Haiti is mired in a spiral of gang violence: kidnapping, rape and murders, etc. It’s total lawlessness. Isn’t it fair to wonder: why a country with a glorious past finds itself today in such a predicament? Can Haiti reverse course and thrive? Nothing is impossible, so let’s delve into the matter.
Nowadays, the violence in Haiti has reached an unprecedented level. The insecurity is at its paroxysm. Armed gangs like G9 (Barbecue), 400 Mawozo, Lan mort san jou and others spring up everywhere, terrorizing people. The main causes of the terror in Haiti include high unemployment, hunger, political instability, internal and external exploitation of the country, etc.
When Jean-Bertrand Aristide ascended to the presidency of Haiti on Feb. 7, 1991, he dissolved the brutal armed forces of the Duvalier regimes, the only contingent that would have been capable of cracking down on the gangs today. The actual police are weak, ill-equipped and too corrupt to do anything.
Pres. Aristide's dissolution of the army served as a proactive measure against any eventual coup d’etat. His action was a double-edged sword that created a security vacuum that gave birth to the gangs of Cite Soleil. Those gangsters operated like so-called soldiers who fought a proxy war against Pres. Aristide’s political opponents.
As it reported, there are now an estimated 200 gangs operating across Haiti, and around 95 in the capital, Port-au-Prince, alone. This has resulted in a major insecurity crisis, with large-scale attacks on communities, politicians and journalists, high level of violence, mass kidnappings and large-scale forced displacements
All those crimes cause the Haitian population to live on the edge. Their public outcry falls on death ear because the government is powerless and the gangs seem to have usurped control over the entire island. Those gangs are better armed and more sophisticated than the national police. They appear invincible and fearless. They roam the streets without any fear of reprisal. They spread terror wherever they go. Corrupt police officers and elected officials, in exchange for their security, feel obligated to be in collusion with those criminals.
So it’s not a surprise that Haiti is now listed among the world's most dangerous countries. According to Forbes Magazine, Haiti is ranked 13th out of the 15 most dangerous countries, only trailed by Zimbabwe and Columbia. Crimes, such as kidnappings for ransom, rape, death threats, murders, armed robberies, home break-ins, are rampant in Haiti.
According to the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, 540 people were kidnapped and more than 780 were killed between January and May 2022. In the last five months of 2021, 396 people were kidnapped and 668 killed.
Those odious crimes are occurring daily. Haiti, at times, has experienced some political violence, but nothing like this level of gang violence. The island is unstable and finds itself on the edge of a precipice. The more chaotic the current situation in Haiti has become, the greater the piece of the pie for the Haitian elite and government officials. What’s left for the people is nothing but despair and a miserable life without tomorrow.
The current deterioration in the country’s security and the economy is severe, and there is always one question in everyone's mind: will Haiti ever get out of this quandary? It’s a one-million-dollar question that no one has the answer for. Ah! It's quite speculative. There is never an easy solution to a difficult problem. To win the war against gang violence, Haitians must be fired up with the heroic sentiments of Jean-Jacques, Capois La Mort, Henry Christophe, Alexandre Petion, and many others.
Then, Haitians need to emulate the successful model of countries that went through the same violent situation. For example, El Salvador is a country that was infested with hardcore gang groups like MS 13, Barrio 18 and the Maras. Pres. Nayib Bukele of El Salvador declared a 30-state of emergency to crack down on those gangsters. El Salvador is today a success story that Haiti should follow.
Also, the Dominican Republic, right next door, went through some turbulent times in its history. Look at it today! The Dominican Republic is stable, peaceful and fast developing. But how about Haiti which was once the pearl of the Antilles? Shame on corrupt Haitian politicians! The mindset of systemic corruption and violence must change. The fate or the future of Haiti rests in the hands of all Haitians. Nothing is impossible. We can and must save the country from the plague of gang violence
But unless the Haitian government is militarily powerful enough to wipe out the gangs, those very gangs, if left undefeated for some time, will be likely to grow in number and importance to the point of becoming the government. Then, we’ll know that Haiti is on a free fall to the bottom of the precipice.
Hubert Odias, freelance writer.