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The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his private residence is part of a context of renewed violence between rival gangs. A phenomenon which now affects a third of the capital Port-au-Prince. Decryption.
Haiti in shock. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in the middle of the night, Wednesday July 7, in his private residence in Port-au-Prince marks a new stage in the deep political and security crisis that this Caribbean country is going through, one of the poorest in the world. If the head of state, isolated and accused of authoritarian drift, had long lost all legitimacy, his execution caused a deep stir and further accentuated the concern of Haitians. Because since the beginning of June, clashes between armed groups have paralyzed part of the capital Port-au-Prince, in particular blocking access to the south of the country.
According to the United Nations, about a third of the city is affected by criminal activity and violence, spread by some 95 armed gangs. Groups that are increasing kidnappings and assassinations, and are now engaged in a bloody turf war.
Increase in kidnappings
On the morning of April 11, 2021, a group of ten people, including seven religious including two French, was kidnapped in the street in Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. The police then accused the 400 Mawozo group, active in this area, of being responsible for the kidnapping. All the hostages were finally freed twenty days later, without any details filtering out the negotiations. If this case was particularly publicized, in particular because of the ransom of a million dollars demanded by the kidnappers, it is far from being an exception. Kidnappings have become commonplace in the country according to the United Nations, which has counted 171 kidnappings reported in the first four months of 2021, an increase of 36% compared to the same period in 2020. A figure largely underestimated according to local NGOs, due to the grip of gangs on communities. Because this phenomenon does not affect only foreigners or wealthy families. In January, a five-year-old girl who had been kidnapped was found dead in the popular district of Martissant, in the south of the capital. Her mother, a peanut seller, had failed to collect the $ 4,000 ransom demanded by the criminals.
“The kidnapping industry is operating at full speed in Haiti and it affects everyone”, explains Widlore Mérancourt, Haitian journalist, editor-in-chief of the independent media Ayibopost, contacted by France 24. “It is the main source of income for gangs, drug trafficking, arms trafficking or even theft. Some of these armed groups also commit targeted attacks and assassinations in the pay of third parties, especially political ones. , it is also and above all thanks to their proximity to the institutions. “
The power in question
In February 2020, President Jovenel Moïse set up a commission to combat armed violence, the National Commission for Disarmament, Dismantling and Reintegration (CNDDR). While it is supposed to work to dismantle the gangs, this organization would have favored the creation of the “G9 fanmi and allies”, an alliance of armed groups among the most powerful in the capital. This was suggested by one of the members of the CNDDR, Commissioner Jean Rebel Dorcenat, during an interview last September. A statement that caused a scandal in Haiti, while these same groups were considered responsible for the resurgence of violence in the capital, and which will be worth the commission to publish a categorical denial. “This proximity is an open secret. The ‘G9’ has increased attacks against opponents of Jovenel Moïse and put pressure on activists demanding the resignation of the president,” said Widlore Mérancourt. “These informal alliances are not new: during the elections in Haiti, the candidates arm the young people of the districts to obtain their support and to be elected. These same weapons are then used to kidnap people or to assassinate the embarrassing adversaries. is a vicious cycle fueled by corruption. ” According to the CNDDR, 500,000 illegal weapons are in circulation in the territory and more than 3,000 armed men are now affiliated with gangs.
“Reconfiguration of alliances”
If many gangs are notorious in Haiti, such as 400 Mawozo and Nan Chabon in the west or even 5 seconds, based in Village-de-Dieu in the south of the capital, their leaders tend to hide. their identity so as not to compromise their activities. However, one figure is an exception to this rule: Jimmy Chérizier, known as ‘Barbecue’, a former policeman with a sulphurous reputation who became head of the powerful “G9 fanmi and allies”. The man does not hesitate to appear on social networks and claims this leadership role with impunity, although he is suspected of having participated in several massacres. While he had so far been careful not to criticize the power to which he is considered close, Barbecue brutally changed his mind at the end of June, declaring that the G9 had become a revolutionary force in order to deliver Haiti from the opposition, the government as well as the bourgeoisie. A statement that coincides with a sharp increase in violence in the capital, a few months before the general elections scheduled for September. In its June report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) is alarmed by this surge of clashes due to a “reconfiguration of alliances between gangs” for “control of the territories” in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince.
“The situation is very confused”, recognizes Widlore Mérancourt, “We are observing a rise in murders and attacks of all kinds in the capital, of which the inhabitants are victims, forced to flee by the thousands. But it is, for the time being, very difficult to identify the forces in presence and even more to know if this violence has a link with the assassination of the president. ” A questioning shared by Philomé Robert, journalist at France 24 and author of “Exile at dusk. From Port-au-Prince to Paris, account of the forced journey of a Haitian journalist”: “We are in a situation of vagueness where the violence ended up settling as the norm. Haiti is a country where anything can happen at any time and to anyone. Nobody is able to say today to whom serves this violence except that it serves the entire population. “