Spread the love

Port-au-Prince “paralyzed” after gang attacks on prisons

Photo: Luckenson Jean AFPTV Agence France-Presse A screenshot taken from AFP TV shows tires on fire near the main prison in Port-au-Prince. Thousands of prisoners escaped from the facility on March 3, 2024.

France Media Agency in Port-au-Prince

5:43 p.m.

  • Americas

The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince is as if “paralyzed” Monday the day after the declaration of a state of emergency by the government after the escape of thousands of inmates from prisons attacked by gangs.

Since Thursday, armed gangs, who have taken control of entire sections of the country, including the capital, have attacked strategic sites, saying they want to overthrow the contested Prime Minister Ariel Henry. In power since 2021, the latter should have left office at the beginning of February.

New gunshots rang out Monday afternoon in Port-au-Prince, where schools and banks remained closed, according to Agence France-Presse journalists on the scene.

Streets have been barricaded by the population, with stones and tree trunks, which is usually a sign of escalating tensions. Few police officers were deployed in the city, according to the same sources.

The capital was as if “paralyzed”, Carlotta Pianigiani, from the African medical aid NGO Alima, who was present on site, told AFP.

Overwhelmed by the violence, the Haitian government declared a state of emergency in the Port-au-Prince region on Sunday “for a renewable period of 72 hours” as well as “a curfew” between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

A poor Caribbean country, Haiti faces a serious political, security and humanitarian crisis since the assassination in 2021 of President Jovenel Moïse, with a political process at a standstill.

New dimension

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “very concerned about the rapid deterioration of the security situation” and called on the government and its international partners to “advance a political process […] ] via the holding of elections”.

Also sharing its “great concern,” Washington urged “all stakeholders” to “end the violence.”

Violence took on a new dimension over the weekend when armed gangs attacked two prisons in the capital, while Prime Minister Henry was visiting Kenya.

Also read

  • Haiti declares state of emergency and establishes curfew
  • The widow of Jovenel Moïse charged with complicity in his assassination

At least ten people died during the escape of several thousand inmates from the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, according to a journalist from Agence France-Presse.

Seventeen Colombians detained for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Jovenel Moïse announced Monday, through their lawyer, that they were still imprisoned.

Gang members “waited at the entrance to the prison to execute them” in order to “do justice” to the killed president, assured Me Sondra Macollins on the Colombian radio station Blu Radio, according to whom they were transferred to a police station.

Last Thursday, four police officers were killed and five others injured in exchanges of fire in Port-au-Prince.

Several local and international airlines had suspended their flights before gradually resuming them. They were canceled again on Monday.

According to the UN and NGOs, the start of the year was particularly tense, with the latest violence adding new displaced people to the list of around 200,000 already identified a few months ago by the United Nations.

“Even more chaos”

These displaced people, including many children and women, some pregnant, “informally” occupy schools, football fields, gymnasiums and even public buildings, listed Carlotta Pianigiani.

“They sleep on the ground, in makeshift shelters made of plastic sheeting” and without access to “a whole series of basic services”, such as healthcare, latrines or drinking water.

“This week, the largest public hospital in the country suspended its activities,” also explained Carlotta Pianigiani, deploring that her NGO had also had to reduce its interventions due to the violence.

According to the UN, more than 8,400 people were victims of gang violence last year, including deaths, injuries and kidnappings, “an increase of 122% compared to 2022”.

The UN and the United States support the deployment of an international mission in Haiti to be led by Kenya.

Ariel Henry, who signed an agreement last week in Nairobi to send Kenyan police officers to his country as part of this mission, was on his way back to Haiti on Monday, according to the department of American State.

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