Thousands in Haiti march to demand safety from violent gangs as killings and kidnappings soar

El Roi Academy students march down on the street after a press conference to demand the freedom of New Hampshire nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter, who have been reported kidnapped, in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Best CCTV Security Camera in Brampton

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI Several thousand people — their faces covered to conceal their identities — marched through Haiti’s capital demanding protection from violent gangs who are pillaging neighborhoods in the capital Port-au-Prince and beyond.

Haitians’ daily lives have been disrupted by incessant gang violence that has worsened poverty across the country as it awaits a decision from the U.N. Security Council over a potential deployment of an international armed force.

The crowd chanted, “We want security!” as it marched for two hours on Monday from the troubled community of Carrefour-Feuilles to Champ de Mars in the downtown area and then to the prime minister’s official residence. The lives of tens of thousands of Haitians have been disrupted by incessant gang violence.

Best CCTV Security Camera in Brampton

A police officer pats down a motorcyclist at a checkpoint in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Home CCTV Camera in Brampton

A leading human rights group in Haiti warned about an upsurge in killings and kidnappings as the U.N. Security Council met Friday to discuss the country’s worsening violence.

In a report issued Thursday, the National Human Rights Defense Network also condemned what it called the government’s inaction.

It noted that from May 1 to July 12, at least 75 people were killed and another 40 abducted. Among those killed are an attorney, a schoolboy, two morticians and at least six police officers. Those kidnapped include a female journalist from Radio Vision 2000 who was later released. Her husband, the former president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, was abducted in mid-June and is still being held by gang members.

Gangs are also accused of breaking into a hospital in the community of Canaan in the northern part of the capital, Port-au-Prince, stealing medical supplies and abducting at least six security guards. In addition, armed criminals last month set fire to the building that housed the Jamaican consulate in Haiti.

The violence recently forced Doctors Without Borders to suspend treatment at one of their hospitals in Port-au-Prince after the group said some 20 armed men burst into an operating room and abducted a patient.

Earlier this year, the human rights group said that kidnappings and killings had diminished amid a violent uprising targeting suspected gang members, but noted that gangs have since resumed their attacks.

The group urged authorities to disband all armed gangs and restore order and security.

Haiti’s National Police is under-funded, under-resourced and largely overpowered by gangs, who have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and are now estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince. The department has only some 9,000 active duty officers for a country of more than 11 million people.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has insisted on an international force to help Haiti’s National Police, with one U.N. expert estimating that Haiti needs up to 2,000 additional anti-gang police officers.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry requested the urgent deployment of such a force in October, but the U.N. Security Council so far has opted to impose sanctions on gang members and others. On Friday, it gave the secretary-general 30 days to report back on options to fight Haiti’s gangs, including a possible U.N. peacekeeping force and a non-U.N. multinational force.

Cheap CCTV Camera in Brampton

A girl carries a sign that reads in Creole, “Free school is broken. Release the nurse,” during a march to demand the freedom of New Hampshire nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter, who have been reported kidnapped, in the Cite Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Best CCTV Security Services in Brampton

Chants of “freedom” echoed through the streets outside an aid facility in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on Monday where just days earlier an American nurse and her daughter were kidnapped by armed men.

Hundreds of Haitians marched through the gang-ravaged zone, bursting with anger at the abduction, which has become a symbol of the worsening violence plaguing the Caribbean nation.

New Hampshire woman Alix Dorsainvil had been working as a community nurse for the religious and humanitarian aid group El Roi Haiti when she and her daughter were taken from its campus on Thursday, the organization said. She is the wife of its founder, Sandro Dorsainvil.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that Dorsainvil was working in her organization’s small brick clinic when a group of armed men burst in and seized her. Lormina Louima, a patient waiting for a check-up, said one man pulled out his gun and told her to relax.

“When I saw the gun, I was so scared,” Louima said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to see this, let me go.”‘

Other members of the community said the unidentified men asked for US$1 million in ransom, something that’s become standard as Haiti’s gangs turn to slews of kidnappings to line their pockets and bleed the country dry. Hundreds have been kidnapping in Haiti this year alone, figures from the local non-profit Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights show.

Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, gangs have taken over much of Port-au-Prince, killing, raping and sowing terror in communities already suffering endemic poverty.

The same day that Dorsainvil and her daughter were taken, the U.S. State Department issued a “do not travel advisory” for Haiti and ordered non-emergency personnel to leave amid growing security concerns. In its advisory, the State Department said that “kidnapping is widespread, and victims regularly include U.S. citizens.”

The violence has stirred anger among Haitians, who say they simply just want to live in peace.

Protesters, largely from the area around El Roi Haiti’s campus, which includes a medical clinic, a school and more, echoed that call as they walked through the sweltering streets wielding cardboard signs written in Creole in red paint.

“She is doing good work in the community, free her,” read one.

Among the protesters was Jean Ronald, a local resident who said the community has significantly benefitted from the care provided by El Roi Haiti.

Such groups are often the only institutions in areas far beyond the reach of the law, but have increasingly had to shut down operations as violence has deepened. The closures often leave thousands of vulnerable families without access to basic services like health care or education.

Earlier this month, Doctors Without Borders announced it was suspending services in one of its hospitals because some 20 armed men burst into an operating room and snatched a patient.

As the protesters walked through the area where Dorsainvil was taken, the streets were eerily quiet. The doors to the clinic where she worked were shut, the small brick building empty. Ronald and others in the area worried the latest kidnapping may mean the clinic won’t reopen.

“If they leave, everything (the aid group’s programs) will shut down,” the Haitian worried. “The money they are asking for, we don’t have it.”

Shortly after, protests dispersed.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller refused to confirm Monday whether the abductors had made any demands, or to answer other questions.

“I will say we are aware of the reports that two US citizens were kidnapped in Haiti. Obviously, the safety and security of American citizens overseas is our highest priority. We are in regular contact with the Haitian authorities. We’ll continue to work with them and our U.S. government interagency partners, but because it’s an ongoing law enforcement investigation, there’s not more detail I can offer,” Miller wrote in a statement Monday.

In a video for the El Roi Haiti website, Alix Dorsainvil describes Haitians as “resilient people.”

“They’re full of joy, and life and love. I’m so blessed to know so many amazing Haitians,” she says.

Dorsainvil graduated from Regis College in Weston, Mass., which has a program to support nursing education in Haiti. Before that, she went to Cornerstone Christian Academy in Ossipee, N.H., which offers pre-K through eighth grade education.

“Pray that God would keep her safe, be with her through this trial, and deliver her from her captors,” the school said on its Facebook page.

Dorsainvil’s father, Steven Comeau, reached in New Hampshire, said he could not talk.

El Roi Haiti celebrated the nurse’s work in a statement over the weekend.

“Alix is a deeply compassionate and loving person who considers Haiti her home and the Haitian people her friends and family,” El Roi president and co-founder Jason Brown said in the statement. “Alix has worked tirelessly as our school and community nurse to bring relief to those who are suffering as she loves and serves the people of Haiti in the name of Jesus.”

Earlier this month, the National Human Rights Defense Network issued a report warning about an upsurge in killings and kidnappings and the UN Security Council met to discuss Haiti’s worsening situation.

The U.S. wants Kenya to lead a force in Haiti with 1,000 police. Watchdogs say they’ll export abuse

Best CCTV Security Camera in Brampton

Riot police fire tear gas grenades at demonstrators during protests in the capital Nairobi, Kenya on July 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Best CCTV Security Camera in Brampton

NAIROBI, KENYA As the U.S. government was considering Kenya to lead a multinational force in Haiti, it was also openly warning Kenyan police officers against violent abuses. Now 1,000 of those officers might head to Haiti to take on gang warfare.

It’s a challenging turn for a police force long accused by rights watchdogs of killings and torture, including gunning down civilians during Kenya’s COVID-19 curfew. One local group confirmed that officers fatally shot more than 30 people in July, all of them in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods, during opposition-called protests over the rising cost of living.

