July 12 (UPI) — Haiti’s Ministry of Defense said it is launching a campaign to re-establish its national army, which was disbanded in 1995 and replaced with a U.N. security mission.
The Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it wants to recruit about 500 men and women aged 18-25 who have passed secondary education examinations. The soldiers would be tasked with patrolling Haiti’s borders, combating smuggling and responding to natural disasters, among other duties.
Critics say a national army should not be established because of Haiti’s history of its military force becoming a politicized tool for use by whoever is leading the island nation, BBC News reported. Critics also argue funds for an army should instead be used to develop the Haitian National Police, which has about 15,000 trained officers.
The U.N. Security Council in April agreed to withdraw its peacekeeping security forces, which don iconic blue helmets, and to deploy a small U.N. police presence to support the HNP. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti will be fully withdrawn in October.
In a statement in June, the Haitian Defense Ministry said the establishment of an army is a “constitutional requirement.”
“It also responds to the need to provide the country with a military body capable of responding to natural disasters and protecting the integrity of the territory,” the defense ministry wrote, adding the soldiers would also battle “drug trafficking, terrorism and cybercrime.”
The Hatian army was disbanded in 1995 after a period of military rule that resulted from the 1991 Haitian coup d’état.