Haiti looking for prospects for 2023

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Haiti has gone through a particularly dramatic year 2022. With kidnappings, gang rapes and massacres, armed gangs have created a climate of terror. They have paralyzed the free movement of people and goods and made access to basic services even more difficult. Schools have remained closed, hospitals are struggling to treat the sick, businesses have gone bankrupt, hunger affects nearly half the population and cholera has returned. Where to start to get the country out of the descent into hell?

In Haiti, the political forces are still struggling to get along. But all of them have at least the same priority at the start of 2023, namely: the fight against insecurity. To make it more effective, the country will need help, underlines Jean-Marie Théodat. Speaking of his native country, this lecturer in geography at the University of Paris I Panthéon believes ” obvious that with more than 200 armed gangs operating in Haiti and more than 600,000 weapons of war in circulation, we are not going to be able to get by on our own “.

The National Police of Haiti suffers from chronic understaffing. The only institution still operational in the country, it now has around 13,000 agents. The UN was concerned last fall that the ratio of police officers per 1,000 inhabitants was 1.06 in Haiti, while the international standard is 2.2. To deal with heavily armed gangs, PNH officers lack specific training and adequate equipment. Fifty-one police officers were shot and killed in 2022.

Four months after the request, no international military intervention in sight

Last October, the interim Prime Minister, Ariel Henryhad officially requested the sending of an international armed force to Haiti to overcome armed gangs and restore security throughout the national territory. But this request had immediately provoked an outcry ” in Haiti, where the Prime Minister, appointed by President Jovenel Moïse two days before his assassination in July 2021, does not have ” of no democratic legitimacy “recalls Jean-Marie Théodat. Nearly four months after this request, no country has said it is ready to lead such a military force to carry out an intervention as costly as it is dangerous. Faced with hesitation from the international community, the head of the Haitian government seems to be gradually changing his tune.

This Sunday, January 1, on the occasion of Haiti’s Independence Day, he asked the international community to send trainers and equipment to enable the Haitian police to fight more effectively against gangs. armed. And he specified that Haiti did not want ” no military intervention “. During his speech at the Champ de Mars, surrounded by a heavy security device to allow the official ceremony to take place there, Ariel Henry on the other hand asked his compatriots to play the role of informants: “ I ask the population: accompany the police! Disassociate yourself from the criminals! “Launched the head of the provisional government.

International sanctions against politicians and businessmen: a ” electroshock ” in Haiti

It is first and foremost prominent political figures, including former members of Ariel Henry’s government, who support the armed gangs. This is the result of information collected by Canada and the United States, and which the Prime Minister did not mention during his speech this Sunday.

After a resolution to this effect adopted at the United Nations Security Council on October 21, 2022, Washington and Ottawa have imposed sanctions in recent weeks against 13 Haitian nationals: among them also former President Michel Martelly, two former Prime Ministers, current and former parliamentarians as well as eminent personalities from the business world and a former Director of Customs. Canada and the United States accuse them not only of financing the armed gangs, but also of drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption. New names will follow.

Read also : in Haiti, the president of the Senate targeted by American sanctions for drug trafficking

Punishments ” had the effect of an electric shock within the Haitian public opinion “, emphasizes Jean Marie Théodat. ” It is a very good thing “, also believes Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna, ” since in Haiti we not only live in a context of generalized insecurity, we also face impunity erected into a system “. For this program manager at the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), the sanctions were a “ recognition of what civil society has long argued: armed gangs are able to commit so many crimes because they enjoy the protection and support of high-ranking figures in politics and business “.

Haitian justice must take up the case

Like other Haitian actors, the organization is now demanding that the sanctions regime apply to all individuals accused of the same acts as the personalities already targeted in recent weeks in order to avoid any suspicion that the international community is targeting a camp politics in particular. Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna also calls for the establishment of a ” mutual legal assistance “between the international and Haiti:” As soon as a sanction is taken, the file must be sent directly to the Haitian judicial authorities. Because today they tell us that they cannot follow up on the sanctions because they have not received the files “. Indeed, the Haitian justice has not yet taken any action in this case. ” Internationally sanctioned persons normally go about their business in Haiti “Laments the human rights defender.

While many Haitians question the capacity of their justice system to carry out any procedure – even the “deal of the century”, theassassination of President Jovenel Moïse, has not advanced an inch – the RNDDH notes in the meantime a slight improvement in terms of security. Since the Canadian and American decision to impose sanctions, there has been fewer attacks on popular neighborhoods “. And on certain roads, blocked for months, the gangs ransom the drivers but let their vehicles pass.

Demonstrators carry a fake coffin as they protest for justice following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. AP – Odelyn Joseph

The armed gangs were ordered to calm down “, explains Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna. Because ” the sanctions have targeted personalities, the majority of whom have links with armed bandits “. And then there’s probably also ” the fear of those who have not yet been affected by these sanctions but who are at risk of being that has decided some of them to slow down their relations with gangs. It’s the impression that we have “.

Read also : in Haiti, gangs kill and burn to regain control of Cabaret

Police forces patrol the Carrefour Feuille neighborhood during an attack by armed gangs in Port-au-Prince on November 10, 2022.
Police forces patrol the Carrefour Feuille neighborhood during an attack by armed gangs in Port-au-Prince on November 10, 2022. © AFP / RICHARD PIERRIN

Make way for a new generation

Marc Alain Boucicault is the founder of Banj, a coworking space in Port-au-Prince which aims to bring out new economic and social ideas for Haitian youth. For this economist, the sanctions against members of Haiti’s elite are forcing the younger generation to seek ” new models “: ” I think today we are at a crossroads. We look at each other and say to ourselves that we are tired of living in a country that is not governed. I am certain that more young people will get involved in politics, truly dedicated to the future of this country, economically, politically and socially. These people are here! They already exist. And other young people will appear with new proposals to find things that work “.

Towards elections in 2023?

Next Monday, January 9, the term of the last ten senators still in office in Haiti will come to an end. At the national level as well as at the departmental and local level, the country will then no longer have any elected representatives. As at the beginning of last year, Ariel Henry promised on January 1, 2023 the organization of elections. But the Prime Minister agrees: these elections will not be possible without a significant improvement in the security situation.

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Haiti looking for prospects for 2023

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