Gang Violence in Haiti Escalates, Endangering Civilian Population

Violence has escalated in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince as two major gangs, G9 and G-Pèp have escalated fighting for control of the city. The gang warfare has had major consequences for the surrounding populations, resulting in high numbers of civilian and gang member fatalities as well as supply shortages. The supply shortages, specifically fuel, have been going on for the last year and have forced protests from the population which has worsened fatalities. Haiti is close to hitting rock bottom, and action must be taken against the gang members to secure the lives of civilians.

The two groups, G9 and G-Pèp have been battling for control of Cite Soleil, a town located outside of the capital of Port-au-Prince, and have engaged in violence for the past year since the assassination of G9-associated President Jovenel Moïse and the August earthquake that severely damaged the country. The anniversary of the assassination on July 7 has spurred a severe escalation in conflict, ultimately leading to the dire position the people of Haiti are in now. G9 is a criminal organisation that is composed of nine gangs in Port-au-Prince. The leader Jimmy Chérizier was closely associated with the late President Moïse, working to assist in the oppression of his opponents. According to OHCHR, gangs have become increasingly sophisticated in coordinated attacks that maximise damage on both rival gang and civilian populations.

The grave impacts of the gang violence on the civilian population’s quality of life in and around Port-au-Prince have pushed them to protest, resulting in further widespread chaos. Fuel shortages have been ongoing since gang violence began, causing NGOs to reduce their involvement in the region in November of last year. The situation had continued to deteriorate since then, ultimately spurring the protests. According to the BBC, the fuel terminal has since reopened after protesters burned tyres and blocked vital roads. The Haitian population was also suffering from severe food and water shortages as a result of the violence. The UN has reported that gangs are attempting to control the protesting population by denying them food and drinking water, and thus causing a sharp increase in malnutrition. Civilians have imposed self-curfews in other to avoid been caught up in the violence. Civilians are now closed-off in their houses without any chance of escaping from the town.

On 16th July 2022, the United Nations commented on the situation in Haiti. Jeremy Laurence, the spokesperson for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees reported that “Over a five-day period, from 8-12 July, at least 234 more people were killed or injured in gang-related violence.” This commentary came after the United Nations Security Council voted to ban the sale of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition to non-state actors in Haiti. This action is part of a draft resolution that had been put forward by the U.S. and Mexico. The resolution also proposed to sanction individual gang members, which would include travel bans and asset freezes. China had proposed a full embargo on weapons sales which was swiftly rejected by other members of the Security Council, on the grounds that it would be unenforceable. This is part of an initiative many view as China trying to become heavily involved in Haiti, a trend that began when Port-au-Prince formally recognised Taiwan.

The situation in Haiti continues to unfold rapidly and unless NGOs and United Nations agencies further advocate for the protection of civilians in the area, fatalities will continue to rise. Hopefully, the reopening of fuel stations will lessen the burden on the civilian population, and the actions of the United Nations Security Council will deter gang members from further violence.

Britt Gronmeyer