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Gangs extend their grip in Haiti, police resist

  • March 22, 2024
  • 8
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Armed gangs are still extending their hold on the capital Port-au-Prince, the UN special coordinator in Haiti warned on Thursday, at a time when negotiations to form transitional authorities at the head of the country seem to be underway. to succeed.

“Over the past few days, gangs have advanced into new areas of the capital,” Ulrika Richardson, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the country, said Thursday during a video press briefing from Haiti, describing a “situation” extremely alarming.”

The daily life of residents is made up of “road blockades, gunshots, and a lot of tension in the streets”, she described, adding that “a very large number of people have had to flee their neighborhood” as the gangs advance.

These armed bands already controlled 80% of Port-au-Prince in 2023, according to the UN, and are accused of numerous abuses: murders, rapes, looting and kidnappings for ransom.

After a relatively calm morning, shots rang out Thursday afternoon in the city center of the capital and in the suburbs, in Pétion-Ville, according to residents interviewed by AFP.

The Haitian National Police (PNH) announced Thursday evening the death of gang leader “Ti Grèg”, who escaped from prison in early March.

Boss of the Delmas 95 gang, Ernst Julmé “was fatally injured during a clash this afternoon with PNH units in Delmas”, near the capital, police said on their Facebook page.

Evacuation

The start of the week was notably marked by clashes in Pétion-Ville, an affluent suburb of Port-au-Prince. Armed men tried on Tuesday evening and Wednesday to take control of several neighborhoods of this town, where fourteen dead bodies were found on Monday.

Gangs extend their grip in Haiti, where the transition is slow

Residents in a street littered with debris, March 20, 2024 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti / Clarens SIFFROY / AFP

The United States announced that it had evacuated 90 of its nationals on Thursday thanks to a specially chartered plane which left from Cap-Haitien in the north of the country to reach Miami as well as a helicopter which made flights between Port-au-Prince and the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Haiti, which was already experiencing a deep political and security crisis, has been gripped by renewed violence since the beginning of the month, when several gangs joined forces to attack strategic locations in Port-au-Prince, saying they wanted to overthrow the Prime Minister. Minister Ariel Henry.

Highly contested, the latter was unable to return to his country after a trip to Kenya at the beginning of the month. He agreed to resign on March 11.

The same day, several countries and organizations such as the Caribbean Community (Caricom) met urgently in Jamaica.

Gangs extend their grip in Haiti, where the transition is slow

A family on a motorcycle leaves an area where gunfire from armed gangs was heard, on March 20, 2024 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti / Clarens SIFFROY / AFP

A future presidential transitional council, which must notably be composed of representatives of Haitian political parties, was announced at the end of the meeting.

After several days of tumultuous negotiations, each group agreed Thursday on a choice of representative, and the left-wing Pitit Desalin party, which had initially given up on being represented, reversed its decision, according to an AFP correspondent. . However, no formal announcement has been made.

Humanitarian crisis

This council must try to put the country, entire sections of which are in the hands of armed gangs, back on the path to stability.

Gangs extend their grip in Haiti, where the transition is slow

Residents leave an area where gunfire from armed gangs was heard, on March 20, 2024 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti / Clarens SIFFROY / AFP

The UN Secretary General welcomed the fact that “the Haitian stakeholders have all chosen their representative”, according to his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq.

Haiti currently remains without a president or parliament: the last head of state, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021. And the country has not had any elections since 2016. Ariel Henry, appointed by Jovenel Moïse, should have left his duties at the beginning of February.

In the meantime, the capital faces a serious humanitarian crisis.

“Due to the advance of gangs, 5.5 million people out of a population of 11.4”, or about half, now need humanitarian aid, said the UN coordinator for the country.

However, the delivery of this aid is becoming difficult, the Port-au-Prince airport remaining closed, and part of the port “still being attacked”, she said.

Gangs extend their grip in Haiti, where the transition is slow

An ambulance driver transports the body of a victim to Port-au-Prince, March 20, 2024 in Haiti / Clarens SIFFROY / AFP

“Less than half of the health establishments in Port-au-Prince are functioning normally,” the head of the WHO also indicated on Thursday, citing shortages of medicines and blood products.

And “the cholera epidemic (…) could resume if the crisis continues,” he warned.

The country experienced a resurgence of cholera epidemic at the end of 2022, which caused more than 10,000 deaths between 2010 and 2019 after being introduced by peacekeepers.