Claude Moïse: “The Constitutional Question at the Heart of Haiti’s National Crisis”

Professor Claude Moïse is Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair of Haitian Constitutionalism at Quisqueya University.  He can be reached at moyizo@yahoo.fr.

Ed. Note: Please consult Malick Ghachem’s “Translator’s Introduction,” also included in this issue of The Docket.

This piece was originally published as Claude Moïse, “Au cœur de la crise nationale, la question constitutionnelle,” Brèves de l’UniQ, Oct. 15, 2020, at https://uniq.edu.ht/upload/456-963344281.pdf; and reproduced in Le Nouvelliste, Oct. 26, 2020, at https://lenouvelliste.com/article/222468/au-coeur-de-la-crise-nationale-la-question-constitutionnelle

Claude Moïse, April, 2021.

Part I.

Haiti has never truly been able to achieve the institutionalization of state powers prescribed by its 1987 Constitution.  All the avenues of access to power have been attempted — elections, uprisings, coups d’état and dictates of the international community, negotiations, agreements, compromises, and expedients — without bringing us to a state of democratic normalization, let alone a political stabilization of the country.  More than thirty years later, it has become a matter of utmost urgency to analyze this recent history, which contextualizes the trajectory of Haiti’s post-dictatorship transition.

I. Recalling the Recent Past

The inaugural founding elections of the new regime, drowned in the bloodbath of November 28, 1987, were followed by those of January 1988 organized under the supervision of military leaders.  Four short months later, the military swiftly overthrew the new president, Leslie Manigat.  Following new general elections in December 1990, the rise of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency initiated a period of normalization.  He was in turn thrown out of office in September 1991 by military forces.

By way of a critical retrospective of the historic moment of the transition initiated in 1988, it is useful to assess the presidencies resulting from the breach of constitutional norms.  The two years of military government under Generals Henry Namphy (June-September 1988) and Prosper Avril (September 1988-April 1990) were followed by the several-months presidency of Ertha Pascal Trouillot (April 1990-February 1991).  From 1991 to 1994, during the coup d’état of General Raoul Cédras, the country was ruled locally by a de facto regime cornering all state powers, while the lawful president, Aristide, directed all Haitian missions overseas with the support of the international community.  After this came the interim administration of President Boniface Alexander and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (2004-2006) and, more recently, the presidency of Jocelerme Privert (2016-2017).

Of the seven five-year terms whose story begins in 1988, extending from Leslie Manigat to Jovenel Moïse, only one, the second term of René Préval (2006-2011), was spared political turbulence.  The key events of this period can be summarized as follows:

  • coups d’état in 1988 and 1991;
  • restoration of constitutional legitimacy in 1994 thanks to a foreign military intervention.  Because legislative and presidential elections were prioritized, the need to restore basic elements of the constitutional order (the Permanent Electoral Council (PEC), the territorial collectivities, the Conciliation Commission, the security forces, etc.)[1] was really only taken into account in the context of the competition between the principal political parties involved in the 1994-1995 electoral process;
  • an electoral crisis in 1997 gave rise to a major institutional dysfunction: René Preval, the president who assumed office on February 7, 1996, was forced to act as the de facto head of government for six months (October 1997-March 1998) upon the resignation of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, and in the absence of a duly confirmed successor.  During this period, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, the prime minister chosen and confirmed by Parliament in December 1998, was himself reduced to a de facto role (March 1999-February 2001) because the Chamber of Deputies was declared illegitimate at the end of its term on January 11, 1999, preventing Alexis from presenting his policy agenda;
  • a power grab in 2004 against President Aristide and a second foreign military intervention following intense political protests generated by challenges to the legislative elections of May 2000 and the presidential election that followed in November;
  • a new provisional government stemming from an arrangement initiated by a tripartite crisis committee consisting of representatives of Lavalas (the party of Aristide), the opposition regrouped under the rubric of the Democratic Convergence, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Haiti;
  • a new executive and legislature elected in 2006, but President Préval (2006-2001) and Parliament were unable set up institutions geared towards balancing state powers and creating the conditions of good governance.  Except for those on the Court of Cassation, judges were not nominated according to constitutional requirements, the PEC was still provisional, the Conciliation Commission was left without standards, and none of the organs of the territorial collectivities were established;
  • the constitutional reforms introduced by Préval in 2009 were bungled in 2011-2012, leading to a breach of constitutional order from which Michel Martelly, who was declared to have won the presidential elections, had difficulty exiting.

