Conflicts & War

Gangs tighten grip on Haiti’s capital

Port-au-Prince, Aug 13 (EFE).- Well-armed gangs effectively control 80 percent of greater Port-au-Prince amid an abdication of responsibility by a government that appears to be betting Haiti’s future on the possible deployment of a Kenyan-led international force.

In an image widely circulated on social media, at least four men carry the bloodied body of a youth who took a bullet to the head while inside his home in the capital’s Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood, less than a kilometer away from the National Palace.

Carrefour-Feuilles has been under constant attack in recent days from a gang operating in the nearby Grand Ravine area.

Last Sunday, residents of the besieged neighborhood were among thousands of people who marched in Port-au-Prince to demand action from authorities.

The United States Embassy here closed its doors to the public four days ago and the staff were confined to the premises until further notice due to gun battles in the vicinity.

Gangs, using sophisticated weapons supplied by factions within the Haitian economic elite who benefit from chaos, have effectively taken control of large areas of this capital, denying residents access to food, water, health care, and other necessities.

Thousands have been driven from their homes.

Half of Haiti’s roughly 11 million people live in extreme poverty and suffer from food insecurity, the country has practically no functioning institutions and many view the government of unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry as illegitimate.

Henry, who appealed for international intervention last fall, is also suspected of having had a hand in the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

A poll released last week by Agerca, an NGO linked to the business community, indicates that 63 percent of Haitians favor an international intervention to aid the Haitian National Police restore a semblance of order.

The Haitian left, and many grassroots groups, oppose the idea of yet another armed intervention.

Those critics say that the lawlessness is a function of the governing style of the party that has been in power since 2011, the PHTK, and they accuse Henry of wanting foreign forces to prop up his unpopular administration.

They also point to the country’s most recent experience with international intervention, the 2004-2017 United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Minustah).

In late 2010, infected sewage from a Minustah camp spurred a cholera outbreak that left 10,000 Haitians dead and members of the UN force were also accused of murder and sexual assaults.

While both Haitian and international human rights advocates have questioned the suitability of Kenyan police for a mission in Haiti, as they don’t speak French or Creole and have been accused of using excessive force against protesters in their own country.

Kenya volunteered to lead the force after the US, Canada, and other nations that support the intervention said that they would not take part.

“No country of the land of our ancestors (Africa) should serve as a sounding board or armed wing for the former colonizers, slavers, transformed into imperialist powers, engaged in the criminal project of destabilizing Haiti, of systemic sabotage of its sovereignty,” a coalition of Haitian organizations said last week in an open letter to the African Union.

EFE mm/dr

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