Helena Lyng Blak
9 weeks ago

What is happening in Haiti? The crisis explained

Haitian PM resigns, UN personnel evacuate amid increasing violence and unrest.
Port-Au-Prince pinned on a map.
Dmitrijs Kaminskis / Shutterstock.com

In a video address on Monday, the Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, resigned after weeks of escalating violence and deteriorating infrastructure in the country.

On Wednesday, a UN spokesperson announced the evacuation of all non-essential UN personnel from the country, according to Danish TV2.

What caused the crisis?

The roots of Haiti’s current crisis are complex and multifaceted. The Guardian traces the country’s current unrest back to the economic catastrophe that followed the 2010 earthquake, the dictatorial rule of François Duvalier, as well as France’s demand of reparations upon Haiti’s independence in the early 19th century.

Today, the Caribbean nation has all but abandoned its democracy: It has been seven years since an election, and three years since the former President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home. Moïse’s death in 2021 was also followed by an outbreak of gang violence, the BBC reports.

In the last year, violence has continued to increase. According to Le Monde, the number of homicides more than doubled in 2023.

In October 2023, the UN Security Council approved the dispatch of a multinational force to intervene in Haiti. The deployment is yet to be executed.

In February of this year, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its annual threat assessment, calling the humanitarian situation in Haiti “increasingly dire,” highlighting that the Haitian National Police has been plagued by resource issues, corruption challenges, and limited training.

Who is struggling for power?

Most recently, chaos erupted once again when gangs stormed Haitian prisons while Henry was in Kenya to secure the forces promised by the UN, and around 3,700 inmates escaped.

The armed gangs currently control around 80% of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Most prominent is the gang leader Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Chérizier who leads an alliance of gangs named ‘G9’. According to the BBC, Chérizier is not the most powerful gang leader in the country but has become the face of the recent unrest. The Economist, on the other hand, names him “one of the country’s most powerful men”.

Chérizier portrays himself as the leader of the common people amid a political uprising, saying: “We must unite. Haiti will either become a paradise or a hellish condition for all of us. It is unacceptable that a small group of wealthy people living in large hotels should determine the fate of people living in working-class areas,” according to Danmarks Radio.

He furthermore warned foreign nations not to interfere, stating: “If the international community continues to support him (Ariel Henry, ed.), we will be heading straight towards a civil war that will lead to genocide.”

According to The Conversation, Chérizier has been hailed in murals around the impoverished areas of Haiti.

But Chérizier, a former police officer, has previously proved himself to be brutal. He was given his nickname ‘Barbecue’ for his inclination to burn opponents alive, and is suspected of being behind the 2018 massacre where more than 71 civilians were murdered over a 24-hour period in the slums of Port-au-Prince.

His G9 gang is furthermore suspected to be behind the so-called “Belair massacre” in which 81 civilians were killed between August 2020 and May 2021 in the Belair neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.

Chérizier is not the only one struggling for power. The BBC also highlights former rebel and politician Guy Philippe who for years served a drug-trafficking sentence in the US, and Youtube-rapper/gang leader John André, aka Izo whose gang, the UN alleges, is behind a slew of kidnappings and sexual assaults as well as drug- and arms-trafficking.

What about the people of Haiti?

An often too overlooked, but important, group in this crisis is the 11.45 million population of Haiti. According to Le Monde, the UN estimates that 4 million Haitians face “acute food insecurity,” with the number on the verge of famine has increased to 1 million.

The number of displaced people in Haiti has furthermore skyrocketed to 360,000. Half of them are children.

What is happening now, and what will happen next?

As of Monday, the Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry has stepped down. An interim government will consist of members from Haitian’s political parties, its private sector, and the organization Montana Group.

Currently, the UN alongside EU and various other nations are evacuating non-essential staff from Haiti.

On Wednesday, Le Monde reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that a Kenyan-led multinational security mission will be sent to Haiti.

CNN furthermore reports that the UN is planning to build an air bridge between Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, to transport humanitarian aid into the country.


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