Operation PIVOT (UNMIH)

International Operation Name: United Nations Mission in Haiti - UNMIH

International Mission Name: United Nations Mission in Haiti - UNMIH

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Mission Date: 23 September 1993 - 30 June 1996

Region Name: Central America

Location: Haiti

Canadian Operation Name: Operation PIVOT

Canadian Operation Dates: 1 April 1995 - 15 April 1996

Mission Mandate:

United Nations Security Council Resolutions 867. 23 September 1993

United Nations Security Council Resolutions 940, 31 July 1994 (Chapter VII)

The United Nations authorized the United Nations Mission in Haiti with Security Council Resolution 867. However, when Haitian militias prevented the UNMIH from commencing its mandate, the UN instituted a naval blockade under the UN Multinational Force (see Operation FORWARD ACTION). The Security Council then expanded UNMIH’s mandate through Resolution 940 on 31 July 1994, including making it a Chapter VII mission. This enabled the use of military action to restore international peace and security, if required. Ill-suited as an invasion force, UNMIH would assume its new mandate within Haiti once the American-led Multinational Force caused the Cédras government to capitulate. This new resolution mandated that UNMIH:

• Assist the legitimate Haitian Government in sustaining the secure and stable environment established during the Multinational Force phase (Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY);

• Creating and professionalizing a national police force

• Assisting the constitutional authorities of Haiti in establishing an environment conducive to the organization of free and fair elections.

Mission/Operation Notes:

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president of Haiti on 16 December 1990, in elections the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations deemed valid and democratic. Both the UN and OAS hoped that Aristide’s election would mark the end of a five-year period of instability following the ousting of the authoritarian Duvalier regime. However, Lieutenant-General Raoul Cédras launched a coup in September 1991 and overthrew President Aristide. This undemocratic, unconstitutional move was immediately condemned by the OAS and UN, and launched an international crisis to support Haiti’s fledgling democracy.

In December 1992 the United Nations Secretary-General appointed Mr. Dante Caputo of Argentina as the Special Envoy for Haiti, seeking a solution to facilitate the peaceful return of President Aristide and democracy to Haiti. Mr. Caputo successfully negotiated the Governors Island Agreement and the New York Pact, which stipulated that Aristide would return to Haiti as President and Cédras would take early retirement during a six-month transition period.

The Security Council authorized the establishment and immediate dispatch of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) for a period of six months to support the transition; Cedras had agreed to this in the Governor’s Island agreement. The UNMIH force would be employed in a training and engineering capacity. UNMIH deployed lead elements in the form of an advance team in Port-au-Prince and managed to land unobstructed. However, when the USS Harlan County arrived in Port-au-Prince on 11 October 1993 carrying American and Canadian troops to support the UN mission, armed civilians allegedly backed by the Haitian army and police prevented the ship from landing. Thus, the initial UNMIH mission never became fully operational.

As the UNMIH contingent was unable to carry out its mandate, the UN reinstated serious sanctions and imposed a blockade on Haiti to enforce them. For information on Canadian participation in this blockade, see OP Forward Action. When the blockade and sanctions failed to resolve the situation, the UN Security Council authorized a Multinational Force (MNF) under Resolution 940 of 31 July 1994 to take whatever measures necessary to bring about the return of President Aristide. The product of this was US operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, which successfully took control of Haiti with minimal bloodshed.

On 19 September 1994, the lead elements of the 28-nation multinational force landed in Haiti unopposed. This was an overwhelmingly American force. Being advised that a 3,900 man paratrooper force from Fort Bragg, North Carolina was on its way, General Cédras quickly capitulated. An American force quickly occupied the country with little resistance, although there was one major incident when Cédras-supporting elements of the military and police engaged in a firefight with American troops. Among other operations, the MNF searched for and seized weapons caches to protect public safety. On 15 October 1994, after the departure of the Haitian coup leaders, President Aristide returned to Haiti and resumed his functions as President, after three years in exile.

With the Multinational Force in place, the United Nations dispatched an advance team from UNMIH to work with the Multinational Force and to prepare for the arrival of the full UNMIH contingent. The advance party included military observers, staff officers and police personnel. Having set the conditions for the return of UNMIH, (occasionally referred to as UNMIH II under its new mandate) the transition from the Multinational Force to UNMIH occurred on 31 March 1995. The force numbered 6,000 troops and up to 900 civilian police officers at its peak.

The military component of UNMIH was needed to help deter the violence that had become endemic throughout most of Haiti but especially in the capitol Port-au-Prince. Criminal groups, vigilante organizations and unofficial militias were involved in assaults, robbery, intimidation and murder. Compounding the problem was the fact that the Haitian Armed Forces was disbanded in January 1995 to prevent another coup. Some of the soldiers were integrated into the Interim Public Security Force. While the International Organization for Migration provided a six-month vocational training program, less than 230 percent were able to find jobs. This left many former soldiers unemployed and with access to weapons that were poorly secured.

