as called for by United Nations Security Council Resolution 940.

Your presence here demonstrates that this international coalition is strong, diverse, and growing. We have countries from the Caribbean, countries from Latin America, countries from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, united in our insistence that the enemies of democracy who now terrorize Haiti leave and leave now and that democratically elected government be returned.

And thank you, President Aristide, for your remarks, for your commitment to democracy and your commitment to reconciliation, for your commitment to the long, hard work of rebuilding your economy and your society, and for your commitment to the future of democracy as evidenced by your comments about the next election. I think your statement that in a democracy the most important election is always the second one may become a staple of civics books in our country and perhaps throughout the world.

For 3 years, the international community has done everything it could think of to do to restore Haiti's democratic government peacefully, to end this brutal reign of terror in our hemisphere. We have tried everything. Often our envoys have been rebuffed. Often just a simple request for talk has been denied.

On one occasion an agreement was reached here in the United States, where General Cedras came and actually signed the Governors Island Agreement, committing the military dictators to give up power in return for the spirit of reconciliation about which President Aristide spoke. When the day came for that plan to take effect, the coup leaders went back on their word and refused to leave. And all our efforts since have failed to budge them. As all of you know, the atrocities have only gotten worse. And recently, the leaders even refused to meet with the U.N. Special Envoy.

We have an interest, obviously, in many things: the importance of spreading democracy; the importance of dealing with the immigration problem about which President Aristide spoke; clearly, the importance of dealing with the horrible human rights violations; and also the importance in not allowing dictators to break their word to the international community, the United Nations, the Caribbean community, the Organization of the American States.

As I look around this room, I am struck by the fact that our common goal is shared by nations not only here in the neighborhood we all share but in those well beyond our hemisphere, from all over the Earth. Some of the countries here represented have been struggling so hard with economic difficulties of their own. Some of the countries here represented have been struggling for decades for peace in their own region. Some of these countries here represented have only recently come to know their own freedom and democracy. And yet, you are all here in this international coalition because of the unusual and the terrible developments in Haiti.

Our goals are clear, but they are limited. Once the military regime is removed from power, the coalition will then help the democratic government to establish basic security. It will begin the process of placing Haitian police under civilian control and monitoring them to ensure respect for human rights. This will enable the Haitian Government to provide the security necessary for international institutions and private institutions to resume the delivery of basic humanitarian assistance. Then, in months, not years, the coalition will pass the baton to the United Nations. The U.N. mission in Haiti will take over the peacekeeping effort and continue to professionalize Haiti's police and military. It will leave Haiti no later than 18 months from now, after the next elections are held and a new government takes office.

Over time, all of us here, and the international financial institutions as well, will be involved in helping Haiti to recover, in providing Haiti with the economic and humanitarian and technical assistance that will be required to keep the country on the path of progress and democracy. But all of us realize, none more than President Aristide, that in the end, the job of rebuilding Haiti belongs to the Haitian people. I think they ask for nothing more than the opportunity to meet that challenge.

And sir, I say again to you today, the spirit of reconciliation, the hand which you have reached out, even in this hour, to those who have taken democracy away, is critical to your success, and I applaud you for what you have said.

Our international coalition goes to Haiti to give democracy a chance—we cannot guarantee it; to remove cruel and brutal dictators, but not to impose a future on Haiti. We cannot do that; that is for the Haitians to make themselves. But I hope and believe that what we are doing will not only be successful but will generate support from even more nations. I think as we go along, you will see more and more countries from all over the world coming to be a part of this. I invite them to do so.

Together, we can help to ensure that the bright light of democracy once again burns in Haiti; that we have taken a stand that helps to restore human rights and end an almost unimaginable brutality; and that we will send a clear message that people who keep their word to the international community—who give their word—should keep it.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are some more things which I believe we all need to discuss and certainly things which our coalition partners are entitled to know and questions they might want to ask. So I have asked the Chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shalikashvili, to discuss in more detail the military and security aspects of our efforts.

Let me say, if I might, to all of you, I appreciate the fact that you have given us your people to serve as a part of this effort. I know you appreciate the fact that in this world, dealing with difficulties, there is no such thing as a risk-free effort. But I will tell you that General Shalikashvili and the other leaders of our military have worked and planned and done everything they possibly could to maximize the chances of success and minimize the risks to your people and the risks to human life generally, consistent with the spirit outlined in President Aristide's remarks.

With that, I leave you with General Shalikashvili and the Secretary of State. And I thank you all again very, very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Meeting of the Multinational Coalition on Haiti Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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