Haiti: Increased violence pushes to extend state of emergency

Meanwhile, over 300,000 Haitians have been forced out of their homes in recent weeks.
Haiti: Increased violence pushes to extend state of emergency

In Haiti, the situation remains dire as thousands of people are forcibly displaced from their homes due to escalating violence.

The crisis was triggered by gang leaders who orchestrated the release of thousands of inmates from prisons across the country. In response, the Haitian government declared a state of emergency on Sunday, March 3. The Haitian government stretched the state of emergency in the Ouest Department, which includes the capital, Port-au-Prince, until April 3.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry was abroad, engaged in negotiations aimed at curbing gang violence. However, safety concerns have forced him into hiding since then, as gang leaders demand his resignation.

Meanwhile, over 300,000 Haitians have been forced out of their homes in recent weeks. The capital city faces a wave of attacks, further straining an already struggling hospital system. Schools and businesses have been closed due to the violence, and even Haiti’s largest drinking water provider has suspended deliveries for safety reasons.

Haiti’s economic and social development has been severely impacted by political instability, institutional challenges, violence, and natural disasters. The absence of democratic processes, coupled with historical military interventions, has left the country without elected government officials since 2016.

As tensions rise, Prime Minister Henry’s efforts to deploy 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti have been met with escalating gang violence. Notably, Henry also serves as the acting president following the assassination of Jovenel Moise in 2021. Moise’s widow is among the 50 individuals accused of involvement in his death.

Former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier now leads the surge in gang violence this month. He has issued a stark ultimatum: Prime Minister Henry’s resignation or the threat of civil war. Last week’s prison break, which freed over 4,500 inmates, including high-profile gang members and those arrested in connection with Moise’s assassination, adds to the turmoil in Haiti.

The city of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas remain embroiled in violence, with no signs of abating. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, currently in Puerto Rico, is cautiously waiting out the turmoil. His return to Haiti remains uncertain, given the grave risks to his safety.

Cherizier’s intentions beyond demanding Henry’s resignation remain shrouded in mystery. Meanwhile, the toll of violence is staggering: approximately 1,200 lives have been lost to gang-related incidents in Haiti this year.

Volker Turk, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, decries the unjustifiable conditions faced by Haitians. He urgently calls for international security forces to step in, emphasising that there is no viable alternative to safeguard lives. Echoing this plea, the U.S. State Department urges Haiti to reintroduce “free and fair elections” as a crucial step toward stability and recovery.

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