One major problem was that there was no professional police force. There was an Interim Public Security Force, an arm of the disbanded Haitian Armed Forces, which numbered just under 3,000 and were generally considered incapable of functioning as police. Policemen were often not paid and therefore had to extort money from shop-owners and civilians. They had no proper training, did not have vehicles or communications equipment or other basic equipment. Even more serious, most did not know the law or what the law allowed. The UN Civilian Police were there to help create the Haitian National Police and professionalize it. UNMIH was also there to educate the public as to the law and their rights.

In February 1995, President Aristide inaugurated a new Police Academy. In a four-month program, 375 cadets would receive their training with a new class starting roughly every six weeks. UNMIH estimated that Haiti required 7,000 police, although this would be reduced to about 6,500 during the UNMIH mandate. As the cadets graduated, they were slated to replace the officers of the Interim Force, who would then be released. There were, however, originally no plans for integrating them into the work-force. Some Interim Force members were able to be integrated into the Haitian National Police. UNMIH’s civilian police not only helped guide the new police force but also accompanied them on patrols, providing on-the-job training. They also provided this support to the Interim Public Security Force until it was disbanded on 6 December 1995.

The UNMIH military component would support the UN Civilian Police and the Haitian police patrols by being present with them. Military patrols would meet with the police before a patrol to coordinate the patrol’s movement for the shift. In some cases, the military component provided the only part of a patrol. For example, in November 1995 a Haitian National Police officer accidentally shot and killed a child in the slum area of Cité Soleil, setting off riots and the burning of a police station. For two weeks, the Haitian national police did not set foot in this area, so the patrolling and security role was left to the UN Police and military.

When UNMIH deployed, they took over the two Multinational Force camps at Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. Additional camps at Gonaives, Jacmel, Jérémie, Les Cayes and St-Marc were built while camps at Hinche, Ouanaminthe and Port-de-Paix took over existing facilities. With the camps in place the military component of UNMIH soon found itself conducting operations beyond the original task of supporting the UN Civilian Police and the Haitian National Police, Because of the level of violence and the threat of criminal elements, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were at risk of being robbed. The UNMIH military component was soon conducting escorts for the NGOs and also for UNMIH logistical convoys. They also had to assume the role of prison guard for a month after riots and disturbances at prisons in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives.

In order to provide the logistical support required by the UN camps spread through the country, UNMIH engineers also improved local infrastructure, especially roads and bridges. This benefited not just the UNMIH but also the local people. This was also of benefit during the hurricane season that started in August. Heavy rains in the past could isolate communities and prevent aid from reaching them. With the improved roads and bridges, UNMIH had made emergency planning possible.

With the combination of UN Civilian Police and Military force providing security and training for the two Haitian police forces during their patrols, the level of violence in the country went down and public confidence improved. However, there were still elements hostile to the government of President Aristide. In the run-up to the election of December 1995, two deputies were attacked killing one of them. The resulting violent demonstrations in Les Cayes required the deployment of the Quick Reaction Force and larger Haitian National Police-UNMIH joint patrols.

Under the protection and guidance of the UNMIH force, legislative elections began on 25 June 1995. The Secretary General of the OAS declared that the elections had “established a foundation which, although shaky, provides the basis for further positive progress towards the continuing evolution of an increasingly peaceful democracy in Haiti.” By 24 July 1995, the Secretary-General reported that UNMIH had made substantial progress towards achieving its mandate. The fact that many former soldiers were unemployed but still had access to weapons was a major security concern. This, combined with upcoming Presidential elections in December encouraged the UN to extend the UNMIH mandate to February 1996. Haiti held presidential elections on 17 December 1995, and power was peacefully transferred between two democratically elected presidents for the first time in Haitian history from Aristide to Mr. René Préval on 7 February 1996. Resolution 940 initially mandated that UNMIH remain until February 1996, by which time it was hoped that Haiti would have duly elected institutions and a functioning security force.

UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali shared the view with most observers that UNMIH should not abruptly cease operations on 29 February 1996. Instead, the decision was made on 29 February 1996 to extend UNMIH for a final four month period with UNSCR 1048. The intent was to allow for a more gradual withdrawal while transferring responsibility to the Haitian government. While the Secretary-General recommended that 1,900 troops remain, the Security Council approved no more than 1,200 in order to cut costs. To bridge this gap and maintain an effective military force, the Government of Canada decided to provide the difference of 700 troops entirely at its own expense.

With the reduction in the UN military component from 6,000 to 1,200 plus the 700 additional Canadians, the military forces were withdrawn from most areas. A military presence was maintained in Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince. The remainder of the country would be supported on an ‘as required” or emergency “response zone” basis. With the end of the term specified in UNSCR 1048, UNMIH officially ended, to be replaced by the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti.

CAF Mission/Operation Notes:

Although the Canadian Contingent to the United Nations Mission in Haiti (CCUNMIH) would not become operational until April 1995, Canada was involved in the advance team that arrived in Haiti in September and October 1994. The 60-person advance team was led by Colonel William Fulton, who was the chief of staff responsible for not just the military component, but also the police component. Three other Canadian Armed Forces officers crossed the border from the Dominican Republic into Haiti on 4 October: Major Jean Luc Milot, Major Marc Desjardins and Captain Michael Taylor, who were all air force officers while Colonel Fulton was an army officer. The advance party also included Canadian civilian police.

