TENSIONS AT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – HAITI BORDER
Due to an ongoing conflict over the construction of a water channel from a shared river, the situation remains tense at the Dominican Republic – Haiti border. Authorities of the Dominican Republic stopped issuing visas to Haitians on 11 September. On 15 September, at 06:00 hours (local time), the Dominican Republic shut all land, sea, and air borders with Haiti. The duration of the closure is unclear.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The eastern two-thirds of the island is occupied by the Dominican Republic while the western one-third belongs to Haiti.
They are two very different countries located on the same island and have had a strained relationship for many years now. Conflicts between the Dominican Republic and Haiti date back to their time as colonies. Haiti, known as Saint-Domingue prior to its independence, was a French colony, whereas the Dominican Republic was a Spanish colony. Different languages, cultures, and political structures created by the two colonial empires have contributed to constant hostility. Some persistent issues between these countries include migration and citizenship, discrimination and violations of human rights against Haitian migrants, economic disparities, cultural differences, and border disputes.
For centuries, the border between the two countries has been a source of tension. Territorial disputes and clashes due to disagreements over the border’s demarcation include the Parsley Massacre of 1937, in which 14,000 to 40,000 Haitians were killed by the Dominican army.
The ongoing crisis began earlier this month when the construction of a canal in Haiti was resumed close to the Dajabón River, which runs along the border. Also known as the Massacre River, the water body separates the two nations on the island. The river is where thousands were killed while attempting to flee to Haiti during the Parsley Massacre of 1937.
The government of Haiti aims to use water from the Dajabón River to alleviate a drought in the Maribaroux plain. DR claims that the construction violates a 1929 treaty between the countries – The Treaty of Peace, Perpetual Friendship, and Arbitration.
According to the treaty, it is prohibited to alter the course of rivers that run between the two countries. While equitable usage of water within their territories is allowed, the flow of the river should not be diverted by either of them.
TENSIONS & DIALOGUE:
President of DR, Luis Rodolfo Abinader, says that the project will potentially affect the Dominican farmers and the nearby environment as water will be diverted by the canal. In contrast, Haiti argues that the construction of the canal is well within its sovereign right to exploit its natural resources.
In response to the project, the borders were closed and thousands were deported to Haiti by the Dominican Republic. Efforts are underway to conduct bilateral talks in order to achieve a solution. The closure is expected to remain in place until the canal’s construction is stopped. A military camp with armored vehicles has been deployed by the DR on the border.
Also read, Haiti – On the Edge.