Troubled Waters

Haiti’s challenge of gang violence and international support. 

In a significant development, Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, resigned on March 12, signalling a pivotal moment in the nation’s ongoing struggle with gang violence and political instability. Henry’s resignation aimed to pave the way for the establishment of a transitional government, a move supported by CARICOM, world powers and the UN. The primary objective of this transitional government is to address the governance paralysis gripping Haiti and alleviate the widespread poverty plaguing its citizens.  

Amidst Haiti’s complex challenges, international efforts to support the nation have emphasised non-direct interventions, focusing instead on humanitarian aid, police training and diplomatic support. “We have a problem because since 2005, there’s been an article on the budget of the United States which forbids any sort of financial assistance with the Haitian forces,” explained a senior member from the international and diplomatic community. “That’s the law by Congress, and nobody can go around it.” This approach, while critical, echoes past mistakes of foreign interventions, which often left a legacy of distrust and minimal long-term benefits in Haiti.  

However, given the urgency of Haiti’s situation, drawing comparisons to global crises like the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, there is a pressing need for concerted international action. “At this moment, it is a failed state in the hands of organised crime,” attested a South American diplomat in Haiti. “It’s a country in the region, and we can’t ignore this issue. There’s a regional responsibility to act now to prevent a civil war and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.” 

“There’s a regional responsibility to act now to prevent a civil war and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

South American diplomat in Haiti

One significant intervention endorsed by the UN is the deployment of Kenyan police officers to assist in restoring security in Haiti, although “Kenya is hesitating, because of (increasing) power vacuums,” commented an international correspondent with twenty years of experience. This deployment has faced scrutiny due to the complexities associated with foreign involvement in Haitian affairs, as well as logistical challenges and even doubt, voiced a manufacturing sector member, “the Kenyans will never come, that is my suspicion.” 

In parallel, there is a growing recognition of the importance of Haitian-led solutions to the country’s challenges. Experts advocate for a nuanced approach that combines military and civilian police support to bolster the Haitian National Police (“PNH”). However, when “Canada together with the US have organised a programme benefiting Haitians because of the situation encouraging migration, we lost an estimated 3,000 policemen.” The manufacturing businessman expanded, “we’re down to about 7,000 active members for 12 million people. That’s not sustainable.”

The PNH’s alleged connections with gangs present a formidable obstacle to reform efforts, sparking debates on the most effective strategy for enhancing Haiti’s internal security. “Port-au-Prince, is almost entirely controlled by gangs.” This means that “access to healthcare is complicated, schools and airports are closed,” commented an exasperated South American diplomat. 

Amidst these challenges, the private sector emerges as a critical player in driving economic recovery and political stability within Haiti’s transitional framework. “The record is saying that for the past 40 years, after several billions of dollars, it might be wise to look at doing things differently.” The diplomat elaborated,one alternative could be to look at assisting Haiti from a regional basis as opposed to sector basis. Haiti has nine departments, eleven with the islands that are big territories.” Strategic investments in key industries and sustainable development partnerships offer promising avenues for long-term stability. 

Haiti’s path to stability requires more than just short-term interventions. The businessman from the manufacturing sector continued, “to avoid putting their soldiers in harm’s way, it would be preferable for a contingent from one of the CARICOM nation’s Defense Forces to participate. Sending soldiers into the city that is a maze of corridors controlled by gangs, will result in a lot of casualties, far more than people can anticipate.” He stressed, “the focus should be on training higher-level officers and identifying military personnel with expertise in urban warfare to assist in the fight, rather than relying solely on the police force. 

“Sending soldiers into the city that is a maze of corridors controlled by gangs, will result in a lot of casualties, far more than people can anticipate.”

Businessman from the manufacturing sector, Haiti

Comprehensive constitutional and judicial reforms are essential to address underlying issues of governance, corruption and political consensus. The diplomat in Haiti agreed, “a resolution should be issued by the UN, OAS, USA, Canada, and France to intervene in Haiti, in coordination with CARICOM, to stop the deportation of Haitian migrants, control armed gangs and create conditions for a free and peaceful election.” These reforms are crucial for breaking the cycle of crises and laying the groundwork for enduring peace and prosperity in Haiti. He added, “there can’t be elections without first cleaning up the current chaos and violence.” 

As Haiti continues to navigate its path to stability, it is imperative for international stakeholders to support Haitian-led initiatives and prioritise long-term solutions, but as of now the international correspondent concluded, “I fear a tragedy [is coming] in the heart of the Caribbean.” 

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