The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose on Wednesday by gunmen who broke into his private residence served as a sobering reminder of the violence that has wracked the country for years and has gotten even worse in recent weeks.
Haiti’s armed groups have grown in strength, capitalising on the country’s political instability and growing poverty to seize control of large swaths of the country’s cities, including the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Approximately one-third of Port-au-territory Prince’s is affected by criminal activity, and a recent escalation in clashes between rival gangs has resulted in numerous civilian casualties as well as a significant increase in the number of people fleeing violence.
According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 13,600 people fled their homes in Port-au-Prince, which has a population of approximately one million people, during the first three weeks of June. According to the report, this represents a fourfold increase in violence-related displacement in the capital compared to the previous nine months.
The kidnapping of five Roman Catholic priests and two nuns, as well as the theft of food and other supplies from businesses, has been carried out by organised crime groups.
“We have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society for quite some time now,” said Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidor of Port-au-Prince in a statement at the time.
The power of armed gangs has sparked concerns about possible upheaval during the current political crisis, which has seen two men jockeying for the position of prime minister and institutions in disarray.
A powerful gang leader in Haiti known as “Barbecue,” Jimmy Cherizier, warned that he was launching a revolution against the country’s political and business elites in June. Cherizier is also known as “Barbecue.” He urged people to return what he claimed was their money from banks and supermarkets, prompting looting in a number of establishments in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere.
In an interview with AFP, Jacky Lumarque, the rector of Quisqueya University, a large private school in Port-au-Prince, said that under the current circumstances, holding elections in September, as planned by President Mose and still demanded by the international community, was not possible.
In gang-controlled neighbourhoods, which candidate will have the most success? Whether or not they will be able to set up polling stations remains to be seen. he inquired.
He claimed that holding elections would be tantamount to “perpetuating the chaos and maintaining the instability.”