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February 29, 2024, the day everything changed for Ariel Henry

  • March 20, 2024
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Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has just landed in Nairobi

After the address to the nation very late in the night of Wednesday February 7, 2024, as we noted in a previous column, Prime Minister Ariel Henry thought he had gotten out of trouble. However, even his allies recognize that he had not said much that could, at best, calm some of his opponents, or at worst, bring the population home. Despite everything, on Sunday February 25, 2024, he took off for a long trip abroad without suspecting that things would degenerate in his absence. Finally, given the way the situation turned out, everyone understood that it was the whole country which, not only had not heard him, but above all had not listened to him. And for good reason. The month of February will turn into a nightmare for those in power, particularly for the leader of the Transition. Not a day goes by without us learning about or witnessing a crowd movement.

In the Grand-Sud, in Jérémie, despite unprecedented repression on the part of the police under the leadership of the Delegate of Grand’Anse, the population did not allow themselves to be impressed or intimidated. She continued the protest against the presence of Ariel Henry at the head of government. In Les Cayes, in the South, the same thing, we burn tires, we contest the legitimacy of the authorities, we demonstrate with a single objective: the fall of the Transition regime. In the Far North, we take the same ones and start again. Certainly, much less violent than the first days of February, but the situation has not changed, the resignation of Ariel Henry remained the final objective. In Ouanaminthe, on the one hand, it is political structures which organize a General Assembly which the organizers call: “ Congrès de Ouanaminthe », on the other, we demonstrate in the streets. Meanwhile, construction of the canal continued as best it could.

The farmers of the Maribaroux plain noticed that the authorities in the capital were in difficulty and could no longer control anything, so they did not give up. It was like this until the last day of February of this leap year. Thursday February 29, 2024, in fact, will certainly mark the day when everything changed for Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Indeed, through concerted action, different armed groups decided to carry out a war operation which consists of attacking and burning a certain number of police stations, police sub-stations and other public institutions across the metropolitan region of Port- au-Prince. This day was marked by terrible violence coordinated by gangs during which blood and fire left their mark. It all started with a full-blown attack on the morning of Thursday February 29, 2024 at the Police Academy located in Pétion-Ville. The objective: given the signal for the departure of what would be the point of no return for the government led by Dr. Ariel Henry.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry visiting President William Ruto of Kenya on March 1, 2024

At that moment, it was a ruse. The armed groups were not seeking to take the Police Academy. They did not resist the responses of the security forces, they only wanted to divert attention and hold back the specialized police units in Pétion-Ville, time for them to attack the real targets. On the other hand, in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, stronghold of the gang called 400 Marozo, the most feared in the country, is consternation. 6 police officers were killed including a Principal Inspector who was dismembered by his assassins. This killing took place during the attack on the Bon-Repos Sub-Police Station which, despite fierce resistance for 3 hours from police officers and desperate calls for reinforcement against the men of Jeff Big Law et « Chen Mechan ”, ended up falling. The victims respond in the name of: Monode Etienne, Pautrace Résulta, Jean-Baptiste Guilliamson, Pierre Luciana, Marion Junior, Pierre Espera. After their crime, the armed groups set fire to the Sub-Police Station. The same day, other allies ransacked the Faculty of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine of the State University of Haiti and burned the building located on National Road No. 1.

In reality, it was the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources located in the same premises as the said Faculty which was targeted by the armed groups. At the same time, another group attacked the Toussaint Louverture international airport and the nearby Guy Malary terminal, forcing a total halt to all activities. Further, in downtown Port-au-Prince, it is the Portal Léogâne sub-police station which is in flames after an assault led by the group of the formidable leader Johnson André alias Izo of the Cité-de-Dieu. The police, to save their skins, quickly fled in the face of the firepower of this gang, already infamous for having humiliated the national police in their stronghold at the Bicentenary. It has been a long time since this gang seized the Palace of Justice and has occupied it permanently for two years after chasing away the Prime Minister and other officials of the Prime Minister’s Office located in the area. Hell of a day we say, this Thursday, February 29, 2024 is a turning point! This is the date when the gangs really took power in Port-au-Prince, to the extent that, since then, nothing has been the same.