The advance party for CCUNMIH arrived in country on 27 February 1995. The pre-operational phase to this deployment encountered several significant logistical setbacks during this period. First, the UN-contracted shipping company was unable to provide a vessel for the CCUNMIH equipment, as the ship intended for the task was experiencing engine problems. This delay was further compounded by a labour strike at the Port of Montreal. While the personnel deploying to Haiti would travel via commercial air, the cargo to be sent by sea was mission essential equipment, including ammunition. A suitable substitute port was found and over 120 sea containers were quickly moved overland to Becancour in a feat of logistics.

By 30 March 1995, the final contingent of personnel had arrived in Haiti and all vital equipment was delivered. The base of operations was designated Camp CANARGUS (as Canadian, Argentinian and American troops were housed at the facility), where the newly arrived 474 Canadians formed part of over 1000 UN troops of both the Multinational Force and UNMIH. The handover ceremony from the Multinational force to UNMIH took place on 31 March 1995, and Operation PIVOT officially began on 1 April but the last few Canadian troops continued to arrive after that date.

The Canadian contingent included aviation of eight Twin Hueys (CH-135), an Airfield Engineering Squadron, an airfield security force, and a combat service support squadron to provide administrative and logistical support. These personnel originated from across the country, primarily from a mixture of Air Command units and formations.

United Nations planners tasked the Canadian contribution with providing the entire aviation, and logistical support to overall UNMIH operations. Consisting of 16 heavy trucks, the Canadian Medium Transport Flight provided the sole military ground transportation to UNMIH for the duration of Operation PIVOT. They often ran into poor roads while heading to remoter parts of the country and were augmented by a United States Navy landing craft – utility, the Brandy Station. This allowed them to reach locations such as Cap-Haitien, Gonaive, Jacmel and Les Cayes. In the first four months the flight carried over 3 million tons of cargo and travelled over 150,000 kms.

Canada’s aviation contribution was designated the Canadian Utility Helicopter Squadron, composed of eight Twin Huey helicopters, with its personnel drawn mainly from 408 Squadron. Their role was predominantly transport or cargo and personnel, and reconnaissance of areas for UNMIH but they could also be used in emergency to transport UN forces to a hot-spot or to conduct medical or personnel evacuations. The VIPs included the secretary general of the United Nations, Boutros-Boutros Ghali and the president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. For the December 1995 election the Twin Hueys were also used to transport ballots to and from more remote areas.

The airfield engineering squadron of about 110 Canadians worked alongside a 157 man American company to form the UN Can-Am Engineering Battalion. Their primarily role was to build the camps that UNMIH used throughout Haiti. The airfield security force provided security for Camp CANARGUS and the UN section of Port-au-Prince airport. They also conducted VIP escorts and escorted personnel carrying cash from the bank and to the UN contingents. Communications within CCUNMIH and from the contingent back to Canada were operated by 25 communications specialists primarily from 8 Air communications and Control Squadron and 79 Communications Regiment. Because of the sensitive nature of their gear, the sea containers housing the communications equipment were air conditioned. Those housing the personnel were not. Despite the heat that often hit 40 degrees.

On 1 September 1995, the initial group of Canadians was replaced by a second rotation of approximately 500 personnel, also from within Air Command. The mandate of the mission did not change, but there was a greater focus on supporting the upcoming national elections. Trucks and helicopters of CCUNMIH provided transportation for electoral material used before and after polling. The election of December 1995 was widely viewed as a success, and power was peacefully transferred to René Préval as the next President of Haiti.

Throughout the mission, Canadians contributed positively to the people of Haiti via informal initiatives beyond the official mandate of the force. Examples of this include 36 Canadian personnel volunteering to teach English classes to Haitian adults for an hour each weekday morning before starting regular duties at camp. The Medium Transportation Flight conducted the distribution of surplus food and redundant building materials. Engineers rebuilt three elementary schools, the helicopter squadron assisted in renovating an out-patient clinic in Carrefour, a poor suburb of Port-au-Prince, and the transport flight renovated a school as well. These projects, with the exception of two schools, were all achieved through volunteer work in cooperation with the Canadian embassy and other humanitarian agencies and coordinated by a CCUNMIH civil-military co-operation officer. Despite the fact that the Canadian mission was mandated to work in an indirect role supporting UNMIH, these initiatives allowed the force to have a direct impact on the well-being of Haitians.

When Canada proposed and then sent an additional 700 personnel to make up for the shortfall in the UN’s mandated strength, this changed the nature of the Canadian contribution to UNMIH. Operation PIVOT was officially ended on 15 April 1996 and Operation STANDARD started under the aegis of UNMIH. The Air Command contingent in April was replaced by one from the Canadian Army, which included the additional 700 personnel that Canada provided beyond the mission’s official strength. When UNMIH ended on 30 June 1996, Operation STANDARD continued under the new UN mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti.

Troops (4 ESR) in Haiti during OP "Pivot".

Page details

Date modified: