Robert Malval, a wealthy, 50-year-old printer and publisher, was installed as Haiti’s prime minister Monday at a ceremony in the Haitian Embassy here.
The event marked the beginning of a return to the democratic rule that flickered briefly two years ago before Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s populist leader, was overthrown in a bloody military coup.
“My government has one goal: Restore democracy as of today,” Malval said. “My government has one duty: Put an end to human rights violations as of today. My country has one dream: to reconcile the country with itself.”
After the ceremony--which took place in Washington so that Aristide, who has lived here since the coup, could preside--Malval appealed to the Organization of American States for debt relief and economic assistance to allow his country “to break out of this vicious cycle of abject poverty.”
Under terms of a U.N. compromise reached last month with Haiti’s military leaders, Aristide, the Caribbean nation’s first modern democratically elected leader, will resume his presidency Oct. 30 with Malval as his top aide.
But Malval, hand-picked by Aristide, accepted his new post reluctantly and has already submitted a letter notifying Aristide of his intent to resign Dec. 15.
Malval initially turned down the job. “I’m just not the man for it,” he told The Times in late June. “I don’t have the ambition, experience or the ability. I want to help him, but Aristide needs to get someone else.”
But Malval later relented, telling the Haitian National Assembly, “I have a duty to leave a better Haiti to my children than I received from my parents.”
Malval, a member of Haiti’s mixed-race elite and a political moderate, has long been friends with Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the effective ruler of Haiti since he led the coup in September, 1991.
But Malval also has been a longtime friend and financial supporter of Aristide. The two met when Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, was beginning to build a following among the impoverished black majority of Haiti, the Caribbean’s poorest country. When Cedras led the uprising against Aristide, Malval publicly opposed the coup and has actively worked for the president’s return ever since.
Malval, who is married and has three daughters, received a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Miami. He has never held public office in Haiti, a nation that has labored under stringent international economic sanctions since Aristide’s ouster.
After Malval was approved by Haiti’s Parliament five days ago, the U.N. Security Council suspended the oil embargo it had put in place on June 23; on Saturday, the first oil tanker not flouting U.N. sanctions in heading to Haiti reached Port-au-Prince.
The worldwide oil and arms embargo, as well as a freeze on Haitian financial assets abroad, is credited with helping to force Cedras to accede to U.N. demands that he relinquish power.
Aristide and Malval were in agreement Monday that if they are unsuccessful in their efforts to gain control of the country’s police and military and if human rights violations persist, the U.N. sanctions should be reinstituted.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission estimates that 1,500 Haitians have been killed and 300,000 others forced into hiding since the coup. “You may kill us, but you will never kill the dream of the people of Haiti,” Malval said.
U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has proposed sending 1,100 U.N. police to help restore law and order in Haiti. Almost half of this special U.N. team would help train a new civilian police force to replace the military-dominated forces that have been accused of human rights violations.