Gang violence, poverty, earthquakes and a new cholera outbreak: the problems are piling up in Haiti. The government’s call for international aid is getting louder and it seems that it is finally being listened to. The United States and Mexico are working on a proposal to send an international security mission to the country. It is expected that agreements will be made in this regard next week.
The international power must, among other things, reduce gang violence and facilitate humanitarian aid. After the assassination of the former president, gang violence has increased, especially in the capital Port-au-Prince.
Under the spell of gang violence
Gangs rule large parts of the city. According to Haitian journalist Evan Sanons, after all, people try to continue their daily lives, but they hardly ever leave home. Parents are afraid to send their children to school for fear of kidnapping and sexual violence.
Gangs block a major fuel terminal, causing a huge shortage of gasoline.
Due to the lack of electricity, many hospitals can no longer function and the economy has almost come to a standstill. There is a shortage of food and clean drinking water, causing diseases such as cholera to spread rapidly.
Solutions from outside
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions on one of the country’s top gang leaders last week by freezing his assets and imposing a travel ban and arms embargo. The man is known as Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier; he is a former police officer. The Security Council resolution states that the man is a threat to peace, security and stability in Haiti and that he is guilty of human rights violations.
André Nollkaemper, professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, expects the sanctions to have little effect. “Gangs who are financed with crime money and also buy their weapons through those circles get what they want anyway. I see a symbolic message from the UN in this.”
It is not yet known which country will lead the security force and which countries will participate. The United States and Canada, among others, are in negotiations about this. Canada sends a reconnaissance mission to Haiti to determine which deployment can count on popular support.
The UN Security Council still has to agree to the proposal, but the security force is emphatically not a UN force. What, according to the professor, plays a role in this is that the recent UN mission in Haiti is considered a major failure. Blue helmets, who were in the country from 2004 to 2017, brought cholera into the country. They were also guilty of sexually abusing Haitian women.
“This is seen as a black page in peacekeeping history, including by residents,” Nollkaemper said.
Another factor, he believes, that does not make it a UN mission is that crime fighting in Haiti is not seen as a problem suitable for UN intervention. Although crime is very high, there is no civil war yet.
Although Haitians strongly oppose foreign interference, they recognize that their own government is unable to improve security in the country, Evan Sanons said. “International forces can help the national police take control of the gangs. They will not disappear forever, but the international forces can train the national police and prepare them for a possible resurgence of gang violence.”
The hope is that the government will have room to tackle other problems if the gang violence subsides.