May 23, 2024

Haiti’s government has said it will extend a state of emergency and nighttime curfew to try to curb violent gang attacks that have paralysed the capital, Port-au-Prince, in a fierce battle for political power.

An initial three-day curfew was announced over the weekend, but gangs have continued to attack police stations and other state institutions at night as the national police struggle to contain the violence with limited staff and resources.

The attacks began a week ago, shortly after embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to hold general elections in mid-2025 while attending a meeting of Caribbean leaders in Guyana. Gangs have set police stations on fire, shot up the main international airport, which remains closed, and raided Haiti’s two biggest prisons, freeing more than 4,000 inmates.

During that time, Henry had travelled to Kenya to push for the deployment of a United Nations-backed police force from the East African country to help battle the gangs in his country. But a court in January ruled that the deployment was unconstitutional, and it remained unclear if the force would deploy given the worsening violence in Haiti.

Henry is currently in Puerto Rico, where he was forced to land on Tuesday after armed groups laid siege to the international airport, preventing him from returning.

Dozens of people have died in the recent gang attacks, including several police officers. The violence has also left more than 15,000 people homeless, in addition to some 300,000 Haitians who lost their homes to gang wars in recent years.

There were also reports that gangs on Thursday looted shipping containers filled with food at the main port in Port-au-Prince, raising concerns that provisions in the capital and elsewhere would dwindle quickly.

The operator of the port, Caribbean Port Services, said in a statement that it was suspending all operations because of “malicious acts of sabotage and vandalism”.

Gunfire could be heard in parts of Port-au-Prince on Thursday, with blazing tyres blocking some areas as people demanded new leaders for the battered country. Schools and businesses remained closed, but calm returned to a handful of neighbourhoods that saw some stores and banks open under a limited schedule.

Henry has not made any public comments since the gang attacks began last week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *