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INSIGHT: Torn apart by gangs, Haiti still waits for action as it teeters on edge of being a failed state

A PROTESTER jumps on burning tires during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday, February 5. Photo: Odelyn Joseph/AP

A PROTESTER jumps on burning tires during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday, February 5. Photo: Odelyn Joseph/AP

By Malcolm Strachan

IN theory, Bahamian troops should be on the ground in Haiti by now.

Back in October, National Security Minister Wayne Munroe said that The Bahamas was “ready, willing and able to deploy” Royal Bahamas Defence Force marines, while Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said the country would abide by the outcome of the UN resolution to deploy security troops.

Not through the fault of The Bahamas, however, things have hit a standstill. Kenya was due to lead the mission – but a plan to deploy 1,000 Kenyan police officers has hit the legal buffers with a court ruling it was unlawful for police to be deployed outside Kenya’s borders.

With Mr Davis saying another country will pick up the mantle from Kenya to lead the mission – though he does not think that it should be a CARICOM country – it’s now a case of hurry up and wait. We’re ready to go, but going nowhere.

It was interesting in this light, then, to hear the – somewhat limited – words of former Prime Minister Perry Christie last week, who is one of three members of the CARICOM Eminent Persons Group tasked with trying to find a solution for the crisis that is devouring Haiti.

Let us quickly recap – the country is overrun by gangs, with large chunks of territory and resources under their control, without any remaining elected representatives, existing in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and with murder, kidnappings and rape rife throughout the nation.

That is bad enough, but Mr Christie tells us that the conditions in Haiti are deteriorating significantly, and at a dangerous rate.

He said last week: “We in the Eminent Group have always chosen not to make public statements … the international community, clearly, CARICOM clearly, we all have an obligation to ensure that we do not let Haiti fall into a completely failed state. Enormous sacrifices are being made by families, and enormous damage is being done to children who are being displaced, people who are being raped and people who’ve been killed. And so there is a call for action, and hopefully, that action will take place soon.

How perilous is the situation? Well, a report published in December by ex-Reuters correspondent Brian Ellsworth, highlighted some of the extent of the chaos in the country.

Some of what he wrote we know already – that gangs “have become so powerful in the past five years that they are disrupting basic activities and making elections impossible through constant turf war and violence against innocent civilians”.

He told a story of a Haitian pastor in the Canaan area where gangs were operating with impunity, and the pastor gave a sermon encouraging violently confronting gangs. The pastor, Marcorel Zidor, led a march of hundreds of people into an area controlled by a gang. The gang responded with gunfire. Machine guns were fired, killing seven people and wounding dozens of others. The pastor has since said he would do it again – but it shows the extent of the incredible frustration experienced by the Haitian people, and the absolute disregard for life from the gangs they confront.

Vigilante attacks have soared as part of the Bwa Kale movement, fuelled at least in part by the paralysis of the courts in dealing with the tidal wave of criminality. Hospitals have been attacked, forcing the evacuation of patients and staff, including infants on oxygen.

An estimated 80 percent of Port-au-Prince is under gang control. The road going south is controlled by the G9 Alliance gang network. The road going north is controlled by the G-9 Pép coalition. Routes to the east are “the territory of the Kraze Barye gang and the 400 Mawozo,” notes Mr Ellsworth in his report. In 2021, the 400 Mawozo made international headlines when kidnapping American and Canadian missionaries and holding them for two months.

In 2019, according to UN figures, there were 78 murders. From January to June last year, there were 1,014.

According to Mr Ellsworth’s report, security experts say the gangs have their routes in the feared Tonton Macoute police force created by Papa Doc Duvalier – even though that group was disbanded in 1986, they were not disarmed and “continue to operate as vigilantes for hire”. In 1995, the army was disbanded, with some of the troops reportedly going on to create armed groups that became gangs.

If gang activity is the fire, then the poor economy is the fuel, with Haiti’s economy expected to shrink by 2.5 percent in the 2023 fiscal year after four consecutive years of contraction. The World Bank described that, saying: “Past gains in poverty reduction have been undone.”

What is the solution to all this? Well, the deployment of troops can only be part of it. As Ellsworth’s report notes, the administration of the country is in disarray, while the executive director of Haiti’s Natinoal Human Rights Defence Network (RNDDHH), Pierre Esperance, is quoted as saying: “We need to fix the political stability, we need to fix the absence of rule of law and governance. If the Kenya mission comes – tomorrow, next week, in two weeks, in one month – without fixing the governance problem, it will not work. It will be a cosmetic solution.”

And there lies the biggest challenge. Until elected representatives are running a government with the support of the people, any actions carried out by troops will be similar to firefighters simply keeping a fire contained rather than putting it out.

The current Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, has no mandate for his position, the public has not voted him or his platform in. In essence, he is what we’ve got, rather than who has been chosen.

If all this seems like a mess, it is. Mr Christie’s words, stating that we must not let Haiti become a completely failed state, are well chosen. The word completely tells us that worse lies ahead, but as for being a failed state, we are already practically there.

Emigration is increasing, and if we think here in The Bahamas that migration is an issue now, imagine how much more there will be from that completely failed state.

Our troops, we are told, stand ready to do their part. But solutions look to be in short supply, and action does not seem to be happening any time soon.

Comments

mandela 2 weeks ago

Do all to help Haiti, because the Bahamas ain't ready for the murderous Haiti population to get too deep into our islands, there in Haiti they are monsters, devils with no soul.

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ExposedU2C 1 week, 6 days ago

Way too late for the Bahamas .....the invasion of our country by thousands and thousands of illegal Haitian aliens is now almost complete with well-over 50% of lower income Bahamians now suffering a miserable existence as second class citizens in their own country with no access to social welfare and other resources that have been devoured by the invaders.

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John 1 week, 6 days ago

The US and France had been doing everything in their power to keep Haiti a failed state for 300 years! And whilst they say Haiti is overrun with gangs and violence. They there tiefin all Haiti’s oil, gold and natural resources. Even during the pandemic The US never gave Haiti the international aid that was donated to it when Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake about a decade ago. Instead the US gave Haiti some of the funds in the form of a loan, which the impoverished nation had to pay back. Despite what the US a agencies are doing to The BaHAMAS and Haiti and Jamaica and Trinidad and Barbados and other Caribbean countries with by flooding these islands with weapons including high powered assault rifles and instigating so called ‘gang violence’ the Bible says Mystery Babylon will pay along with her allies. As the rest of the world looks on in shock, disbelief and awe.

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John 1 week, 6 days ago

The invaders, the US and the UK are now in Venezuela and the seas of Guyana in a ‘stand off’ as Britain supports Guyana and the US has ransacked Venezuela for decades. Will they actually have a face off with each other or isbthis just a decoy and distraction as the invaders rape these countries if their oil and other natural resources.

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stillwaters 1 week, 6 days ago

Guyana was a peaceful nation ......until......they found oil and started making money from it. Now, all of a sudden several nations are all up in arms to begin a war there.

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