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UN envoy confirms crucial role of elections amid growing gang violence — Global Issues


“Elections are the only way and the only imperative to restore democratic institutions in Haiti. Only democracy and the rule of law can provide the basis on which Haiti can progress towards development and growth,” she said.

The envoy, who also heads the United Nations Office in Haiti, BINUH, stressed the “enormous importance” of the recent Council resolution authorizing the deployment of a multinational support mission to assist the national police, and is praised by another on an arms embargo.

Widespread gang violence, mainly affecting the capital Port-au-Prince, is another shock for Haiti, where almost half the population, around five million people, is in need of humanitarian aid. In recent years, the Caribbean nation has been hit by a cholera epidemic, earthquakes and cyclones, as well as the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Serious crime is increasing

Ms. Salvador reported that major crimes are increasing sharply and reaching new records. Incidents include the broad daylight kidnapping last week of the head of the High Transitional Council – the body responsible for preparing the long-awaited elections – by gang members disguised as police officers.

“Murder, sexual violence, including gang rape and mutilation, continue to be used by gangs every day and in the context of an ineffective victim support service or robust judicial response,” he said. she declared.

The activities of self-defense groups have added even more complexity to the security crisis. BINUH recorded the lynching of nearly 400 suspected gang members by the so-called “Bwa Kale” movement between the end of April and the end of September.

Path to the polls

At the same time, Ms. Salvador continues to commit to a “path leading to elections aimed at fully restoring democratic institutions and the rule of law.” Although inter-Haitian consultations have resumed under the auspices of the CARICOM regional bloc, she is concerned that “efforts in favor of elections are not progressing at the desired pace.”

She stressed that the restoration of control by the Haitian National Police is a precondition for holding a credible and inclusive vote, and that the deployment of the multinational force gives hope that things will improve.

“The Haitian National Police will only be able to achieve lasting results when public security is restored and the state resumes its functions, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods prone to gang activity,” she said.

Child recruitment and sexual violence

About two million people in Haiti live in areas under the control of armed groups, which are expanding their operations, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in her briefing to the Council.

Catherine Russell reported that children are injured or killed in gunfights, even on their way to school. Others are forcibly recruited into gangs or join out of sheer desperation, while women and girls face extreme levels of gender-based and sexual violence.

Rape is “now commonplace”

Ms Russell traveled to Haiti last June where she met a pregnant 11-year-old girl at a center for survivors of sexual violence. Last year, five men kidnapped the girl while she was walking in the street, and three of them took turns raping her.

“Several women at the center spoke of armed men who broke in, raped them – in one case, in front of her children – and then set their house on fire. In some areas, such abuse and horrific crimes are now commonplace,” Ms Russell said.

Food and nutrition crisis

Armed groups have also strangled main roads connecting the capital to the rest of Haiti, where most of the population resides, destroying livelihoods and restricting access to essential services.

Ms Russell said this “mixture of life-threatening conditions” has caused a worsening food and nutrition security crisis, with more than 115,000 children suffering from severe wasting – a 30 percent increase on ‘last year.

Nearly a quarter of all children in Haiti suffer from chronic malnutrition, and the ongoing cholera epidemic is further putting the lives of young people at risk.

© UNICEF/Georges Harry Rouzier

A child eats ready-to-use therapeutic food at a health and nutrition center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Humanitarian response continues

Although the violence also compromises aid workers on the ground, Russell said UNICEF and its partners continue to act in Haiti. Last week, they succeeded in securing the safe release of nearly 60 children detained by armed groups occupying a school in Port-au-Prince.

She said the multinational support mission would play a vital role in improving security and urged the force to pay particular attention to the protection of children, women, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

Illicit arms flow

Gang violence is enabled by “sophisticated firearms” smuggled into Haiti, Gada Waly, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told the Council.

The demand is linked to the need for criminal groups to strengthen the lucrative trade in illegal drugs, with the country remaining a transit destination mainly for cocaine and cannabis.

“Ending the flow of illicit firearms into Haiti and establishing a robust regulatory framework for firearms are imperative steps for Haitian authorities to assert control and restore normalcy,” she said .

By land and sea

Ms. Wady urged the international community to support Haiti in achieving these objectives, alongside the deployment of the multinational support mission.

The latest UNODC report identified four main maritime and land routes for illicit flows of firearms and ammunition to Haiti, which originate primarily from the United States, including via direct shipments in containers to Port-au -Prince.

Weapons are also sent from the United States to northern regions and transported by land to coastal cities, then to docks controlled by gangs or traffickers before ending up in the capital.

Another land route passes two border crossings with the Dominican Republic, used mainly for ammunition trafficking. The final route passes through Cap-Haitien, a town on the north coast, where smaller quantities of weapons are hidden in the personal belongings of people crossing the border by car or on foot.


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