Obviously, there will be a before and after February 29, 2024 in Haiti. In the capital, there is panic! Schools are closed, parents rush to collect their children, administrations, both public and private, barricade themselves or are attacked one after the other. While embassies and other diplomatic missions close their doors. The police stations fall one after the other. Here, the Salomon Market, there is that of Thomassin. That day, Port-au-Prince and its outskirts were the scene of fires, all-out attacks on institutions by armed groups and the start of the hunt for political figures close to power. In the towns of Tabarre, Carrefour, Pétion-Ville, people are rushing to get home. Nobody knows what’s going on. While the government is absent. Has the revolution started? We do not know anything. What is certain is that the Republic is no longer governed. She is freewheeling.

She is left to her own devices. And suddenly, in the afternoon, Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue”, former police officer in an elite PNH unit, had crossed over to the other side for two years and become the strong man of lower Delmas. and head of a coalition bringing together almost all of the armed bands said “ Live together », appears on social media to reassure the population and send a message. To begin, the former member of the CIMO (Company for Intervention and Maintenance of Order), surrounded by an impressive number of supporters armed to the teeth, announced: “On behalf of the various armed groups in the country, I announce the return of the “Viv Ansanm” coalition. Today, February 29, 2024, we launch the battle which must overthrow the Prime Minister and his government, this is our first objective. Today, I declare that the hunt for Ministers, for the Director General of the PNH, Frantz Elbé, is open. We must arrest them and send them to join Ariel Henry where he is, so that he never returns to the country.

We see that the country is being held hostage by a small group. This group distributed weapons in working-class neighborhoods, incited us to fight, for the benefit of their interests. This revolution must change everything. The Haitian people must be liberated. We will do it with our weapons. The civilian population, the most vulnerable, are no longer our target. The barrels of our weapons are turned towards our true enemies. This time, the corrupt oligarchs and members of power will not be able to invest money in working-class neighborhoods to suppress our movement. They will no longer be able to sow discord by making us fight among ourselves. All armed groups in the country, in the provinces and in Port-au-Prince, are more united than ever » hammered out determined Jimmy Chérizier, war leader. Immediately, his statement went around the world and was picked up by the press around the world. Barbecue, the man in the beret, is back on the Haitian political scene after a silence which cast doubt on his real political motivations. Some people are still asking questions about Jimmy Chérizier who pretends to play popular revolt and armed gangs.

In any case, the strong man of Delmas 6, his stronghold, claimed responsibility for this spectacular outing which sowed chaos in the metropolitan region on February 29, 2024. Since then, “ Live together » places itself as a real political force and armed arm of a popular protest which prevented the return of Prime Minister Ariel Henry to Haiti until obtaining his resignation on the evening of March 11, 2024 from Puerto Rico where he is being held by the authorities American. As we said above, February 29 was the start of a long series of armed attacks against different institutions in the country. In addition to the police stations and sub-stations of Port-au-Prince and its suburbs, we noted no less than twenty police infrastructures which have suffered attacks from armed gangs since the uprising, without forgetting the residence of the Director general of the PNH, Frantz Elbé, who was attacked, pillaged and burned at Santo 17 in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets.

The Peace Court of the commune of Delmas burned down, the chic neighborhoods of Bellevue, Vivy Mitchel, Torcel, Belleville in the commune of Pétion-Ville where the high dignitaries of the regime, political leaders and some of the wealthy families usually reside. was also the subject of attack by armed groups who were seeking allies of the resigning head of government. While attacks continued on police headquarters and other places symbolizing state authority, it was the turn of the country’s prison centers to suffer attacks from armed groups before being set on fire like the historic National Penitentiary. (Great prison) on Thursday March 14, 2024 in Port-au-Prince. Indeed, between the 1is2, 3, 4, and 5 March, the National Penitentiary, located on rue du Center, in the very center of the capital where, according to figures put forward by various human rights organizations, nearly 4,000 (3,798) people were incarcerated. , more than 3,700 escaped after this prison was literally stormed by an armed group on the night of 1is to March 2. Only around a hundred preferred to stay in the prison at the time of the attack.

Among them are the Colombians imprisoned in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and, what is more surprising, the one presented as being one of the masterminds of this assassination, Joseph Félix Badio, a friend of Ariel Henry. Others like Me Robinson Pierre-Louis, former Secretary of the Bar of Port-au-Prince, the former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Cholzer Chancy, Marcky Kessa, former mayor of Jacmel, among others, also remained holed up in their cells. But, left to their own devices by being abandoned by their jailers and for fear of being murdered by other individuals from outside, these “VIP” detainees and a few others went to the Delmas 33 police station to be there. incarcerated again. A little later on the day of March 2, all the rest of the prisoners were transferred throughout the region, notably to the civil prison of Pétion-Ville. In the meantime, the Delmas 33 police station was the subject of attacks by armed groups in the night of March 3.

In the confusion of these serial actions, 6 out of 10 police officers who were in solitary confinement for various offenses in this police station while awaiting their trial and 14 other detainees, or 20 people in total, fled. The next day, it was the turn of the Croix-des-Bouquet civil prison to be the target of the bandits. In this prison center, 1,033 inmates fled, i.e. all of the prisoners following an operation carried out by a military-style commando. After hours of relentless fighting, the guards had to give up the fight, retreat and also disguise themselves as prisoners like their colleagues at the Civil Prison of Port-au-Prince to leave the premises. Since then, none of the escapees out of a total of 4,733 have been recaptured or surrendered to the police. Meanwhile, attacks continued across the city and against institutions. This same Saturday, March 2, 2024, the Ministry of Culture and Communication located in Bois-Verna was invaded. It was pillaged, ransacked and left abandoned. On Saturday March 9, it was up to the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Communities to be the target of armed groups.

Although it did not fall into the hands of the insurgents thanks to the responses of the police, all the vehicles in the parking lot were set on fire. The nearby National Palace has not escaped repeated attempts to invade it. Several attacks have been recorded against this symbol of the State since the events, but the police have for the moment pushed back the men of the Movement. Live together “. Until when ? Because this place which is the nerve heart of Haitian power remains one of the objectives targeted by Jimmy Chérizier’s men who continue to be the seat of Transition power. In the commune of Croix-des-Bouquet, armed men broke into various banking establishments, notably Sogebank, BNC, Unibank, looted them and then set them on fire. From Bon-Repos to the Bicentenaire via the districts of Santo, Duval, Carrefour Shada, Carrefour Marassa, Bois-Verna, Delmas, Carrefour de l’Airport or resistance, Nazon, downtown Port-au-Prince, Champ de Mars, etc., the authorities no longer control anything and the police are exposed to attackers who constantly harass them. The City is bare. The Republic is adrift. The State resigns.

Jimmy Chérizier spokesperson for “Living Together”

On the night of March 5, the Jacmel civil prison was ransacked by hundreds of inmates who provoked a riot in order to show off. According to the Director of the Jacmel Police, Allande Serge Jolicoeur, none of the 700 detainees in this Prison were able to escape thanks to the determination and courage of the police officers. Nevertheless, the toll is heavy, there are 3 dead and 9 injured among the prisoners. Following this escape attempt, some detainees were transferred to the Petit-Goâve civil prison. In addition to these repeated attacks, notably the Cabaret prison center in the West department, in Ouanaminthe, in the North-East, it was the city police station which was targeted for around thirty minutes in the night of 1is to March 2. Several exchanges of fire were recorded. The police gained the upper hand over the attackers according to the city’s Police Commissioner, Ronald Eugène. He explains: “Since the start of the protest movements in the North-East department, particularly in the town of Ouanaminthe, we have adopted new security measures in order to make our task easier and to ward off attacks by armed groups. against the Commissariat like that of this Friday.

