Haiti, between the rescue and the gangs

The Gran Ravin gang has taken control of Carrefour Feuilles.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 August 2023 Friday 11:09
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Haiti, between the rescue and the gangs

The Gran Ravin gang has taken control of Carrefour Feuilles. Along the way, it has left a trail of blood in this neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital: at least 30 dead, including two policemen, and more than a dozen wounded, according to the National Network for Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH). Dominique Charles lost his parents, his 18-year-old son and two other relatives when they attacked their home with Molotov cocktails, according to AFP. "I was able to escape, but the others were not so lucky," he told the RNDDH, which follows the latest wave of violence in the city, intensified between August 11 and 15.

It is one of the bloodiest episodes since criminal groups gained control of Haiti (80% of the capital is theirs) taking advantage of the vacuum left by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. According to Civil Protection of Haiti, more than 5,000 residents of this strategic district for the gangs have fled attacks at the hands of the gang of Renel Destina, alias Tu Lapli. Women, children and the elderly left on foot, on motorbikes or piled into cars. They join the nearly 195,000 internally displaced Haitians since 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report this week. Haiti, the poorest country on the continent, has been trapped for years in a deep economic, political and security crisis, but the situation worsens at times with the gangs camping in the air in the face of what many consider an impassiveness of the Government of the de facto prime minister, Ariel Henry. "For those living in the affected areas, the police and other authorities are practically non-existent," HRW recalled. The displaced people of Carrefour Feuilles have shown their anger in the street this week to denounce it once again, and have asked for help from the armed forces, after once again feeling neglected.

And while Renel Destina sowed fear in the south of the capital, the UN insisted on the need to deploy an international force "urgently" to help the Haitian police. "I continue to ask member states to deploy a multinational force outside the United Nations, composed of special police forces with the support of military units," wrote the head of the UN, António Guterres. The call was directed mainly to countries in the region, although Kenya had already applied to send a thousand policemen there at the end of July.

The head of the UN for human rights, Volker Türk, justified the rush on Friday, insisting that the criminal boom has caused the death of nearly 2,500 people since the beginning of the year. After an assessment on the ground in the coming weeks, the plan will have to be voted on by the UN Security Council.

Some Haitians see with suspicion the coincidence of the outbreak of violence, the beginning of which they place rather in July, when the gangs killed 82 people, according to the count of monitoring groups exposed by the Haitian Times. In fact, it was last month when talks resumed for the multinational intervention so longed for by the Government since October. They have no more evidence than the unheeded cries of the neighbors and, at the same time, they are looking for a way to explain the inaction of the authorities. "With these attacks perpetrated at this moment, it is a scenario to make people believe that only intervention is the solution to the problems of insecurity", argued the general coordinator of the Human Rights Organization Collectif 4 December, Jean Robert Argant, in the Haitian Times.

The majority of Haitians (68%), however, approve of the deployment, according to a survey commissioned by the Alliance for Risk Management and Business Continuity of Haiti.

On the other hand, ex-policeman Jimmy Chérizier, nicknamed Barbecue and considered the most powerful gang leader in Haiti, has warned that he will fight any international armed force if he crosses the line, recalling the sexual abuses committed in the country by the blue helmets of the 'UN. Chérizier, the only Haitian sanctioned by the UN and accused of plotting killings and organizing a fuel blockade that paralyzed the country last year, said he will only support the force if it aims to arrest Ariel Henry and "corrupt" politicians and local police who, he says, sell ammunition and weapons in the slums. Peace seems distant.