Since 1986, then, there have been no transfers of power under the normal conditions of one elected president giving way to another: from Namphy to Manigat, from Ertha Trouillot to Aristide, from Alexandre to Préval’s second term, from Privert to Jovenel Moïse.  There have been only three exceptions: from Aristide to Préval’s first term, from the latter to Aristide’s second term, and from Préval’s second term to Martelly.  But in these three cases, the transfer of presidential power took place either under circumstances amounting to a foreign occupation, or on the heels of heated electoral challenges.

What about the other state institutions, particularly the Parliament which the 1987 Constitution made the centerpiece of the new political regime?

Seven legislatures followed — the 44th to the 50th — without leaving behind a legislative record equal to the demands of their mission.  Nor have they done justice to the utopian democratic ambitions of the generation that believed the hybrid parliamentary system of the 1987 Constitution could give birth to the democratic rule of law and prevent the return of the Duvalierist monster.  Sunk in political turmoil most of the time, these legislators have been caught up in institutional schemes and crises that have compromised their legislative work and dashed their moral and political authority.  Their contribution to the bankruptcy of the state is no less considerable.  Their maneuvers were often so degrading during the deplorable 50th legislative term that they surely enabled the authoritarian and unconstitutional proclivities of the current head of state.  “Without the vigilance of law,” Erik Orsenna reminds us, “democracy becomes a comedy in which elected representatives and mafiosi pull one another’s beards and enrich one other.  All the more necessary is it that laws are voted on by a healthy legislature and pronounced by an independent judiciary.”[2]

Under the system of decentralization created by the 1987 Constitution, the essential organs of local governance are authorities at three different territorial levels: the communal section, the commune, and the department.  These new institutions responsible for the project of local democracy were never able to take shape and to function so as to able to fulfill their mandate.  Those that somehow survived the effects of repeated political crises (the Communal Section Councils and the Communal Section Assemblies)[3] have operated for the most part under very trying circumstances. The inability to set up local assemblies whose structure was designed to ensure consistent relationships between the different levels of state power has meant that large parts of their mandate (participating in the nominating of judges and in the formation of the PEC) have simply collapsed.

This non-exhaustive list of institutional dysfunctions since 1988 can be filled in with any number of additional observations.  There is a lot to say about the practically non-functioning legislative chambers, the precarious state of the judiciary, and the mess that is decentralization.  One could also go on at length about the Electoral Council, an important constitutional innovation whose job is to serve as a rampart against all attempts at power grabbing by the authorities.  Thirty years after it was first enshrined in the Constitution, the permanent council has yet to be formed, and so we have had only provisional councils that have been short-lived or subject to disqualification.  One no longer keeps track of the numbers, as so many of them have been consumed by the transition era.  The presidency whose term ended February 7, 2016 swallowed up five by itself alone.

II. Where are we today?

The 2011-2012 elections, conducted under chaotic circumstances, exposed the blatant intervention of the international community — led by the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — to torpedo the results and impose Michel Martelly as the new president.  Predators exploited the devastating chaos created by the January 12, 1210 earthquake for their own profit.  In that context, everything unfolded as if the preliminary drafts of the working group on the Constitution (which mobilized various sectors in 2009) had only served to introduce a new boondoggle at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 constitutional reform process.

The institutional crises proliferated, starting with the constitutional review initiated in September 2009 at the end of the 48th legislature.  Resumed in 2011 under the 49th legislature and utterly botched, this review ended in procedural disaster in 2012, such that jurists and commentators agreed that the 1987 Constitution had not been amended.  The organs of state power were nonetheless reconstituted.  The Tèt Kale[4] era inaugurated by Martelly’s presidency was never able to escape the institutional quagmire.  The Constitution’s timetable for reelecting new blocks of Senators,[5] along with the creation of the PEC, constituted the principal stumbling block of the electoral system and thus of the constitutional restructuring of state powers required for their normal and long-term functioning.  To be sure, this is to say nothing of the conduct of elected  officials responsible for ensuring respect for legal rules, and, more generally, their incapacity to juggle the multifaceted crises of the long transition period.

