A resurgence in gang attacks in Haiti coincides with news of a multinational force. Some say the two developments are at least linked, if not deliberately choreographed.
CARREFOUR-FEUILLES, Haiti — Sunday morning in Savane Pistache, a tiny village less than 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, dawned with the sounds of rapid-fire automatic rifles and residents finding themselves caught in the crossfire of armed bandits. Families, many seen with babies, ran from the neighborhood, their homes set ablaze and spewing smoke as yet another attack arrived.
Hundreds of villagers took shelter in front of Radio Caraïbes, a local station, while others sought refuge at the local school, Lycée National de Carrefour-Feuilles. Some also took to the streets to demand that the Haiti National Police (PNH) provide protection because they feel alone in the fight against the criminals.
“We can’t take it anymore, come and help us at Savane Pistache,” a protester said on local radio.
The tumult marked the second day in a row that goons believed to be members of the Grand Ravine gang unleashed such violence, leaving houses ablaze and lives shattered. It also signals the ongoing rise in mass attacks – gangs killed 82 people in Haiti in July alone, two watchdog groups said – that re-emerged in July just as, some point out, talks of a multinational force picked up.
“All these attacks are now a way to justify the intervention of this multinational force in the country,” Abel Loreston, a lawyer in Port-au-Prince. “The authorities let the bandits act with impunity all over the place.”
Just as talks of a multinational force looms over Haiti and potential deployment nears, armed gangs began ramping up their attacks on ordinary citizens, some residents and political observers said. The latest surge, particularly those on entire neighborhoods, hints at a potential alignment between the increase in violence and deployment discussions.
Some suggest these assaults might be strategically timed by politicians to highlight the urgent necessity for external assistance. Without any evidence except the unheeded cries of residents, some are at their wits’ end to explain the lack of response by the authorities. They have begun voicing the sinister connection when attacks against residents skyrocketed in July and early August. What they point to is that residents of the targeted localities are close in proximity to gang strangleholds.
Jean Robert Argant, general coordinator of the Human Rights Organization “Collectif 4 December suggests that these assaults might be strategically choreographed to justify the intervention of a multinational force.
“With these attacks perpetrated at this moment, it is a scenario to make people believe that only intervention is the solution to the problems of insecurity,” Argant said.” “The international community has no objective to solve the problem of Haiti.”
On Aug. 8, another attack drew significant attention when the armed group suspected to be the Kraze Baryè gang, led by police wanted Vithelohmme Innocent, attacked the population of Caradeux. The attack marked by intense gunfire, killing, and burning of houses, compelled the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince to close its consular services the next day.
During that attack, residents cried out SOS Lapolis – Kreyol for “Police, Help” – as they fled and even sent out the message on WhatsApp and other social platforms, but to no avail.
At a loss and increasingly anxious, more victims have begun to draw their own conclusions.
“I have this feeling that the situation is becoming more tense as the announcements of the multinational force come,” said Joseph Nicolas, a resident of Tabarre, about the Caradeux attack.
“We’ve gone many days without news of ‘Lanmò San Jou’, but last week, he broke his silence and appeared on social media after members of his gang kidnapped a police officer,” adds Nicolas.
On Aug. 5, members of the Gran Ravin killed a police officer, Eddy Derisca, during an exchange of gunfire with the bandits, according to the Haitian National Police Union (Synapoha).
On Aug. 13, throughout the demonstration, victims of the violence of the Gran Ravin gang, chanted that its leader, a man known as ‘Tilapli,’ will not touch Carrefour Feuilles. Demonstrators also jeered at Henry and the police for not doing anything to protect them.
“I have six children and today I don’t have a house to live with them,” said a protester who told the local media that she had fled her home. “Everything I had, the thieves of Gran Ravin looted them.
“The bandits want to kill us when we can’t even eat in Carrefour Feuilles,” said one lady at the demonstration, who said they have no weapons to fight back.
Two weeks prior in July, the ‘Baz Gran Grif’ gang attacked residents in Liancourt in the Artibonite region. They killed, looted, kidnapped and burned houses including a radio station, Radio Antarctica.
Debate around the multinational force for Haiti has stirred strong emotions, with some seeing it as a means to address the pressing security concerns, while others fear it could exacerbate existing challenges. The UN Security Council is due to review and approve a plan for the force on Aug. 15.