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Why Haiti is in chaos

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Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes amid ongoing violence in Haiti, which the UN called a "descent into chaos".
haiti chaos

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes amid ongoing violence in Haiti, which the UN called a “descent into chaos”.

It comes after gang leaders released thousands of inmates from prisons across the country, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry was overseas negotiating a deal to curb gang violence at the time. He’s been in hiding amid safety concerns in the days since, as gang leaders call for his resignation.

Here’s the latest.

About Haiti

Haiti is a Caribbean country that shares a border with the Dominican Republic. Its capital is Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s economic and social development have been impacted by several decades of political and institutional instability, violence, and natural disasters.

Military groups have overturned democratic government processes, leading to dictatorships and gang activity throughout Haiti’s modern history.

Elections haven’t been held since 2016, and the country has no elected government officials.

Ariel Henry

Gang violence escalated while PM Henry was negotiating a deal to deploy 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti.

Henry is also the acting president of Haiti, after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Moïse’s widow is one of 50 people accused of being involved in his death.

Gang members attempted to take control of the Port-au-Prince airport to stop Henry from coming back to Haiti. Military forces have held off those efforts, but the airport is closed.

Gang violence

Escalating gang violence this month has been led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier. He has threatened a civil war if Henry doesn’t resign.

Last week’s prison break is believed to have freed over 4,500 inmates, including high-profile gang members and people arrested over Moïse’s assassination.

Impact

Over 300,000 Haitians are believed to have been forced from their homes in recent weeks.

In the capital, a wave of attacks has placed increased strain on an already struggling hospital system.

According to the UN, violence has forced schools and businesses to close. Haiti’s largest drinking water provider has stopped its deliveries amid safety concerns.

What now?

Violence is expected to continue in Port-au-Prince and its surroundings.

Henry is now believed to be waiting out the violence in Puerto Rico. It’s unclear when Henry will return to Haiti, but there are significant concerns for his safety.

Chérizier’s ambitions beyond Henry’s resignation aren’t yet clear.

About 1,200 people are believed to have been killed by gang violence in Haiti this year.

International response

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said Haitians were facing unjustifiable conditions.

He called for urgent support for Haitians from international security forces. Türk said there was “no realistic alternative available to protect lives”, and that they must act fast to “prevent Haiti’s further descent into chaos.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department echoed calls for foreign security forces. It urged Haiti to reintroduce “free and fair elections”.

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