Leader of a Haitian Gang Vows “Civil war” if PM doesn’t Step down

The leader of the gang responsible for the violence in the Haitian capital has threatened a “civil war” if Prime Minister Ariel Henry does not resign.

Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier issued a threat while his gang members attempted to take control of the capital’s airport to prevent Mr. Henry from returning from overseas.

Reports of a prison riot in Jacmel indicate that unrest has extended to other cities.

Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflict.

Barbecue, the leader of the powerful G9 gang alliance, warned on Tuesday that failure to resign by Ariel Henry would result in a civil war with genocidal consequences.

The G9 alliance has caused a surge of violence, with incidents such as assaults on police stations and the takeover of the country’s top two prisons. On Saturday, a large number of prisoners broke out of jail.

Haiti has been plagued by gang violence for years. However, during Prime Minister Henry’s recent trip to Kenya, Barbecue intensified the conflict.

Mr Henry was working on finalising a deal for Kenya to head a multinational police operation to address the violence in Haiti.

Barbecue is concerned that Mr. Henry would utilise the military to remain in control.

Since assuming power shortly after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the gang leader has been in opposition to the prime minister.

Opponents of Mr. Henry claim that his leadership is not legitimate. They also highlight that two and a half years after assuming office, he has yet to arrange presidential elections, as he had initially pledged.

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The prime minister has not addressed the public since the outbreak of violence. He only shared the announcement of the state of emergency declared by one of his ministers while he was away.

After days of uncertainty, Mr. Henry finally resurfaced on Tuesday by flying from New Jersey to Puerto Rico.

It was reported that he intended to land in the capital of Port-au-Prince, but the airport was closed due to the nearby fighting.

The civil aviation authority director in the neighbouring Dominican Republic stated that Mr. Henry’s plane was denied permission to land in the country due to the absence of a flight plan.

Reports from Haitian media indicate that Mr. Henry is currently exploring different ways to return to the country.

It remains uncertain what gang leader Barbecue’s future goals are. He called on Haitians to come together on Tuesday.

He informed reporters, donning a bullet-proof vest, that Haiti’s future could either be a paradise or a hell for everyone.

In the past, he has proposed establishing a “council of elders,” comprised of civil society representatives from various regions, to take over from the prime minister.

Haiti currently lacks any elected government officials. There have been no elections held in the country since 2016.

Gangs have taken over the capital due to the absence of elected officials, controlling approximately 80% of the area.

Instances of abductions for money are frequent, leading to the closure of numerous schools and hospitals because of security concerns.

The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced a temporary suspension of its mobile clinics in multiple locations.

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“We are concerned about the possibility of depleting our stock of medicines and medical supplies, which are crucial to address the significant demands we are currently encountering,” stated MSF head of mission Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho.

Violence has primarily been focused in the capital city and surrounding areas. However, there have also been reports of shootings in the town of Jeremie, in the south west, and of a prison riot in Jacmel in the south.

The United Nations Security Council announced an emergency meeting scheduled for later on Wednesday to address the ongoing violence.

The conflict has led to around 15,000 people being displaced, as reported by the United Nations.

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

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