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.

CrisisWatch Haiti

Unchanged Situation

Civilian self-defence groups expanded anti-gang operations, lynching suspected gang members and fuelling fears of increasingly brutal retaliatory attacks to quell uprising.

Civilians escalated attacks on suspected gang members. Civilian self-defence movement known as Bwa Kale (“peeled wood”) that emerged late April quickly spread through parts of capital Port-au-Prince and beyond as civilians used improvised weapons to hunt down and kill suspected gang members. Fears of escalating violence grew: acting PM Henry 1 May called on vigilantes to “calm down” and hand over suspected members to police; UN human rights office 9 May reported at least 164 killings of suspected gang members in April; and former police chief and current Representative to Organization of American States Léon Charles 13 May said vigilantes are not viable medium- or long-term solution to gang violence, cautioning against extrajudicial executions. Director of National Police Frantz Elbé, however, same day praised his forces for increased operations against gangs and noted civilians’ important supporting role.

Gangs pressed ahead with operations and retaliatory actions. Despite threat of self-defence groups and stepped-up security operations, gang offensives continued in several areas, including north and east of Port-au-Prince. In Onaville town, Canaan gang 14 May reportedly killed ten people attempting to return home after being displaced in April. Gang operating in Titanyen town 17 May ambushed two armoured police vehicles. Gangs also responded to joint police-Bwa Kale efforts; notably Gran Grif and Kokorat San Ras gangs early May intensified joint operations in Artibonite department (north) following late April police raid, supported by civilians, against Kokorat San Ras.

Talks on international intervention continued without breakthrough. Scepticism among international actors about scaling up security assistance in Haiti persisted. Notably, Canadian congressional committee 5 May urged Ottawa to make clear it would “not participate in direct engagement in military operations”. UN Sec-Gen Guterres and Jamaican PM Holness 15 May called on Haitian political actors to reach agreement in order to ease reluctance of international actors to send security mission, saying Haiti posed threat to region.

Continue reading

In The News

13 Feb 2023
[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. AP

Renata Segura

Deputy Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean

Latest Updates

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.