The leader of a coalition of gangs that control much of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has said he wants to overthrow the government and called for protests in all “working-class neighborhoods.” He also announced that the fight against the government would be “with weapons,” Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Gangs on Haitiwhich have long been growing in strength, taking advantage of the chaos that engulfed the country after the great earthquake of August 2021 and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in the same year, are terrorizing much of its territory.
Jimmy Cherizier, a former policeman who leads a coalition of gangs that wants to overthrow the government, marched with a group of his armed men through Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, blocking some streets. He also announced that he intended to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry by all possible means, and the fight against the government would be “with weapons,” reports Reuters.
Cherizier said that the international community had no right to defend Henry, who heads the interim government established after the president’s assassination. Henry promised to write down elections in Haiti as soon as the problem of gang wars is solved, however, he was forced to call on the international community to send military aid as the country descended into complete chaos.
Cherisier also announced that residents of Carrefour Feuilles, a district of Port-au-Prince, who fled their homes because of gang wars will soon be able to return to their homes and “live in peace.” In recent weeks, over 19,000 people have fled their homes in the capital for fear of increasing violence.
The US calls for international forces to be sent to Haiti
On Tuesday, the president of the United States Joe Biden called on the Security Council UN to immediately agree to send international forces to Haiti to fight the gangs. The UN Security Council appealed for such assistance for the first time a year ago, but is now delaying the decision because diplomatic negotiations on this matter are dragging on.
At the end of August, the authorities Kenya agreed to support and coordinate the actions of international forces to end the violence in Haiti. However, according to Reuters, the authorities in Nairobi are still considering the possibility of conducting a military operation in a country where gangs are stronger and better armed than government forces.
Kenya intends to send a thousand policemen to Haiti, joined by contingents from other countries, but is still waiting for the UNSC to approve the mission. Moreover, as AFP comments, “the contours of this project are still unclear.”
Gangs target not only authorities and government forces, but also journalists and random civilians. According to the UN, between January 1 and August 15 this year, at least 2,439 people were killed and 902 were injured. From April 24 to mid-August, over 350 people were lynched by the local population, including 310 people suspected of gang membership, 46 bystanders and a policeman.
Main photo source: Johnson Sabin/PAP/EPA