What I have elsewhere analyzed as the “electoral tangle of 2007, 2008, 2009”[6] did not take long to reassert itself.  In the absence of a duly constituted PEC, the failure to reelect a new third of the Senate’s membership in 2012, and the representatives of local governing bodies in 2014, opened a new chapter in the story of this recurring headache.  That the electoral deficit extended to Martelly’s entire term as president is a measure of the seriousness of Haiti’s social crisis.  The leaders were then forced have recourse, from within the existing state constitutional framework, to processes for exiting from the crisis on an extra-constitutional basis.  Indeed, mediations, political dialogues, conferences, recourse to agreements between representatives of the branches of government, agreements between the latter and political groups or consultations with civil society organization, seem to have become the norm.  Here are some examples:

The El Rancho Accord of March 14, 2004.  Preceded by a political dialogue between Haitian leaders and institutions hosted by the Episcopal Conference of Haiti from January 24 to March 14, 2014, the El Rancho Agreement was the result of several meetings between the administration, members of Parliament and the political parties.

The tripartite accord of December 29, 2014 addressing the pre-election crisis, negotiated by representatives of the three branches of government, namely, President Michel Martelly, the presidents of the Senate (Simon Dieuseul Desras) and Chamber of Deputies (Jacques Thimoléon), and the President of the Court of Cassation (Anel Joseph).

The political accord of January 11, 2015 on a lasting exit from the political crisis, negotiated between President Martelly and various political parties.  The agreement was signed with a view towards confirming the Prime Minister-designate Evans Paul.

The political accord of February 6, 2016 on a plan for institutional continuity in the absence of an elected president at the end of the term of the President of the Republic and for the resumption of the electoral process initiated in 2015.  The agreement was signed February 6, 2015 between President Martelly, the President of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Cholzer Chancy.

This last agreement resulted in the National Assembly’s “election” of Jocelerme Privert.  As interim president, Privert in turn had to confront all of the political skirmishes and electoral deficiencies and debacles that forced him to cut short his term in November 2016, when Jovenel Moïse’s election was confirmed.

The swearing-in of this new president on February 7, 2017 began a second phase of the Tèt Kale era.  A little more than one year after Moïse entered office, the country’s deteriorating situation gave way to multiple crises (economic, social, security, institutional, political, etc.).  Moïse’s responses, rash and heedless of legal norms, accelerated the breakdown of governance.  In August 2017, he allowed himself an initial dispensation from law when, at the request of the PEC, he refused to publish the results of indirect elections for the municipal assemblies in The Monitor.[7]  From there it was a steady path to the resounding collapse of the state.  As of the second Monday of January 2020, with Parliament effectively dissolved because of a lack of new elections to the Chamber of Deputies and for two thirds of the Senate, a de facto government was operating out of control.  By the end of these maneuvers and a new round of electoral debacles, the country’s city halls had been transformed into welcome centers for interim executive agents.  Today, there is no more holding back: the country has been stunned by the unfettered promulgation of presidential decrees that have laid waste to the existing legal order.  At the end of the day, the presidency of Jovenel Moïse must be seen as the calamitous culmination of the accelerated breakdown of governance in Haiti at all levels.

Part II.

III. What can be said? What has not already been said?

The very recent past invites us to revisit the imperative of institutionalization situated at the heart of Haiti’s post-Duvalier “transition” which, hopping from one failure to the next, has morphed into an acute national crisis.

There has never been a satisfying political solution nor an adequate institutional response to the country’s recurring political crisis.  I can no longer recall the number of times we have faced the need to establish a constitutional government since 1987.  The country’s exposure to institutional instability and flagrantly unconstitutional rule is such that Haiti is now toppling on the precipice of arbitrary dictatorship and anarchy.  The linchpin of this drift towards the breakdown of democracy is the sordid reconstitution of a puppet PEC which has been given the lofty mission not only to organize new elections — a role that would align, in normal times, with its constitutional function — but to organize a referendum on a new constitution.  To be drawn up by whom, exactly?

