Gangs-Related Violence In Haiti Left At Least 234 People Killed Or Injured

During July 8th-12th, there was an upsurge in a fight between rival gangs in the Cité Soleil district neighbourhood of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Jeremy Laurence, the spokesman for the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, reported, “Over five days, from 8-12 July, at least 234 more people were killed or injured in gang-related violence in the Cite Soleil area of the city.” In addition, he added that victims “were not directly involved in gangs” but were targeted by them.

Violent gang battles which involved civilian casualties provoked an urgent international response. On July 12th, Jean Hislain Frederick, deputy mayor in the Cité Soleil district of Port-au-Prince, announced that the fighting was a clash between the two rival gangs, G9 versus GPEP. Immediately after the outbreak of the fight, on July 8th, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution which included renewed mandate of a UN office in a Caribbean nation. It urged for an immediate cessation of gang violence and their criminal activity, which China stressed. It also called to stop the transfer of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition to any group which supports gangs.

Two gangs’ reckless and indiscriminate fights, which caused hundreds of innocent deaths of citizens, deserve to be harshly criticized. This gang fight happened a day after the first anniversary of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, which further impaired the government. There was a precursor of this incident from last year. By 2021, the armed gangs’ clash became common for the people in Port-au-Prince and led to fear and terror. The level of security drastically deteriorated from the end of April, which also affected the supply of international humanitarian assistance. Haiti is already in political chaos and is about to sink into an even deeper pit.

Gangs have occupied Haiti, especially in the capital, for over 20 years with their political, economic, and security interests. The estimated number of working gangs in Haiti is 200, with 3,000 soldiers; among them, 40 gangs are high calibre, and the remaining are small bases across the country. Haiti experienced a political crisis from the rising cost of living and allegations of poor governance between 2018 and 2019. Eventually, it led to the social movements which ended the crisis of ‘Peyi Lòk’ (“closed country” in Haitian Creole) between September and November 2019. Consequently, access to essential goods and services such as water, food, electricity, fuel, oxygen, and medical supplies for health facilities were difficult to gain access to. It heavily risked human lives.

Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, reduced economic activities allowed the revival of gang activities. At this time, “G9 families and allies” was established and dominated developments in downtown Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, “G-pèp-la,” led by Gabriel Jean Pierre who was opposed to the G9 led by Jimmy Chérisier, was formed. It was the beginning of a significant clash between two coalitions. Even worse, kidnappings also become a target. UN spokesman Laurence commented, “We have so far documented, from January to the end of June, 934 killings, 684 injuries and 680 kidnappings across the capital.”

Currently, Haiti is facing the absence of security as its last peace mission ended in October 2017. After the death of President Moïse, due to the increasing number and scale of gang violence, many Haitians tried to flee the country for their safety and protection as the coalition faltered and the attempt to hold the general election also failed. To bring the country back to normal without fighting and concerns for living, continuous international attention is vital. Perhaps another UN mission can assist in filling the blank of solid leadership, which will be the first step toward peace.

Heewon Seo