Foreign Policy Blogs

Kita Nago to Urge Unity among Haitians, Moving Haiti Forward

Harry Nicolas ( second from the right) posing with leaders in Ouanaminthe

Harry Nicolas ( second from the right) posing with leaders in Ouanaminthe

“Ki bwa li ye, bwa sa; ki bwa li ye, bwa sa,” sang euphoric young men and women, floating in a sea of people embarked on a lengthy pilgrimage to unity. At the end of the unprecedented grassroots movement in Northern city Ouanaminthe — Kita Nago — a half-ton tree trunk that symbolizes Haiti, would have, on the back of Haitian men and women, traveled 700 kilometers (some 435 miles) from the country’s Southern peninsula to its Northeastern coast, sweeping through every city on its path.

Mobilizing Haitians behind a common goal, Kita Nago entered Haitian capital Port-au-Prince 14 days after its modest Les Irois launch on Jan 1, 2013, collecting thousands upon thousands of jubilant believers along the way, generating waves of media coverage that reached all corners of the country and even spilled beyond its borders. The buzz surrounding Kita Nago even provoked an official visit from President Michel Martelly and his wife, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, Haiti’s specialized units and an invitation to the Haitian Senate, where originator Harry Nicolas who many referred to as Met Fey Vet revealed his lifelong aspirations, launching the movement that rapidly grew into a social tsunami that swept one city after another.

“Since I was 20 years old,” admitted Nicolas to senators during his short visit to the upper house, “I wanted to take something from one extreme of the country to another extreme of the country without spending a penny,” a project he said skeptics thought was too grandiose or ambitious. As Nicolas explained to his impressed audience, the stigmas and gross mischaracterizations that hovered over Haitianism haunted him for years. “So I asked my self, what could I do, what could I do,” he said, seeking ideas that would help dispel the negative connotations associated to Haitianism.

Kita Nago being carried by young haitians

Kita Nago being carried by young haitians

His answer, discovered the self-described nationalist and environmentalist, resided in the irony of Kita Nago, a term Haitians commonly used to express an inability or unwillingness to move. “When referring to the state of the country,” reiterated Nicolas, “People often say we will not make ‘you pa Kita, you pa Nago’,” meaning Haiti would never budge or make any progress. A firm believer in Haiti’s capabilities, Nicolas said the country can make “you pa Kita and you pa Nago.” Taking that negative proverb Haitians use to said that Haiti would never move forward, the visionary wanted to prove that, like their ancestors and Founding Fathers, his brethren could again control their destiny. “We wanted to challenge ourselves,” said the new national hero. “Hence, we made

Harry Nicolas speaking at Kita Nago ceremony in Ouanaminthe

Harry Nicolas speaking at Kita Nago ceremony in Ouanaminthe

‘you pa Kita’ in Les Irois on January first and we will make ‘you pa Nago’ in Ouanaminthe.” One senator even admitted breaking down in tears when he witnessed the multitudes following Kita Nago. “Haitians still believed, in spite of it all,” he said.

Once Kita Nago conclude its 435-mile journey, every Haitian must plant a tree, according to Nicolas, plans that coincided with Cap-Haitien’s 2013 Carnival theme: “One Haitian, one tree, let’s make it happen.”

Nevertheless, while the grand initiative should help derail Haiti’s run away deforestation train, it will not be Kita Nago’s lasting impression, argued Nicolas who, in his own words, spelled it out for journalists attending his press conference:

“If we can voluntarily, that is to say –without being told to or paid—carry and transport this tree trunk, weighing about half a ton from Les Irois to Port-au-Prince, then to Ouanaminthe, there will no longer be a shadow of a doubt that if we get together in the spirit of our national motto ‘There is Strength in Unity,’ we can actually change Haiti.”