Some observations:

  • “An outgoing government working to accelerate regular business is a government that no longer enjoys the confidence of Parliament, and which is therefore unable to attend to the needs of daily governance. This arrangement cannot extend to new political choices. To issue decrees, countersigned by all the members of the government, is to legislate. Legislating consists of designing or implementing new policies; it modifies the legal order and implicates the country’s future. This goes manifestly beyond the scope of discharging regular business and thus cannot emanate from an outgoing government. … For all of these reasons, the Chair believes that President Moïse, assisted by an outgoing government managing regular business, does not possess the legitimacy necessary for legislating by decree.” (Declaration of the Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair, February 7, 2020)
  • “The dysfunction or non-functioning of Parliament does not ipso facto authorize the head of state to adopt presidential decrees.  The State already has a legal order consisting of the Constitution, international treaties, and laws and decrees promulgated prior to the Constitution that are not inconsistent with it.  Thus, a head of state is in a position, during the short-term absence of Parliament, to validly govern using the existing legal order, without recourse to decrees. (Joseph Léon Saint-Louis, jurist, professor at the University of Quisqueya and member of the Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair)
  • And most recently the admonishment delivered by Bernard Gousse, member of the Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair and Dean of the University of Quisqueya School of Law and Political Science, to the President of the Republic, which “springs from the urgent need to stand up against a machine that seems to have freed itself of all restraints and other safety mechanisms.”  Dean Gousse notes that “the country has registered its alarm at the publication of the September 18, 2020 order[8] setting up a provisional Electoral Council and giving it the mission of organizing a referendum on the adoption of a new Constitution.”  He adds: “An order occupies the lowest rung of the ladder of legal norms and is only valid insofar as it references and respects the norms that are superior to it, namely, the laws and the Constitution.  One searches in vain for a law authorizing a constitutional referendum which the PEC would be in charge of organizing.  How to constitute the electoral body, the definition of the requisite majority, whether or not to take unmarked ballots into account, etc. — nothing, niet, nada.  In the absence of law, the PEC would be acting in a completely illegal manner and would be fulfilling a mission that a mere order cannot attribute to it.”  Dean Gousse concludes: “Bypassing the Constitution, when the constitutional order has not been overturned and a social consensus on the necessity and the modalities of a constitutional review does not exist, renders this order radically unconstitutional.”

Let us also mention the following:

  • The June 2020 Resolution of the Haitian Bar Federation (HBF) regarding the decrees issued by the executive branch, unanimously adopted by the Board of Directors at a special session on July 17, 2020.  The HBF “reminds the President of the Republic and his government that the Constitution does not confer power on the executive branch to supplant the legislative branch for purposes of adopting decrees having the force of law; and therefore calls upon the President of the Republic to withdraw the decrees adopted in violation of the Constitution.”
  • The joint Declaration of July 22, 2020 by a dozen civil society organizations (including Jurimédia,[9] the Civil Consumers Association of Haiti,[10] the Civic and Human Rights Network,[11] etc.) against the publication of the decrees: “This challenge to the decrees also reflects that they were signed by a de facto government appointed without the slightest political consensus.  Moreover, in having rejected the invitation to enter into consultations, the [undersigned] organizations believe that any debate over the substance of the decrees would legitimate both them and the government that is concentrating all power in itself, to the detriment of the other branches of government which are coequal custodians of the national sovereignty (arts. 59 and 50 of the Constitution).”
  • On this score, what I consider to be one of the most outrageous blows to the 1987 Constitution was the July 22, 1995 decree on the organization of the judiciary.  President Aristide promulgated this decree at the tail end of the election of a new Parliament (September 1995).  Notwithstanding, the Court of Cassation, ruling on a challenge to the decree’s unconstitutionality, validated the indignity in a July 23, 2000 decision holding that “the President of the Republic, as head of the executive branch, was brought to issue the August 22, 1995 decree on the organization of the judiciary in lieu and in place of the the legislative branch because the latter power did not exist at the time, and because the executive had a mandate to do so by virtue of article 136 of the Constitution authorized it to guarantee the smooth functioning of the public authorities as well as the continuity of the State” and that, as a consequence, “the decree is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.”

But it was precisely article 136 that, if I can put it this way, was just then in the process of being applied with the elections underway, which were designed to restore Parliament, one of the three branches of government to which the people delegate the exercise of the national sovereignty (articles 58 and 59).

  • I add (citing myself) these excerpts from my most recent book The Three Ages of Haitian Constitutionalism:[12]

“On decrees and constitutional distortion

The decree, as it was known under previous constitutions (1935, 1964, and 1983, for example) is missing from the 1987 text.  Moreover, recourse to decrees is often made during transition periods, when the power to issue them is exercised in defiance of constitutional norms.  The result is that a great many documents said to be decrees or law-decrees have ben incorporated into the legislative inheritance.  Considering the use that the many provisional governments have made of this power since 1987, it is exceedingly important that researchers and legal professionals offer an updated, critical assessment of this development that places it in perspective.

