Haiti | Port-au-Prince sinks into uncertainty

(Port-au-Prince and Tabarre, Haiti) Gang grip on Haiti is growing. Since the end of April, there have been violent clashes between rival clans in the communities of Croix-des-Bouquets, Tabarre and Cité Soleil in the greater Port-au-Prince area. The United Nations, which said 75 people were killed and 68 injured in a dozen days, says it is “deeply concerned at the rapid deterioration of the situation.”

Posted at 6:00 am

Etienne Cote-Paluc
special cooperation

“As in War”


PHOTO ODELYN JOSEPH, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

A man walks past burnt-out carcasses after fighting between rival gangs in Port-au-Prince May 6.

The UN listed 75 dead, while the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, a human rights group, counted 148. This is the sad toll of clashes between rival armed groups in Haiti’s Cul-de-Sac plain since late April.

Although, as observed, activity has gradually resumed in this northern suburb of Port-au-Prince The pressTension is high and many kidnappings have been reported.

“It was bullet for bullet, like in war. Wadeline Joseph, 27, was still in bed when filming began on April 24. “I only had time to take my kids and go for a run,” said the mother of three girls, ages 2 to 6, still in shock. I left everything there. »

At dawn, a group of gunmen (controlling another part of Port-au-Prince’s northern suburbs) attacked a gang based near her home in the Butte-Boyer neighborhood where she grew up.

Despite the apparent calm, Wadeline Joseph does not want to return there.


PHOTO ÉTIENNE CÔTÉ-PALUCK, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

Wadeline Joseph

Someone told me my house burned down.

Wadeline Joseph, 27, a resident of the Butte-Boyer district on the Cul-de-Sac plains who fled the violence

The market where the shopkeeper normally sells has still not reopened as it was also one of the scenes of the conflict.

Sleep under the stars

Along with dozens of other families, Mme Joseph and his three children slept the first night in a public place under the stars. It’s exactly where The press met her a few hundred yards from Port-au-Prince International Airport.

The majority of displaced neighbors sought refuge with relatives during the clashes, but those with fewer resources or connections outside the neighborhood, such as Mme Joseph, had no choice but to take the road. Faced with this influx of families, City Hall confiscated a school’s common room to welcome them on the second day of the clashes.


PHOTO ÉTIENNE CÔTÉ-PALUCK, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

Fleeing the fighting, Wadeline Joseph found herself on the street with her three young children.

“We sleep right on the floor and one of my daughters just got sick, she has a fever,” she said, clearly concerned. I really need to find us another place to sleep tonight. »

A few blocks away, in this Butte-Boyer neighborhood, life moves on tentatively.

“We haven’t heard a shot since Friday. [le 6 mai] explained a resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

For the first five days of the clashes, she slept with her family in the living room of their home, the only room built entirely of concrete. On the fifth day, she sent her family to relatives, staying alone with her son, a student, to be present in the house. “I kept my running shoes on all day for two weeks in case we needed to run,” she says.

A dozen rapes


PHOTO RALPH TEDY ERO, REUTERS

Members of the Haitian National Police (PNH) patrol a street in the capital April 28 as fighting rages between rival gangs.

Nobody knows the exact size of the opposing groups. Through sporadic and sometimes barbaric acts of violence, they manage to create a climate of terror. A dozen rapes, for example, were reported by the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, in addition to a mass grave containing at least 30 bodies.


PHOTO RALPH TEDY EROL, REUTERS

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in Port-au-Prince, May 3rd

The Haitian police tried to intervene from the first week of the clashes, said Frantz Elbé, director general of the Haitian National Police (PNH) when giving a report to the media last Monday. Police claim to have caused several deaths without specifying the number, as well as 54 arrests, 16 weapons seizures and 7 vehicle seizures.

Since taking office following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last summer, interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised the return of a safe environment in the capital. During an official ceremony organized by the European Union in Port-au-Prince on Monday, Mr Henry reiterated the need for increased support from the international community to better equip police for this response to armed groups.

A US representative, Brian Nichols, said that a few days ago Miami Herald that his country is now supporting, together with France, the development of a SWAT tactical intervention group within the Haitian police force. Sixteen special advisers have been deployed to Haiti. “We received police support from France, Brazil and Canada,” he added. Haitians will see progress by mid-summer, he promised.

