Haiti Violence: A State of Emergency is Imposed Following a Mass Jailbreak

The government of Haiti has announced a 72-hour state of emergency following the attack on a major Port-au-Prince prison by armed gangs.

The incident resulted in the deaths of at least 12 individuals and the escape of approximately 4,000 inmates.

Gang leaders are aiming to pressure Prime Minister Ariel Henry into resigning while he is out of the country.

The organisations seeking to remove him dominate approximately 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Since 2020, thousands of lives have been lost due to violent conflicts between rival groups.

According to an official announcement, two prisons, one in the capital and another in nearby Croix des Bouquets, were breached over the weekend.

The actions of “disobedience” were deemed a threat to national security, prompting the immediate implementation of a night-time curfew starting at 20:00 local time (1:00 GMT on Monday).

Detained in Port-au-Prince were gang members accused of involvement in the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

The most recent increase in violence started on Thursday, when the prime minister went to Nairobi to talk about deploying a Kenyan-led multinational security force to Haiti.

Jimmy Chérizier, also known as “Barbecue,” announced a planned attack to oust him.

“All of us, the armed groups in the provincial towns and the armed groups in the capital, are united,” declared the former police officer, who is believed to be responsible for multiple massacres in Port-au-Prince.

The police union in Haiti requested military assistance to strengthen security at the capital’s main prison, but the compound was breached on Saturday night.

According to a report by Reuters, on Sunday the prison doors remained open with no officers in sight. According to the report, three inmates were found dead in the courtyard after attempting to escape.

According to a journalist from the AFP agency, individuals who visited the prison observed approximately 10 bodies, with some showing signs of bullet injuries.

According to a volunteer prison worker speaking to Reuters, 99 prisoners, including former Colombian soldiers imprisoned for President Moïse’s murder, have opted to stay in their cells out of fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

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Violence has been prevalent since the assassination of President Moïse in his residence in 2021. He has yet to be replaced, and elections have not taken place since 2016.

As part of a political agreement, Mr Henry was expected to resign by 7 February. However, the scheduled elections did not take place, and he continues to hold his position.

Haiti has been without any elected government officials since the term of the last elected senators ended in January 2023.

In an interview with the BBC, Claude Joseph – who was acting as prime minister when President Moïse was assassinated and is now leading the opposition party named “Those Committed to Development” – expressed that Haiti is currently experiencing a challenging situation.

According to Mr Joseph, PM Henry expressed a desire to remain in control for an extended period.

“He has agreed to resign on 7 February.” He has chosen to remain in power, despite widespread protests demanding his resignation. Unfortunately, some individuals are resorting to violent tactics to pressure him to leave.

Last January, the UN reported that over 8,400 individuals fell victim to the gang violence in Haiti in the previous year, experiencing killings, injuries, and kidnappings – a number that more than doubled compared to 2022.

Outrage over the alarming levels of violence, coupled with the absence of political leadership, has sparked numerous protests against the government, with demonstrators calling for the prime minister to step down.

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