The 1987 Constitution, however, uses the term decree solely to denote three kinds of decisions that can be rendered: (1) by the High Court of Justice (article 188-1); (2) by the National Assembly when ratifying international conventions, accords, and treaties (article 276-1); and (4) by the National Government Council (NGC)[13] which was ‘authorized to issue, under the aegis of the Council of Ministers and in accordance with the Constitution, decrees having the force of law until the deputies and senators assumed office’ (art. 285-1).”

IV. What is to be done?

Over the years there have been appeals by politicians and civil society groups, expert studies, and official and citizen initiatives aimed at rethinking the constitutional question in light of recurring calls for a new founding of the nation.  Today, this is the unanimous position at the heart of every organization fighting towards this end, and the suggestion to rethink the organizing framework of the country’s governance is solidly ensconced in every proposal for a national compact, national conference, or transitional break with the past.

My answer to the question of “what is to be done?” refers, first of all, to a civic and intellectual engagement and, in the current circumstances, to my role as the Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair on Haitian constitutionalism.

On June 15, 2012, the Rector of the University of Quisqueya, Jacky Lumarque, sent me and several colleagues a long letter, excerpts of which I reproduce here, reminding us of the meaning of our frequent discussions and the concerns that some of us had with respect to our responsibilities as intellectuals and teachers.

Many of us are of the outgoing generation, along with many other eminent Haitians who, for several decades now, through their writings or their acts of civic engagement, have tried and still try to say that Haiti can be other than it is; that its chronic underdevelopment is not a final verdict; that mediocrity in the conduct of our public affairs is not a foregone conclusion; that our leading businessmen and women are not condemned to see Haiti on the whole as the Croix des Bossales market[14] where they engage in trade without added value during the week while looking to Miami as the place where they live their real family life over the weekend; that civil society is not necessarily reducible to a collection of management agencies overseeing small-scale projects defined in relation to the paradigms of donors; that the leaders of public opinion do not have to be caught up in the daily political gossip[15] that reduces news to the recurring trade in stories between ignorant politicians of dubious morality; that the political parties and Parliament are not condemned to eke out a living in the orbit of the executive branch in search of scraps and crumbs left over from public funds that the executive branch can easily sprinkle around to show its generosity because those resources do not actually belong to those who manage them.

But it is also possible — and this is the thrust of my interpellation — for academics not to stand silent.  It is possible for them to stop ruminating and bellowing in closed circles while accepting as a fait accompli the persistent dismantling of Haitian society under the combined weight of mediocre leaders and foreigners.

Now is perhaps the time to generate a substantive, dispassionate, academic discourse on all of these questions in order to enlighten young people and to testify, for the story of our passage on this earth, to this moment in time when our country finds itself in a situation so difficult and complex that our youth can no longer dream.

In December 2013, cognizant of its mission of service to the national community, and mindful “not to separate scholarly work from civic concerns, and to expand the horizon of the possible by clarifying and ordering the range of what is thinkable,”[16] the University of Quisqueya, on the initiative of its Rector, created the Louis-Joseph Janvier Chair of Haitian constitutionalism.[17]  Having already embarked upon several initiatives to analyze and elucidate societal issues, the University has offered its services towards a rethinking of the 1987 Charter, by harnessing the resources of the Louis-Joseph-Janvier Chair to be sure, but also by embracing socially engaged initiatives, the knowledge of various experts, and the work of people in the field in the service of a wide-ranging, analytical, proposal-oriented collaboration.  On the level of our field of endeavor, this investment in the Chair is meant as a form of intellectual and civic engagement.  It should therefore translate into initiatives with targeted groups and figures to develop action-oriented proposals that lay out the concept, objectives, and modalities of reform.

From the outset, we can focus on two desired outcomes:

  • A critical study of the 1987 Charter encompassing its content and tribulations; a statement of the weaknesses, contradictions, and pitfalls that render it inoperative; in sum, a documentary review that would build on the work already been done, including the scholarship produced by the Chair.
  • A roadmap for redesigning the Constitution or adopting a new one, which would require the creation of a constituent assembly.  Under no circumstances can such an assembly, which the major protest movements have made an essential condition for the elaboration of a solution to end the current crisis, be the work of the next legislature.  Nor can it be the work of the de facto executive power.  The only officer of the executive branch who possesses constitutional status is the President of the Republic, only until the end of his term, and only to the extent that he continues to observe his solemn oath to respect and to enforce the Constitution.