Three Canadian police officers are in Haiti to offer their expertise. “Canada and its partners are working directly with the Haitian National Police […] to improve its efficiency,” said Angela M. Tilk of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince via email. “Discussions on a bilateral police agreement are still ongoing. »

Stop the factories


PHOTO RALPH TEDY ERO, REUTERS

Residents of Port-au-Prince leave their homes with their hands in the air during a shootout between two armed groups on May 2.

In between there is uncertainty. “We had to shut down production for two weeks because we don’t want people risking their lives to get to work,” says the production manager at two factories in the area, including one near Butte-Boyer. He asked to protect his anonymity and that of his company, which exports to the United States and Canada.

The food production facilities typically operate 24 hours a day and employ nearly 2,000 people.

Gangs scare everyone. People living in places they control have no choice but to submit to their law.

A Canadian-Haitian production manager from two factories in the Port-au-Prince region, on condition of anonymity

The two factories resumed operations this week, but the financial losses are huge, adds this Canadian-Haitian, who commutes regularly with Ottawa, where his immediate family lives.

“I still have hope that this country will find a way out,” he said. I don’t see it, but I still have hope. »

When Wadeline Joseph was reached by phone a few hours after our meeting, she seemed relieved. “Good news, I met people who were kind enough to welcome me and my daughters tonight. At least we can get some sleep. »

12

Number of homes intentionally burned down between April 24 and May 5 in the Port-au-Prince area

Source: United Nations Organization (UN)

5

Number of people burned alive at events in the Cité Soleil

Source: United Nations Organization (UN)

Thousands displaced


PHOTO RALPH TEDY EROL, REUTERS ARCHIVE

On April 28, residents of Port-au-Prince leave their homes with some personal belongings to flee fighting between rival gangs.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in a dozen days nearly 17,000 displaced people were registered in Haiti’s Plaine du Cul-de-Sac, where armed criminal groups were clashing.

Dozens of closures of schools, medical centers and public markets have been observed in this huge suburb north of Port-au-Prince. “The situation is very worrying,” says Federica Cecchet, deputy chief of mission of this UN body. The press met her on Wednesday at her office, which is itself located on the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac.

“Here in the region there are 12 new spontaneous locations that house around 2,700 people,” she says. Schools and churches in less-affected neighborhoods, for example, have opened their doors to welcome those without other means.

Avoid setting up camps


PHOTO ÉTIENNE CÔTÉ-PALUCK, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

Fearing the clashes, citizens fled to Place Clercine in the town of Tabarre.

State authorities and the UN hope to avoid setting up camps for displaced people, which multiplied after the 2010 earthquake.

Several lessons have been learned in recent years and setting up camps is no longer an encouraged path. Bearings can lead to other problems, especially in a volatile situation like this one.

Federica Cecchet, Deputy Head of Mission, International Organization for Migration

The cul-de-sac plain which is almost 2000 km long2, lies between two mountain ranges. Originally largely rural with few industrial areas, the region became heavily urbanized after the 2010 earthquake as hundreds of thousands of new residents settled there.

The entire Port-au-Prince region was affected

“Now, throughout the Port-au-Prince region, we are noticing an increased presence of armed individuals who use violence against the population,” specifies Ms.me cecchet. Since June 2021, for example, clashes between armed criminal groups in the south of the city have caused a large part of the residents of the Martissant neighborhood to abandon their homes.


PHOTO RALPH TEDY EROL, REUTERS ARCHIVE

Displaced people wait for help from Haitian civil defense forces in Port-au-Prince on April 28 after gang fighting forced them to flee.

The IOM, in collaboration with the Haitian civil defense, monitors each new crisis and partially helps organize emergency aid for the displaced, especially the most vulnerable. “The first warnings we received about people displaced by violence in the capital region date back to 2018 and 2019,” explains Dr.me cecchet. And the situation worsened. »


PHOTO ÉTIENNE CÔTÉ-PALUCK, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

The common room of a school in Tabarre was confiscated to accommodate families.

“I have colleagues who come here to work on programs to support displaced people, but they are displaced themselves. Although less affected than others, the IOM office was forced to close for three days due to tensions in the neighborhood. His normal activities resumed last Monday.

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