HAITI PRESIDENT WANTS TO START RECRUITING NEW ARMY
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian President Michel Martelly plans to begin recruiting the first 500 soldiers for a new national military force next month, according to an official document seen by AFP.
In the document, entitled "Security Policy and National Defense," Martelly says that rebuilding the military, 17 years after it was disbanded, has become an "urgent" task.
Martelly, who was elected earlier this year, is expected to make a formal announcement about the plans.
Haiti's armed forces were dissolved in 1994 by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup seven months after he took power in 1991.
Plans for the new military force call for the creation of a 3,500-strong force over a period of three-and-a-half years -- which would coincide with the departure of the nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force, Minustah.
United Nations peacekeepers have been deployed in the country since 2004, but it has become increasingly unpopular with Haitians, who blame it for a cholera epidemic in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake.
Recruitment of the first 500 Haitian soldiers should take place in October and November, according to a timetable that also calls for the creation in the coming months of an interim military headquarters and staff.
The creation of Haiti's new military could cost an estimated $50 million. The government has also announced a $15 million budget to compensate former soldiers who were discharged.
The internal government document -- given by Martelly's office to Haiti's international partners for their review -- says the creation of a national army will come with the "necessary assistance" from friendly nations.
That assistance would include training, equipment and technical assistance.
The new Armed Defense Forces will be placed under civilian command, according to Martelly's plan.