Haitian Prime Minister calls for urgent deployment of multinational force to quash gang violence
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry again appealed for international support to combat rampant gang violence – one element of the multi-dimensional crisis affecting his country.
Armed groups control areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and some towns, blocking roads, driving citizens from their homes, and forcing the closure of schools, hospitals and businesses.
Lives in danger
The “non-exhaustive” list of violations and crimes they have committed includes massacres, kidnappings, pillaging, sexual violence, human trafficking and child recruitment, he said.
Insecurity has reached a critical point in recent weeks, sparking a new humanitarian crisis, with more than 16,500 displaced people “spontaneously occupying” more than 25 schools in the capital.
“The daily life of the people of Haiti is very difficult,” said Mr. Henry, speaking through an interpreter.
“That is why the Security Council, which has the power and the necessary authority under Chapter Seven of the [UN] Charter, must take urgent action by authorizing the deployment of a multinational support mission to underpin security in Haiti.”
A critical first step
The proposed force would support the Haitian National Police to defeat the gangs and restore peace and order.
He hailed countries and organizations that have expressed commitment and solidarity, particularly Kenya, which has offered to lead the effort, and the regional bloc, CARICOM.
Mr. Henry said use of force is an initial first step to creating an environment for the State to function again.
However, he emphasized that social and economic development must also be addressed to find a solution to the extreme poverty at the heart of the many issues confronting Haiti.
The Caribbean nation, which shares territory with the Dominican Republic, has suffered major shocks in recent years, including three earthquakes, cyclones, and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.
Since then, Mr. Henry has been serving as interim leader of Haiti, where roughly half the population lives below the poverty line and nearly five million people face food insecurity.
Social inequalities and the unequal distribution of resources have created a huge gap between the poor masses and the small minority that controls 90 per cent of all wealth in the country, he said. Meanwhile, extreme poverty and unemployment provide “fertile ground” for gang recruitment.
Mr. Henry called for Haitians at home and in the diaspora “to work hand-in-hand with the Government to combat the gangs, restore security, and, as true democrats, to seek power via the ballot box.”
He said despite the situation in the country, the interim government is determined to hold elections as soon as practically possible.
The Prime Minister also addressed the emerging crisis with the Dominican Republic, which has closed its borders with Haiti following a dispute over the construction of a canal on the Dajabón or Massacre River.
“I wish to state that the Republic of Haiti is not at war with anyone,” he said. “Haitians are a generous people who have always shown solidarity and who believe in dialogue and the ability to fairly share shared resources in full mutual respect.”
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