Thanks to agents from the Departmental Law Enforcement Unit (UDMO) who came to reinforce the police officers assigned to this area, we thwarted this approach by the attackers,” he reveals. Among all these armed movements against the police stations of the country led by the Movement “ Live together » according to the words of its spokesperson, Barbecue, it is necessary to note the strategy put in place by the armed groups around the country’s airports, in particular those of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. Since February 29, 2024, the airports of these two cities have been placed under high surveillance and one might even say besieged by armed men who control the country in the absence of more or less legitimate authorities. Their objective is to block the path of Prime Minister Ariel Henry who left for Nairobi in Kenya to accelerate the deployment of a multinational foreign force in Haiti.

After the attack carried out on Thursday, February 29 against the Toussaint Louverture airport, by shooting at the airport installations and hitting an aircraft of a Cuban aviation company, the population took over in front of the Cap-Haitien airport with a view to preventing the landing of any plane that might have attempted to bring Ariel Henry back to Haiti. Result, on Monday March 4, apart from 2 planes coming from Providenciales which braved the insecurity and landed before leaving immediately almost empty, all activities came to a standstill. No national or international flights to or from Haiti. One after the other, the companies are suspending their rotation when departing from and arriving in Haiti. The situation seems frozen. In Port-au-Prince, despite the deployment of the army to support the police, nothing is happening, it is impossible to have the slightest aircraft take off or land from the Toussaint Louverture or Hugo Chavez tarmac.

The reason: snipers posted on the roofs of houses all around the airport sow panic as soon as they hear a noise that they associate with a plane. They shoot everywhere. At the slightest alert, these armed men open fire. As a result, all air traffic has been suspended until further notice by the Haitian Civil Aviation authorities since February 29, 2024. Certainly, the government, in any case the apparatus acting as government, has in vain established a curfew and decreed a state of security emergency throughout the West department, particularly in the capital and its ring roads, between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. for a period of three days, then extended them until Wednesday 3 April 2024, we must face the facts that it was not necessary. And for good reason. The country is already in de facto curfew mode to the extent that no one dares to venture into the streets of Port-au-Prince as the tension is palpable and the shooting makes it impossible to go out during the day, let’s not talk about it at night for three years. So, curfew and state of security emergency are just illusions, no one pays attention.

Above all, we seek to protect ourselves as best we can, on the one hand against armed groups and on the other hand against the police who no longer distinguish between peaceful citizens and the 5,000 prison escapees who wander around the city. Hence the hundreds of bodies that we count every day in the streets of Port-au-Prince since the mass escapes following the attacks on the various prison centers in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, the entire population received with indifference on Monday March 11, 2024, late at night, the official declaration of the Prime Minister of the Transition confirming his resignation which was already announced by almost all Haitian media based on an article from Miami Herald dated March 6, 2024 reporting that the White House had asked Ariel Henry, stuck somewhere in a hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to resign in order to make room for a Presidential Council and a new Government from which he will be excluded. A gesture which is, in all honesty, a victory for armed groups.

While, since March 9, 10, 13 and 14, the main countries said to be friends of Haiti: the United States, France, Germany, the European Union, Canada, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, The UN has evacuated a large part of its diplomatic staff and nationals in Haiti. Finally, for the past few nights, US Marine registered helicopters have begun to transport troops from the Marine Corps (FAST) based in Yorktown, Virginia, to Port-au-Prince, claiming that these were soldiers who could ensure the security of the United States embassy and infrastructure in Haiti and to evacuate American nationals. Is this a sign of the return of the Marines who are being sent in a more discreet way to scout ahead while waiting for the real landing? To be continued.


author avatar
Catherine Charlemagne