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Fires burn on streets in the Cité Soleil area of Port-au-Prince. (UN Photo)

Haiti’s security situation continues to deteriorate

October 24, 2023

(CMC)– “Haiti’s security situation continues to deteriorate as gang violence grows, and elections are crucial for the sustainable rule of law” says UN Special Representative in Haiti, María Isabel Salvador.

“Elections are the only path and the only imperative to restore democratic institutions in Haiti. Only democracy and the rule of law can form the basis from which Haiti can progress towards development and growth,” she continued while addressing the UN Security Council.

UN Security Council recently resolution authorising the deployment of a multinational support mission to assist the nation’s police, and welcomed another on an arms embargo, which Salvador described as an “enormous significance”.

Half of Haiti’s population is in need of humanitarian aid and the nation’s capital is being affected by the rampant gang violence. 

In recent years, Haiti has been hit by a cholera epidemic, earthquakes, cyclones, and the assassination of its President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Salvador who also heads the UN Office in Haiti, BINUH, told the Council that major crimes are increasingly rising and reaching new records.

The High Transitional Council, which was tasked with preparing for the long-overdue elections, head was kidnapped in broad daylight last week by gang members dressed as police officers, this was one of the incidents Salvador highlighted.

“Killings, sexual violence, including collective rape and mutilation, continue to be used by gangs every day and in the context of ineffective service support for victims, or a robust justice response,” she said.

Salvador stated that vigilante groups have added further complexity to Haiti’s security crisis.

BINUH has recorded nearly 400 lynchings of alleged gang members done by the so-called ‘Bwa Kale’ movement between late April and the end of September.

Salvador has continued engagement towards “a path to elections to fully re-establish democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

She was concerned that “efforts towards elections are not moving at a desired pace” even though inter-Haitian consultations have recontinued with the help of CARICOM.

“Re-establishing control by the Haitian National Police is a prerequisite for holding a credible and inclusive vote, and the deployment of the multinational force brings hope that things will improve,” she said.

“The Haitian National Police can only achieve lasting results when public security is restored, and the State resumes its functions, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods prone to gang activity,” she said.

Also briefing the Security Council was UNICEF head, Catherine Russell, who mentioned that approximately two million Haitians live in areas under the control of armed groups who are expanding their operations.

“Children are being injured or killed in the crossfire, even on their way to school. Others are being forcibly recruited into gangs or joining them out of sheer desperation, while women and girls are facing extreme levels of gender-based and sexual violence,” Russell reported.

On her visit to Haiti last June she met a pregnant 11-year-old at a centre for survivors of sexual violence.

The girl was abducted last year by five men whilst walking on a street, and three of those men took turns raping her.

“Several women at the centre spoke of armed men breaking in, raping them, in one case, in front of her children, and then setting their homes on fire. In some areas, such horrific abuses and crimes are now commonplace,” said Russell.

Major routes from the capital where most of the population resides have been cut off by armed groups, which have destroyed livelihoods and restricted Haitians’ access to essential services.

“Life-threatening mix of conditions” has caused a food security and nutrition crisis that is deepening, with more than 115,000 children suffering from severe wasting a 30% increase over last year,” says Russell.

Young lives in Haiti are at risk with nearly a quarter of all children are chronically malnourished, the ongoing cholera outbreak.

Russell said UNICEF and partners continue to deliver in Haiti even though the violence is jeopardising humanitarian workers on the ground.

Nearly 60 children were held by armed groups occupying a school in Port-au-Prince and they were able to secure the safe release of the children.

Russell says: “The multinational support mission will play a critical role in improving security and urged the force to give special care and attention to the protection of children, women, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.”

UN Security Council was made aware that “sophisticated firearms” were being brought into Haiti illegally which was enabling gang violence.

The Head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Gada Waly mentioned that demand is linked to criminal groups needing to enforce the lucrative trade in illegal drugs, as the country remains a transit destination primarily for cocaine and cannabis.

“Halting the flow of illicit firearms into Haiti and establishing a robust regulatory framework for firearms are imperative steps for the Haitian authorities to assert control and re-establish normalcy,” she said.

Wady is calling for the deployment of the multinational support mission to assist Haiti in achieving these aims as well as international aid.

UNODC’s latest report revealed four major sea and land routes for illegal flows of firearms and ammunition into Haiti, of which most come from the United States, as well as direct shipment in containers to Port-au-Prince.

Weapons that eventually reach the capital of Port-au-Prince, come from the US to northern regions and are transferred overland to coastal cities and onward to docks controlled by gangs or traffickers.

Persons crossing over the border Dominican Republic and Haiti have been identified as another land route which is mainly used for trafficking ammunition.

The final route is through Cap-Haitien, a city on the north coast of Haiti, where a small number of weapons are hidden among personal items of people crossing the border by car or on foot.

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