What's In Blue

Haiti: Private Meeting

This afternoon (18 March), the Security Council will convene for a private meeting on Haiti. Ecuador and the US, the penholders on the file, requested the meeting to receive an update on the 11 March agreement on a transitional governance arrangement for Haiti that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) facilitated following the recent escalation of gang violence in the country. Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) María Isabel Salvador and a CARICOM representative are expected to brief.

CARICOM announced the 11 March agreement following several days of talks with Haitian political actors and an emergency meeting in Jamaica that was attended by members of the intergovernmental organisation as well as Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the US, and the UN. The final agreement is reportedly a compromise drawn from the numerous transitional governance proposals that Haitian groups had submitted to CARICOM. It provides for the creation of a Transitional Presidential Council comprising seven voting members and two non-voting observers that will be tasked with appointing a new interim prime minister, preparing the country for the arrival of international security assistance, and organising long-delayed elections. The seven voting members of the council will be selected from five political parties, a coalition of civic and political groups known as the Montana Accord, and the business community. The two non-voting observers will be drawn from civil society and the religious community. Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry has said that he will resign once the council has been installed and has appointed his successor.

The deal followed weeks of escalating violence in Haiti. In late February, criminal gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince began conducting coordinated attacks targeting police stations, prisons, government institutions, and civilian sites in the city. On 2 March, armed gang members raided two penitentiaries, reportedly freeing 4,700 inmates, after which Haitian authorities announced a three-day state of emergency that they subsequently extended until 3 April. Gunmen also tried to seize the city’s main international airport, disrupting air travel, and launched attacks against key government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the Interior Ministry, and the regional police headquarters.

According to media reports citing unnamed officials, more than 130 civilians were killed between 27 February and 8 March, and at least 40 gang members were killed between 29 February and 10 March. The violence has displaced nearly 15,000 people in Port-au-Prince and has impeded the delivery of humanitarian aid, exacerbating conditions in the country, where 44 percent of the population now suffers from acute food insecurity. On 13 March, BINUH announced the establishment of an airbridge between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and facilitate the rotation of mission personnel.

Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (also known as “Barbeque”) claimed responsibility for the surge in violence. Chérizier, who heads an alliance of gangs called the “G9 Family and Allies”, said in a 29 February video that his goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and to prevent the return of Henry, who had travelled to Kenya to sign an agreement facilitating the deployment of a multinational security support (MSS) mission to help Haiti combat gang violence. In October 2023, the Security Council adopted resolution 2699, authorising the deployment of an MSS mission under Kenya’s leadership, but the operation has been delayed, partly due to a ruling by the High Court of Kenya that required a bilateral security arrangement between the countries prior to deployment.

A noteworthy development related to the recent violence is the apparent cooperation between the G9 gangs and other armed groups, particularly a coalition known as G-Pep, which is the other leading gang alliance in Port-au-Prince and had been the G9’s main rival. In September 2023, the coalitions announced a truce under an initiative called Viv Ansanm (“living together” in Haitian Creole) and reportedly hinted at the possibility of joining forces to confront the MSS mission. While the truce broke down after only a few days, Chérizier referred to Viv Ansanm in his video announcing the latest attacks, indicating that the initiative had been revived as the deployment of the MSS mission appeared to draw closer. While Haitian gang alliances have typically been fragmented and fleeting, a united front could pose a significant challenge to the mission.

The surge in violence subsided immediately following CARICOM’s announcement of the 11 March agreement and Henry’s stated intention to resign. Negotiations to implement the deal’s provisions have lagged, however. When CARICOM announced the framework, the parties that were invited to join Transitional Presidential Council were given 24 hours to nominate their individual representatives, but by 14 March two had reportedly still not done so. One group allied with Henry, known as the December 21 Agreement after a previous power-sharing deal, is internally divided and has been unable to agree on their representative. Another group known as Platfòm Pitit Desalin (PPT), which is led by former senator Jean-Charles Moïse, has declined to participate, instead insisting on installing an alternative, three-person presidential council that would include former rebel leader Guy Philippe, who led the 2004 coup ousting democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was repatriated to Haiti in November 2023 after serving six years in US federal prison on drug charges. Since his return, Philippe, who is an ally of Moïse and considered close to the gangs, has been rallying public support and calling for Henry’s resignation, but he has rejected any plan brokered by the international community, echoing a position also expressed by Chérizier.

At the time of writing, as gang violence in Port-au-Prince again appeared to be on the rise, it remained unclear how the seat reserved for the PPT on the Transitional Presidential Council would be reconstituted. Notably, the 11 March agreement prohibits from participation on the presidential council anyone who has been indicted or charged with a crime, who is designated under the Security Council’s 2653 Haiti sanctions regime, or who opposes the MSS mission.

Preparations for the MSS mission also remain in flux. After the announcement of the 11 March agreement, Kenyan officials said that the deployment would be put on hold until a new interim prime minister had been appointed, although Kenyan President William Ruto later reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the mission. In addition to Haiti’s political situation, another impediment to the MSS mission’s deployment is a lack of resources. The US is the mission’s main financial backer, having previously pledged $200 million in support, but the release of those funds has been held up in the US Congress. Attending the 11 March CARICOM meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $100 million in US support from a funding source that has reportedly already been approved, which may accelerate the deployment timeline.

On 6 March, the Security Council convened for a private meeting on Haiti to discuss the escalation in gang violence. Following the meeting, Council members issued a press statement expressing deep concern about the security and humanitarian situation in the country, condemning the “continued destabilizing criminal activities” of armed gangs, and expressing the “expectation and hope” that the MSS mission would deploy as soon as possible. The statement also stressed the need to create security conditions conducive to an inclusive political process and free and fair elections.

The recent surge in violence represents a further deterioration of the situation in Haiti, which has been plagued by a multidimensional crisis characterised by political deadlock, extreme violence, and dire humanitarian conditions since the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. The country currently lacks a single democratically elected official, as the caretaker government led by Henry was unable to reach a political settlement with opposition groups on the organisation of elections. Amid the impasse, politically connected criminal gangs overtook an estimated 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, fuelling unprecedented levels of violence. According to the Secretary-General’s most recent report on BINUH, which was issued on 15 January and covers developments since 16 October 2023, the number of reported homicides in 2023 reached nearly 5,000, a 120 percent increase compared with 2022. The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Secretary-General’s next report on BINUH in April.

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