“We are saddened by the loss of life and concerned by high levels of violence, including the use of live rounds” during those protests, the U.S. said in a joint statement with 11 other nations in mid-July.

Now the U.S., as this month’s president of the UN Security Council, is preparing to put forward a resolution to authorize a mission in Haiti led by Kenyan police, who have relatively little overseas experience in such large numbers and don’t speak French, which is used in Haiti.

“This is not a traditional peacekeeping force,” the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Tuesday.

For more than nine months, the UN had appealed unsuccessfully for a country to lead an effort to restore order to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Kenya’s interest was announced on Saturday, with its foreign minister saying his government has “accepted to positively consider” leading a force in Haiti and sending 1,000 police officers to train the Haitian National Police, “restore normalcy” and protect strategic installations.

“Kenya stands with persons of African descent across the world,” Alfred Mutua said. A ministry spokesman didn’t respond to questions about the force or what Kenya would receive in return.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday praised Kenya for simply considering to serve, a sign of the difficulty in mustering international forces for Haiti, where deadly gang violence has exploded since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Some organizations that have long tracked alleged police misconduct in Kenya are worried.

“We had some consultations with Kenyan (civil society organizations) last week and there was general consensus that Kenya should not be seen to be exporting its abusive police to other parts of the world,” Otsieno Namwaya, Kenya researcher with Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press.

Kenya’s security forces have a yearslong presence in neighboring Somalia to counter Islamic extremists — a deadly threat that some Kenyans say should keep police at home — and troops have been in restive eastern Congo since last year. Past UN peacekeeping deployments include Sierra Leone.

Best CCTV Camera in Brampton

Home CCTV Camera in Brmapton

But while other African nations including Rwanda, Ghana and Egypt have thousands of personnel in UN peacekeeping missions, Kenya has less than 450, according to UN data. Just 32 are police officers. The U.S. has a total of 35 personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

“I have no knowledge of any complaints raised by the UN during those deployments, hence no concern on my end,” the executive director of the watchdog Independent Medico-Legal Unit, Peter Kiama, told the AP. “Remember, the major challenges regarding policing practices in Kenya include political interference with police command and independence, inadequate political will to reform the institution, culture of internal impunity and criminality, and inadequate internal and external accountability.”

With the Haiti deployment, Kenyan police would likely be in charge instead of answering to a UN force commander as in traditional peacekeeping missions.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Tuesday said he spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto to thank Kenyans for the “demonstration of fraternal solidarity.” Kenya plans to send a task force in the coming weeks to assess the mission’s operational requirements.

We have to find someone who can help us,” one Port-au-Prince resident, Benice Pierre, said Wednesday.

At home, Kenya’s police force has received millions of dollars in training and support from the U.S., European Union and other partners in recent years, with Washington focusing on “promoting police accountability and professionalism.”

But last week, Kenya’s National Assembly saw a shouted debate, along with demands for a moment of silence, over police actions during the recent protests.

“The kind of brutality that has been meted out on innocent and unarmed civilians in the last couple of months has been unprecedented,” minority leader Opiyo Wandayi said. “Those youth that you are killing require jobs, not bullets.”

Kenya’s leading opposition party has threatened to gather evidence to submit to the International Criminal Court.

In response, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said that police have remained “neutral, impartial and professional.” The ministry referred questions about alleged abuses to the police, who haven’t responded.

Ruto, elected president a year ago, at first praised police for their conduct during the protests, but later warned officers against extrajudicial killings as a public outcry grew.

Problems with Kenya’s police force have long been acknowledged, even by officials.

The National Police Service “does not have a `shoot to kill’ policy,” its inspector general, Hilary Mutyambai, said in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances released in late 2021.

But the government-created Independent Policing Oversight Authority told the inquiry it had received 95 cases of alleged deaths because of police action in the previous seven months alone, noting “continuous abuse of force and firearms occasioning deaths.”

A commissioner with the authority said last month that police weren’t even reporting deaths to the body as required, which is illegal.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – Haitians are expressing skepticism over an offer by Kenya to lead an international police force aimed at combatting the gang violence that has wracked the Caribbean nation.

