What's In Blue

Posted Tue 5 Mar 2024

Haiti: Private Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon (6 March), the Security Council will convene for a private meeting on Haiti. Ecuador and the US, the penholders on Haiti, requested the meeting to discuss the most recent escalation of gang violence in the country. An official from the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is expected to brief. Haiti and Kenya are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

Since 29 February, criminal gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince have conducted coordinated attacks targeting police stations, prisons, critical infrastructure, and civilian sites in the city. On 2 March, armed gang members raided two penitentiaries, reportedly freeing at least 3,800 inmates, after which Haitian authorities announced a three-day state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew. Yesterday (4 March), gunmen tried to seize the city’s main international airport, but it was unclear at the time of writing whether they had succeeded. At least four police officers and five civilians have been killed in the violence since 29 February, while nearly 15,000 people have been displaced.

Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (also known as “Barbeque”) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Chérizier, who heads an alliance of gangs called the “G9 Family and Allies”, said in a video that his goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and to prevent the return of interim Prime Minister Ariel 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 since 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. Henry’s present whereabouts are unknown.

A key concern related to the current violence is whether the G9 gangs are acting alone or in concert with others, particularly a coalition known as G-Pep, which is the other leading gang alliance in Port-au-Prince and 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, possibly indicating that the initiative had been revived as the deployment of the MSS mission appears to draw closer. While Haitian gang alliances have typically been fragmented and fleeting, a united front could pose a significant challenge to the mission.

Yesterday, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that the Secretary-General was “deeply concerned” by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Port-au-Prince and that he urged the international community to provide further support for the MSS mission to address Haiti’s security needs and “prevent the country from plunging further into chaos”. Previously, on 29 February, Dujarric noted that five countries—Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, and Chad—had officially notified the UN of their intention to contribute personnel to the mission, as requested by resolution 2699, and that $10.8 million has been deposited into the UN’s mission trust fund. These confirmed contributions fall short of the estimated 5,000 police officers and $240 million annually required by the mission, although several additional countries have announced their intention to provide support, including the US, which has previously pledged up to $200 million in material and logistical contributions.

The recent escalation of 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 President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. The country currently lacks a single democratically elected official, as the caretaker government led by Henry has been unable to reach a political settlement with opposition groups on the organisation of elections. Amid the impasse, politically connected criminal gangs have overtaken 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, the capital, fuelling unprecedented levels of violence. According to the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (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. Speaking at a 28 February press conference that took place shortly before the latest escalation of violence, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti Ulrika Richardson noted that 314,000 Haitians were internally displaced and 4.4 million—about 40 percent of the population—were suffering from acute food insecurity.

At tomorrow’s private meeting, Council members are expected to express deep concern about the further deterioration in the country’s security situation. They may underscore the importance of the rapid deployment of the MSS mission to help national authorities to restore order and welcome the signing of the bilateral agreement between Haiti and Kenya in this regard. They may also call for progress on the political track to organise national elections in order to tackle the root causes of Haiti’s instability. As this will be a closed meeting, Council members might also consider issuing a press statement conveying these messages.

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