Conflict Alerts # 561, 20 October 2022
In the news
On 17 October, the US and Mexican representatives to the UN said the two countries are collaborating on two UNSC resolutions concerning Haiti. The first is a set of sanctions on the leader and senior members of the ‘G9 and Family’ gang alliance. The other is a proposal for a non-UN international security assistance mission which would have the mandate to use military weapons if needed.
On 15 October, the leader of the gang alliance Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizer in a video message to the government proposed a ceasefire, asking for all the planned arrests to be cancelled and representation in the cabinet.
Issues at large
First, the assassination of President Jean Charles Moise. After Moise’s assassination in 2021, Haitian gangs took advantage of the sudden political disarray. They took to the streets to protest and slowly gained control of the capital. There was also an increase in people’s protests furthering society’s confusion and anger.
Second, natural disasters. Five weeks after the assassination, Haiti was struck by an earthquake, worsening the situation. No proper measures were taken to bring the country back to normal due to a lack of proper authority and gang prevalence.
Third, increased gang presence. The gangs started to take control of regions surrounding the capital Port-au-Prince through rampant violence and sexual assault. This turned into a full-blown operation in September when they seized fuel stations as a sign of protest against the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies.
Fourth, outbreaks of diseases and food shortages. The UN and NGOs have raised alarms over the worst cholera outbreak in Haiti in recent times due to the lack of clean drinking water. Further, the World Food Programme has drawn attention to acute hunger and food shortage impacting 4.7 million Haitians. The situation was triggered by the lack of fuel supply which has hindered transportation and severed power supply in many places. It has also forced hospitals to shut down.
First, international assistance is a double-edged sword. On 8 October Prime Minister Ariel Henry reached out to the international community to assist in resolving the crisis by providing troops to counter gangs and protestors. This led to a fresh wave of protests as the country previously hosted UN Peacekeeping (UNPK) forces in 2010 when nearly 10,000 people died due to a cholera outbreak originating from the UNPK camp. For its part, the international community has not been able to deliver humanitarian assistance due to resistance from the gangs.
Second, spiralling violence is tripping humanitarian disaster. With uncontrolled violence and illegal capture of key locations by gangs, Haiti is facing a large humanitarian crisis which portends a bleak future for the country. Reports of targeted sexual violence and terror by the gangs have led to several deaths and mental trauma. Lack of medical facilities has led to many being unable to get treated for life-threatening injuries, and pregnant women and rape victims not being able to access essential care. Alleviating 4.7 million people from acute hunger would be a challenge for any government.
Third, the continued prevalence of gangs. Given their own strength and financial might, along with political support from opposition parties, it is impossible to dislodge the gangs and their influence from Haitian society. The gangs allegedly have huge political funding; this could be one reason why they could take control of the city so fast and why the government is unable to do anything.