They say the sexual abuse and a devastating cholera outbreak that have accompanied foreign forces in past decades don’t inspire much trust. But Haitians also say uncontrolled bloodshed in their country leaves them with few other options.

Florence Casimir, an elementary school teacher, said that while past international interventions have damaged Haiti, their abuses don’t compare to the brutality of gangs, which kidnap her students and force parents to pay hefty ransoms.

It will never be better (than past interventions), but the Haitian people don’t have a choice at this point,” Casimir said. “The Haitian people can’t fight it on their own.”

After Primer Minister Ariel Henry urged the world in October to deploy an armed force to fight the gangs, the United Nations has struggled to convince a nation to lead efforts to restore the order in the Caribbean country, in part due to past controversy over peacekeeping missions. There’s been little appetite for a U.S.- or UN-led force, and the United States unsuccessfullt tried to persuade Canada to lead a force.

As the search continued, gang warfare continued to worsen, leading to a wave of hundreds of kidnappings and the emergence of vigilante forces taking justice into their own hands. Today, armed groups control an estimated 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Kenya has offered to send 1,000 police officers to help train and assist an overwhelmed Haitian police force, saying it hopes to “restore normalcy in the country.” This week, the United States said it will put forward a resolution to the UN Security Council to authorize the force.

“This is not a traditional peacekeeping force,” the U.S. ambassador at the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at a news conference.

Kenya’s proposal has sparked debate among Haitians, many of whom distrust international interventions after the failures and abuses of UN peacekeeping missions over the decades.

Haitians saw rounds of foreign interventions throughout the 1900s, often a response by nations like the U.S. to political instability in Haiti. In some cases, such missions helped ease chaos and in the 1990s led to the creation of the Haitian National Police.

But successes are often overshadowed by scars that Haitians carry with them from abuses that came with those missions.

A UN peacekeeping mission from 2004 to 2017 was plagued with allegations of mass sexual abuse, including claims that peacekeepers raped and impregnated girls as young as 11. Investigations by The Associated Press found evidence of high levels of impunity.

In 2010, sewage runoff from a UN peacekeeper camp into the country’s biggest river started a cholera epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people.

“They left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Haitian people,” said Valdo Cene, who sells cooking gas. “Bringing in international forces could mean repeating our history.”

This international police force would not be a UN force. So if deployed, Kenyan police would be in charge rather than answer to a UN force commander as they would be required to do in a UN peacekeeping mission.

Haiti’s prime minister said Tuesday that he spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto to thank Kenya for the “demonstration of fraternal solidarity.” Henry said Kenya plans to send a task force in the coming weeks to assess the mission’s operational requirements.

Haitians aren’t the only ones questioning the plan. Watch dog groups are raising alarms about the human rights track record of police in Kenya, saying the force may export their abuse.

Police in the East African nation have been long accused of killings and torture, including gunning down civilians during Kenya’s COVID-19 curfew. One local group said officers fatally shot more than 30 people during protests in July, all of them in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Louis-Henri Mars, head of the Haitian grassroots peacekeeping organization Lakou Lape, echoed those concerns.

“People are puzzled about this,” Mars said. “It may just become just another big mess.”

While Mars is among many who say a Kenyan force would be an important step to stabilizing Haiti, he expressed hope its deployment will be a temporary effort that paves the way to a longer process of untangling rampant violence in Haiti, such as the kidnapping of an American nurse and her daughter.

Haiti needs to build a stable and trustworthy police force and provide a pathway to restorative justice for victims and former gang members, often young men pulled into the violence around them, Mars said.

Others, like Jerthro Antoine, say Kenya’s police can’t come soon enough.

The cellphone repairman said he dreams of once again setting foot on one of Haiti’s beaches, but violence in his country has gotten so bad that even walking on the street is a risk.

“I feel trapped in my home. Any foreign force in support of Haitian police is more than welcome,” Antoine said. “The Haitian people need it, we need a break and to have a life again.”

Leave a Comment

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

Shopping Cart