A disastrous earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, leaving the country in deep distress. Reconstruction failed to address the systemic problems underlying its extreme socio-economic inequality and endemic political and gang violence. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 and a bout of natural disasters soon thereafter, Haiti’s humanitarian plight has gone from bad to worse. Crisis Group aims to shed light on the sources of Haiti’s strife and supports core reforms to the security sector and state that could pave the way for credible elections, improved security and clean government.
The UN Security Council has approved deployment of a Kenyan-led force to Haiti to help battle criminal gangs the police cannot subdue alone. The mission will need to tread carefully – both in prior planning and once on the ground – to sidestep pitfalls in its path.
Former rebel leader rallied support for protests to topple acting PM Henry, raising risk of instability in coming weeks.
Former rebel leader sought to oust PM. With acting PM Henry due to step down on 7 Feb but unlikely to stick to his pledge, supporters of former rebel leader Guy Philippe 15 Jan launched protests in several cities demanding Henry’s resignation. Philippe, meanwhile, expanded alliances with security forces and political actors as he called on “all sectors” to join “revolution” to transform Haiti. Most notably, he forged alliance with several units of Brigade for the Security of Protected Areas (BSAP), armed body attached to National Agency for Protected Areas led by his close friend Jeantel Joseph. Joseph took part in several anti-govt demonstrations and promised to bring protests to capital Port-au-Prince to oust Henry, prompting govt 23 Jan to sack him; move angered BSAP members, who 24 Jan clashed with police in north east Ouanaminthe commune. Govt 29 Jan ordered all BSAP workers to report to nearest Ministry of Environment office for registration. Philippe’s movement could gain steam in coming weeks, especially if gangs join alliance, raising risk of clashes in Port-au-Prince and other cities.
Gang-related insecurity persisted in capital and in south. In Mariani village south west of Port-au-Prince, police operations failed to oust gang led by alias Bout ba, whose members throughout Jan kidnapped dozens along National Route 2 and attacked people travelling by boat to avoid route. In Port-au-Prince, members of Bel-Air gang led by Kempès Sanon 16 Jan launched several days’ attack on Solino neighbourhood, trapping residents in their homes and killing unconfirmed number. Clashes between G9 coalition and at least two gangs that defected from coalition 28 Jan broke out in capital.
Kenyan court prohibited police deployment to Haiti. Kenya’s High Court 26 Jan prohibited deployment of police officers to Haiti, saying National Security Council lacked authority to dispatch police beyond Kenya’s borders and that no “reciprocal agreement” exists between two nations; Kenyan President William Ruto 30 Jan, however, said mission “is on course” and could go ahead “as soon as next week”.
Absent a robust external mission that would be deployed very soon, we are facing quite a tragic scenario in Haiti.
[The police in Haiti] are completely outgunned by the gangs right now.
The Haitian security forces and U.S. forces present in Haiti are not able to enter the areas where most kidnapped people are held.
[The gangs in Haiti are] running out of tools to control people. They extort, but there’s only so much money that can be extorted from people that are really poor.
7 July marks the second anniversary of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Diego Da Rin explains why insecurity has gripped Haiti since the murder and why some Haitians have turned to self-defence groups to fend off rising gang power.
In this video, Frank Giustra speaks about the level of suffering Haiti is currently experiencing.
Criminal gangs are wreaking havoc in Haiti, nudging public opinion toward accepting the idea of an international force that would help restore security. Outside powers should prepare a mission only with solid backing from the country’s politicians, including their pledges to form a transitional government.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood speaks with Renata Segura and Diego Da Rin, Crisis Group’s Latin America experts, about whether foreign forces can help tackle Haiti’s spiralling gang violence, political gridlock and latest cholera outbreak.
Foreign Troops Might Be the Least Bad Option
Increasingly deadly turf wars between rival gang coalitions have revealed the depth of Haiti’s political morass. In this Q&A, Crisis Group shows how the former and the latter are deeply intertwined.
This roundtable examines the causes of violence and instability in Haiti and explores the ways in which Haitians, with the support of the international community, can take actions to overcome the current crisis.
Haiti is reeling from the president’s assassination, a major earthquake and a severe tropical storm. The country needs urgent assistance, and its planned elections can wait. Outside powers should channel aid through local civil society groups, help investigate high-level crimes and support pressing reforms.
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