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In Port-au-Prince, gang violence causes the exodus of more than 33,000 people

Photo: Clarens Siffroy Agence France-Presse On Friday, an uneasy calm reigned in the capital after a day marked by several attacks by armed men and a police operation which led to the death of a gang leader. Pictured is a road barricade in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

Inès Bel Aiba – Agence France-Presse, Gerard Martinez – Agence France-Presse, Jean-Daniel Senat – Agence France-Presse respectively in Washington, Miami and Port-au-Prince

March 22, 2024

  • Americas

The Port-au-Prince region, which more than 33,000 people fled to try to escape gang violence, woke up Friday to charred corpses in its streets, after attacks by armed men and a police operation.

An AFP correspondent saw several remains in the city center of the capital and in Delmas, in its suburbs, at a time when the country is still awaiting the announcement of the composition of its future transitional authorities.

A resident for his part indicated having seen lifeless bodies in Pétion-Ville, also in the suburbs.

On Friday, an uneasy calm reigned in the capital after a day marked by several attacks by armed men and a police operation which led to the death of a gang leader, Ernst Julmé, alias “Ti Greg.” The latter escaped from prison at the beginning of March.

Some roads remained barricaded and very few vehicles were on the road. Most public administration offices kept their doors closed, as did schools and universities.

The UN has expressed alarm at the humanitarian crisis: around 5 million people, almost half the population, face high levels of “acute food insecurity”.< /p>

“One in two people are now hungry. The rise in hunger is fueling the security crisis ravaging the country. We need urgent measures now,” warned Jean-Martin Bauer, director of the World Food Program (WFP) in Haiti.

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Internally displaced persons

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 33,000 people have fled the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince in two weeks to seek shelter from escalating attacks.

They mainly headed towards the departments of the Great South, which are already hosting 116,000 displaced people who have fled in recent months.

These “provinces do not have sufficient infrastructure and the host communities do not have sufficient resources that can allow them to cope with these massive displacement flows coming from the capital,” said IOM.

A large proportion of these more than 33,000 people were already internally displaced, sometimes several times.

Haiti, which was already experiencing a deep political and security crisis, has been gripped by renewed violence since the beginning of the month, when several gangs joined forces to attack strategic locations in Port-au-Prince, saying they wanted to overthrow the first Minister Ariel Henry.

Highly contested, the latter was unable to return to his country after a trip to Kenya. According to consistent sources, he is now in California, after leaving Puerto Rico.

Mr. Henry agreed to resign on March 11. Since then, negotiations have been underway to form transitional authorities.

But in the meantime, armed gangs are expanding their attacks in the capital, of which they already controlled some 80%.

Humanitarian aid

“Over the past few days, gangs have advanced into new areas of the capital,” Ulrika Richardson, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, said on Thursday.

The future presidential transitional council, the establishment of which was decided during an emergency meeting in Jamaica of several countries and organizations with Haitian representatives, is long overdue.

This body will be responsible, among other things, for appointing an interim prime minister.

Haiti currently remains without a president or parliament: the last head of state, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021. And the country has not had an election since 2016.

Kenya, which was to send a thousand police officers to Haiti as part of a UN-supported mission, announced that it was suspending this deployment in view of the situation.

“Cutting the violence hitting Haiti will be a litmus test for the unity and sustainability of the new government,” wrote the think tank International Crisis Group.

“The new authorities should resume talks with foreign partners to accelerate the deployment of the multinational security mission” and, in the meantime, try to provide the necessary equipment for the police to try to regain control of the port and the main highways, he added.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116