There cannot be any question, therefore, of general elections taking place in the circumstances of the country’s current governing debacle.  This is what led our colleague Monferrier Dorval,[18] cowardly executed last August 28, to observe that “the country is not being governed, not being administered … and above all else we need a new Constitution.”  In resonance with him, convinced that the constitutional question is at the heart of our grave national crisis, the Chair can only reaffirm his determination to contribute to the development of a patriotic project of Haitian democratic governance.

October 15, 2020


[1] The 1987 Constitution (art. 289) created an independent agency called the Provisional Electoral Council to govern the first elections to be held under the new regime.  The provisional council was supposed to give way to an equally independent Permanent Electoral Council (defined in articles 191-199) upon the presidential election of November 1987.  As Moïse explains, the permanent council was never put in place, and Haitian elections have been held under the oversight of a succession of provisional councils ever since.  See Claude Moïse, La question électorale: Jeux de pouvoir, péripéties et enjeux démocratiques (Montreal: CIDIHCA, 2015), 33-38.

Translator’s note: The Conciliation Commission, mentioned in articles 206 and 206-1 of the 1987 Constitution, “is called upon to settle disputes between the Executive and the Legislative branches or the two (2) branches of the legislative branch.”  It was replaced by the Constitutional Council (articles 190 bis to ter 10) in connection with the revision of 2011-2012.

[2] Translator’s note: Erik Orsenna, L’avenir de l’eau: Petit précis de mondialisation II (Paris: Fayard, 2008).

[3] Translator’s note: CASECs and ASECs in the original French version (Conseil d’administration de la section communale and Assemblée de la section communale). The communal section is the smallest administrative division in Haiti.

[4] Translator’s note: The Tet Kalé Party (Parti Haïtien Tet Kalé, or PHTK) was formally recognized in 2012 and is the political party of former President Michel Martelly and his successor, Jovenel Moïse.

[5] Translator’s note: Under article 95-3 of the 1987 Constitution, one third of the Senate’s members are elected every two years.

[6] Claude Moïse, La question électorale (Montréal: CIDIHCA, 2015), 183-211.

[7] See Robenson Geffrard, “Jovenel Moïse et le CEP: dos à dos sur la poursuite des élections indirectes,” Le Nouvelliste, Aug. 28, 2017, at https://lenouvelliste.com/article/175548/jovenel-moise-et-le-cep-dos-a-dos-sur-la-poursuite-des-elections-indirectes

[8] Translator’s note: In the original French, arrêté.

[9] Translator’s note: Jurimédia is a Haitian non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democratic governance.

[10] Translator’s note: ACEEH in the original French version (Association des Consommateurs Éclairés et Engagés d’Haïti).

[11] Translator’s note: RECIDP in the original French version (Réseau Civisme et Droits de la Personne).

[12] Claude Moïse, Les trois âges du constitutionnalisme haïtien: Indépendance, occupation étrangère, démocratie: Ruptures et continuité (Montreal: CIDIHCA, 2019), 364-365.

[13] Translator’s note: The National Government Council was the provisional ruling body of Haiti from February 7, 1986, when Jean-Claude Duvalier went into exile, to February 7, 1988, when Leslie Manigat took office as the first democratically elected president under the new (1987) Constitution.

[14] Translator’s note: Historically, the eighteenth-century market at the heart of Port-au-Prince where recently disembarked slaves and agricultural produce were sold.  Today, it is the country’s largest popular marketplace and the base from which provisions are distributed to the greater Port-au-Prince region.

[15] Translator’s Note: In the original French version, the author uses the resonant word “zen,” a Haitian Kreyol term with the unequivocal meaning of rumor, gossip, etc.

[16] Pierre Rosanvallon, The Society of Equals, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 11.

[17] Translator’s note: The Louis-Joseph-Janvier Chair has a distinctive structure that differs from the endowed chairs familiar to American academics.  It is both a title held by an individual scholar (currently, Claude Moïse) and a collective of leading Haitian historians and jurists specializing in constitutional law.  See https://uniq.edu.ht/chaire-louis-joseph-janvier/fonctionnement/.

[18] Translator’s note: The late Monferrier Dorval was the head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association and a leading Haitian constitutional expert and law professor.