Operation Uphold Democracy (19 September 1994 – 31 March 1995) was an intervention designed to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup d'état that overthrew the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The operation was effectively authorized by the 31 July 1994 United Nations Security Council Resolution 940.
The U.S.-led, multinational effort to create a safe and secure environment and support the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, was conducted from September 1994 through March 1996. In excess of 20,000 American service men and women from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, in conjunction with approximately 5,000 non-U.S. forces from 24 nations, served as part of the Multinational Force, and later, United Nations Mission in Haiti. Upon direction of President Bill Clinton, the operation was conducted by U.S. Atlantic Command, in Norfolk, Va.
President Aristide was elected in December 1990 as the first democratically-elected head of state in Haitian history. Seven months after taking office in February 1991, President Aristide was overthrown in a coup led by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the head of the Forces Armees d'Haiti (FAd'H). This eventually would be the impetus for renewed U.S. operational involvement in Haiti.
A United Nations international embargo began in late June 1993. In support of the international embargo, USACOM activated Joint Task Force 120 in mid-October to conduct maritime interdiction operations and increase pressure on the illegitimate government of Haiti. To provide humanitarian assistance to more than 21,000 Haitians escaping by sea from political strife, USACOM established a second JTF, JTF 160, on May 18, 1994. The mission of JTF 160 included migrant interdiction and processing, both at sea and at designated migrant camp sites ashore. The largest of these migrant camp sites was at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On July 31 the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the U.S. to use "all means necessary" to remove Haiti's military-backed government. As military forces began final preparations for an invasion, President Bill Clinton dispatched a negotiating team to Haiti to avert an invasion. The team was headed by former President Jimmy Carter, and included former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Gen. Colin Powell, and Senator Sam Nunn, D-Ga., former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
With U.S. invasion forces enroute to Haiti the evening of September 18, Lt. Gen. Cedras relayed his decision to relinquish control and ultimately leave Haiti through the Carter mission. The following morning U.S. forces began a peaceful entry into Haiti.
Over the next six months, significant accomplishments of the U.S.-led MultinationalForce (MNF) included: ensuring the peaceful restoration of President Aristide; helping standup a fragile Government in Haiti; fostering a safe and secure environment; initiating a weapons buy-back program; eliminating arms caches; restoration of electrical power and commercial communications; commencing police force training; overseeing the return of Haitian migrants from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and establishing conditions for democratic elections.
On March 31, 1995, the MNF transferred command to United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) forces. Under UNMIH, forces continued to maintain a secure and stable environment which facilitated free and fair democratic elections. In addition, civil engineering projects such as repairing schools, roads, bridges, water wells, and distribution systems were undertaken, and thousands of tons of donated materials and supplies were distributed.
On June 25, UNMIH forces provided support and security for Haiti's first round of national parliamentary free elections since the restoration of President Aristide to office.
The last Haitian migrant selected for repatriation from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was returned to Port-au-Prince October 16, 1995. Approximately 75,000 Haitians had been repatriated since the beginning of the maritime interdiction operation; more than 21,000 of which were processed through migrant facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
On December 17, Haiti conducted presidential elections, again with UNMIH forces providing support and security. Former Prime Minister Rene Preval won handily and was inaugurated February 7, 1996, as Haiti's second democratically elected president, succeeding President Aristide.
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