August 9, 2023 -In a surge of public outcry, several thousand individuals took to the streets of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on Monday. Concealing their faces for safety, the demonstrators passionately called for better protection against violent gangs that have gripped many parts of the city.
The persistent gang violence has not only disrupted the everyday lives of Haitians but also exacerbated the nation’s poverty. This has led to anticipation over the United Nations Security Council’s decision on potentially deploying an international armed force to the country.
Public outcry in Port-au-Prince: Demonstrators want security amid gang violence
Chanting “We want security!”, the procession moved from the neighborhood of Carrefour-Feuilles to downtown’s Champ de Mars and subsequently towards the prime minister’s residence. However, the police employed tear gas, dispersing the gathering.
The unsettling environment in Haiti has deepened since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Experts indicate that gangs now dominate as much as 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince. These gangs have been implicated in a variety of violent crimes, causing distress in communities already grappling with extreme poverty.
More on Haiti’s gang violence
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- Official: Suspected gang members kill Haitian policeman amid spike in violence
- International support needed now to stop spiraling gang violence in Haiti
Alarming numbers: Recent data reveals surge in violent incidents and kidnappings
Recent data underscores the gravity of the situation. A UN report revealed that from January to March, over 1,600 incidents of deaths, injuries, or kidnappings were recorded — marking a 30 per cent spike compared to the last quarter of 2022.
UNICEF also raised an alarm over the rise in kidnappings this year, particularly highlighting the victimization of women and children for monetary or strategic advantages. A poignant case is that of US nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter, who are still being held for a ransom of $1 million.
The deep-seated fear among parents is palpable.
The protestors echoed a collective sentiment of defiance, chanting “Bwa kale!” This phrase alludes to a civilian-led uprising against suspected gang members that started earlier this year.
Over 200 people have been reported killed since its inception. The demonstrators pledged to sustain the momentum, especially as the local police force struggles with limited resources.
International Involvement: Haiti awaits global response to growing unrest
The urgency for external intervention was evident last October when Haitian authorities sought the immediate deployment of international armed forces to counteract the gang violence.
While Kenya has extended an offer to spearhead a multinational police mission, the UN Security Council’s verdict on a potential non-UN multinational force is still pending. Adding to the anticipation, the US recently announced its intentions to propose such a resolution.