According to the United Nations, over 470 people have been killed, injured or are missing in recent violence as gangs war with each other and the government. Government officials have been told to stay home and the violence is getting closer to key governmental institutions including the National Palace. This is not the first time that elites have used gangs as mercenaries and/or pawns for achieving their political or economic ambitions. What is new is the sheer scale of the violence, made worse by illicit shipments of weapons. The Haitian police are simply out numbered and out-gunned. Unless the Haitian government and its partners can develop sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-armed, sufficiently paid and reasonable accountable police officers with the right leadership, the situation will only get worse. The full NYT article by Maria Abi-Habib and Andre Paultre follows.
Gang violence in Haiti's largest city continues to have a pervasive negative impact that reverberates throughout the country, affecting security, the economy, food security, education, and health care. According to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, dozens of people have been killed and more than a hundred injured in a new round of deadly violence "aggravating fuel shortages, raising transportation costs and making an already troubling humanitarian crisis even worse." Further, 20,000 residents of the densely populated slums have been displaced by gang violence since May. A July 8 article about gang violence in Port au Prince is copied below and linked is an update by Charles.
Gangs in Port au Prince thrive when there is an absence of governance, no rule of law, and economic stagnation. The UN has described current levels of gang violence as unprecedented and affecting all aspects of life - for example, 11 medical centers and 442 schools have closed. National roads connecting Port-au-Prince to the rest of the country are dangerous, limiting the movement of people and goods. While the security situation continues to deteriorate Haiti's developmental issues remain unaddressed - environmental degradation, lack of infrastructure and investment, poor basic services, and unrelenting brain drain. Security is not enough to address these underlying problems but it is a prerequisite - and the gangs will not give up territory willingly. The full CNN article follows.
Every aspect of Haitian society is being negatively affected by gangs, who in the absence of a functional government, operate with impunity. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported that a violent gang in Martissant stole the generator of the Sainte Croix Hospital in Léogâne and are holding it for ransom. The hospital is forced to shut down unless the gang returns the generator or another is donated. This is a tragedy upon an existing tragedy given Haiti's already very high infant and maternal mortality rates. The full article follows.
Protests, taking place throughout the country, have negatively affected the economy and the ability of schools and clinics to function. While this is regrettable, protestors are fighting for a government that is more accountable, more responsive, and that invests in the people rather than enriching themselves. Without that, nothing will change for the better. High level leaders hide while sending out the security forces, who as demonstrated by Amnesty International, have committed abuses on numerous occassions. This is unacceptable - visit the Amnesty International website to read the full report and see accompanying videos.
Thoughout Haiti's modern history, peacekeeping forces have come and gone. The transition to a smaller, more politically focused mission has thus been a careful one and goes into effect on October 16th. The aim is to address the underlying issues that contribute to poverty and instability. These issues are inherently political - corruption, lack of accountability, poor governance, and failure to show leadership on important issues such as environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction and response which will only get worse due to climate change. This marks yet another transition for Haiti and, one hopes, a future where no peacekeeping forces are required. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacquelne Charles follows.
On Thursday, April 13 the United Nations Security Council is expected to pass a resolution extending the mandate of MINUSTAH for a final six months, during which its 2,370 military personnel will phase. After, a smaller mission of 1,275 police officers will focus on training the Haitian National Police. The full article by Edith Lederer (AP) follows and more information is available on the MINUSTAH website.
The International Crisis Group's (ICG) latest report "Governing Haiti: Time for National Consensus" examines the Haitian government's efforts to convince its own people, donors and potential investors that progress and stability are achievable. The report emphasizes the need for good governance, consensus building among the elites, effectively implemented poverty reduction strategies and strengthened rule of law. Getting there will require a shift from highly confrontational politics to one of compromise and consensus. The executive summary is below and you can read the full report on the ICG website.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report summarizes the challenges that the Haitian government has faced in rebuilding Port au Prince and facilitating resettlement of the internally displaced. Chief among these challenges has been the lack of a formal land tenure system. While several communities have developed their own local solutions to land ownership, a strategy from the central government is needed. ICG notes that this will require political will, creativity, and consensus. To put off resettlement further is to put off a transition to development.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2010 Human Rights Report for Haiti, attached and copied below, indicates much remains to be done. Protecting human rights is a critical element of governance and one which the new administration must take on as institutions and infrastructure are reformed and reconstructed. Protecting human rights will help Haiti become a country that is more fair and just for the whole population, not just the rich and powerful.