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UN Security Council to meet on spiraling Haiti crisis

Thousands have fled Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince since the latest security crisis flared, the UN has said
Thousands have fled Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince since the latest security crisis flared, the UN has said - Copyright AFP
Thousands have fled Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince since the latest security crisis flared, the UN has said - Copyright AFP

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday on violence-wracked Haiti, where marauding gangs are threatening a bloody civil war unless absent Prime Minister Ariel Henry steps down.

The armed groups, which control swaths of the country, announced a coordinated effort to oust Henry on Thursday, with Port-au-Prince’s airport, prisons, police stations and other strategic targets coming under attack since.

Powerful gang leader Jimmy Cherizier warned Tuesday that the current chaos would lead into civil war and “genocide” unless the prime minister steps down.

“If Ariel Henry doesn’t resign, if the international community continues to support him, we’ll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide,” the UN-sanctioned Cherizier, known as “Barbecue,” told reporters in the capital.

In power since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, Henry had been due to step down in February but instead agreed to a power-sharing deal with the opposition until new elections are held.

At least 15,000 people have already fled the worst-hit parts of Port-au-Prince, the United Nations has said, though UN teams on the ground have been unable to report any death tolls.

Amid the spike in violence, Henry has been unable to return home.

He had been in Kenya to push for the deployment of a UN-backed multinational police mission to help stabilize his country when the attempt to oust him began.

Gunfire has shut down some flights at Toussaint Louverture International Airport, and he was denied permission to land in neighboring Dominican Republic, according to Dominican media. 

He briefly touched down in the US territory of Puerto Rico, a spokesperson for the island’s governor said Tuesday, although it was not clear how long he was staying there.

Haitian officials have been pleading for months for international assistance to help their overwhelmed security forces, as gangs use shocking violence to push beyond the city and into rural areas, threatening agricultural production.

The government has declared a state of emergency and a nighttime curfew, which has been extended through Wednesday.

Concerned about the “rapidly deteriorating security situation,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called this week for “urgent action, particularly in providing financial support for the multinational security support mission.”

Maria Isabel Salvador, the UN representative in Haiti, will brief the Security Council remotely during its closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon.

– Police mission blocked –

“Hundreds of thousands of children and families are displaced and cut off from lifesaving services and aid as armed groups rule the streets,” Catherine Russell, head of UNICEF, said Tuesday. 

“The world must not stand idle,” she added on social media.

Haiti, the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, has been in turmoil for years, and Moise’s assassination plunged the country further into chaos.

No elections have taken place since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.

Between violence, the political crisis and years of drought, some 5.5 million Haitians — about half the population — are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The UN appeal for $674 million in funding for the nation this year is only about 2.5 percent funded.

After months of delays, the UN Security Council finally gave its greenlight in October for a non-UN, multinational policing mission led by Kenya.

But that deployment has been stalled by Kenyan courts. Henry was in Kenya seeking to jumpstart the deployment.

Nairobi and Port-au-Prince signed a bilateral agreement on Friday on the policing mission, but it remains without a firm start date.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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