Richard Pierrin Agence France-Presse Police throw tear gas at demonstrators during a demonstration against insecurity in Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 14 2023.
As the “urban guerrilla” of gangs in Haiti continues to grow, the country's police director, Frantz Elbé, told AFP he hopes that the multinational force approved by the UN can help his services fight more effectively against the “generalized terror” of these heavily armed bands.
After a year of procrastination, the Security Council gave the green light at the beginning of October to an international mission of a thousand men led by Kenya in this poor Caribbean country, where President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in the summer of 2021 and where gang violence is only getting worse.
The Haitian National Police (PNH) “was not created to deal with the urban guerrilla war of armed criminal groups,” explains Mr. Elbé, who took office two years ago and responded to questions from AFP by e-mail.
But today it must face “several centers of gangs which have an arsenal of war, connections with mafia and transnational criminal networks and large financial means”, continues the fifty-year-old.
Haiti has been mired for years in a deep economic, security and political crisis which has strengthened the grip of gangs. These armed bands control around 80% of the capital Port-au-Prince.
The abuses by their members, more numerous and better armed than before, have further intensified over the past year. Rapes used as a weapon of terror, snipers on roofs, people burned alive, kidnappings for ransoms… Insecurity has forced thousands of people to flee their homes and a self-defense movement has even emerged.
< p>“About fifteen years ago, bandits were equipped with a pistol, a revolver,” says Mr. Elbé. Today, they “carry assault rifles.”
The police were certainly able to “carry out several operations which resulted in the arrest of several suspected gang members”, while “others were fatally injured in exchanges of fire with the police”, he says. And the police “also seized a significant quantity of weapons and ammunition.”
But the country lives in “generalized terror” due to “guerrilla warfare.” urban” gangs, he explains, and the number of police officers specialized in the fight against gangs is too low.
“This is why the arrival of a multinational, robust, specialized and dissuasive force could accompany the Haitian National Police in large-scale operations to dismantle armed gangs,” said Mr. Elbé, who was appointed by current Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
He hopes that this mission, “which will certainly be equipped with material and equipment specifically linked to operations”, will be able to help the Haitian police “to carry out its operations of more effective way.”
Mr. Elbé particularly hopes that the force can “conduct joint training and simulation sessions with the specialized units of the PNH”, as well as support the latter “in the process of dismantling gangs and consolidating areas conquered by the police.”
Next, he wants to believe that the mandate of the multinational force will allow the latter to carry out a “transfer of technology” and equipment to the PNH at the end of its mission.
If the international force has indeed had the green light from the UN Security Council in Kenya, which is to lead it, the decision is debated. Its detractors in this East African country consider it dangerous and unconstitutional.
Kenyan President William Ruto, on the contrary, affirmed that it was a “mission for humanity” in a country ravaged according to him by colonialism, and highlighted Kenya's long experience in peacekeeping missions.
On Monday, a Kenyan court seized by the opposition temporarily suspended the government project to send police officers to Haiti or any other country until October 24.