Haiti Violence: Gangs Call for PM to Step Down Following Massive Jailbreak

Haiti’s government announced a 72-hour state of emergency on Sunday following an incident where armed groups attacked a significant prison.

12 individuals lost their lives and approximately 3,700 prisoners fled during the incident.

Leaders of criminal organisations are calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation as his location remains unknown following his trip to Kenya.

Around 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince, is under the control of gangs.

Haiti has been dealing with gang violence for an extended period.

According to an official announcement, two prisons, one in Port-au-Prince and the other in nearby Croix des Bouquets, were forcefully entered over the weekend.

The actions of “disobedience” were deemed a threat to national security, leading to the immediate implementation of a night-time curfew starting at 20:00 local time (01:00 GMT on Monday).

Reports from the Haitian media indicated that police stations were targeted, diverting authorities’ attention before the synchronised attack on the jails.

Speaking to the BBC from Haiti, Serge Dalexis from the International Rescue Committee mentioned that numerous police stations were under gang control on Friday, with a significant number of police officers killed over the weekend.

Detainees in Port-au-Prince include individuals accused in relation to the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Violence among gangs has continued to increase following his assassination in 2021. Mr Moïse has yet to be replaced, and presidential elections have not taken place since 2016.

In the city, gangs have set up barricades to keep security forces away from their territory, while their bases in Port-au-Prince’s large shantytowns remain mostly closed off.

See also  'Under siege': French Farmers Encircle Paris with Tractors in Demonstration

Schools and numerous businesses have shut down, with incidents of looting occurring in certain neighbourhoods.

According to Boby Sander from the humanitarian aid organisation Food for the Hungry, people are feeling fearful and the streets are deserted, as reported to the BBC.

As of Friday, 15,000 individuals have been forced to leave their homes and are currently seeking shelter in a school building located in the heart of Port-au-Prince, according to Mr. Sander.

His group could only offer them hygiene kits that would last a few days. “We lack sufficient capacity to handle the growing complexity of the increasing demand,” he remarked.

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

Jimmy Chérizier, known as Barbecue, announced a planned attack to eliminate him.

Following the weekend prison break, numerous prison cells were left vacant as thousands of inmates managed to escape

“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 accused of being involved in several 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 news agency, the prison doors were still open on Sunday with no officers in sight. Three prisoners who attempted to escape were found deceased in the courtyard, according to the report.

A reporter from the AFP agency who visited the prison observed approximately 10 bodies, some showing evidence of gunshot wounds.

See also  2023 is Officially the Hottest Year on Record in the Planet

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

Outrage over the high levels of violence, combined with the absence of political leadership, has sparked numerous protests calling for the prime minister to step down.

As per a political agreement, he was supposed to step down by 7 February. However, the scheduled elections did not take place, and Prime Minister Henry continues to hold his position.

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsday, Claude Joseph – who was acting as prime minister when President Moïse was assassinated and is now leading the opposition party called Those Committed to Development – described the situation in Haiti as a “nightmare”.

Ariel Henry agreed to resign on 7 February. He has chosen to remain in power, even as widespread protests demand his resignation. The situation has escalated with violent tactics being employed to pressure him to leave.

Haiti: The basics

  • Population: 11.5 million (estimate)
  • Area: 27,800 sq km (slightly smaller than Belgium, about the same size as the state of Maryland in the US)
  • Location: Caribbean country sharing a border with the Dominican Republic
  • Languages: French, Haitian Creole

About The Author