Martial Lavaud Célestin, First Haiti Prime Minister

The role of Haitian Prime Minister, as that of Haitian President or any other minister of parliament or politician in the country is one laced with controversy and insecurity. There have been 17 prime ministers for the country since the post's inception in 1988, all with an average shelf life of just more than a year. To tell the story well we must start at the beginning, with Haiti's first selected Prime Minister, Martial Lavaud Célestin.

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Célestin was born in Ganthier on October 4, 1913. He studied economics and the law at the Paris Faculty of Law and began his profession, as a lawyer at the ripe old age of 23. He would take his considerable learning into the diplomatic field by 1950, when he was given the post of assistant to the Foreign Affairs Department and, six years later, to the Secretary General.

By the late 1970's he was made a professor at Haiti's State University, after having been made president of the Bar Society in Port-au-Prince the year before. But his greatest claim to Haitian political fame was when, in February 1988, the controversially elected President Leslie Manigat appointed Martial Lavaud Célestin the first Prime Minister of Haiti following a provision to the Constitution made in the previous year. It was the first of many a short-lived appointment to the post as, during a coup staged later that year, the President was ousted and the post of prime minister abolished.

Martial Lavaud Célestin continued teaching until 2005 at many institutions throughout Haiti. Highly decorated at the time of his death, at 97, in 2011, Célestin will always be known as one of Haiti's great 'firsts'.

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