Haiti’s newsreel: gangs takeover

This past weekend has been one of the most chaotic in recent memory in the capital region as armed gangs boldly took over sections of the capital region to show who is actually in control of the security situation in the country, to the eternal horror of residents. The tension was palpable when gangs clash, with sporadic exchange of gunfire and boldly marched through the streets in the Delmas and Cité Soleil communes in the capital. Early Monday morning, the armed gangs attacked and took over the Behrmann Motors dealership, terrorizing employees and customers, a situation that created total panic in the area. A client at the dealership related how scared they were when the manager asked them all to seek shelter in the garage, waiting for the police to respond, closing the windows which the gangs shot at. The police SWAT team eventually came in to push back the bandits and what took an eternity was brought down to a calm later in the day. The police, writing on social media confirmed the situation and added that special units were called in and they were able to confront the gangs and brought things under control, opening back the area which is on the main road to the airport, the very areas the government forbade protesters to include in their itineraries since early January.

For people in Delmas, the terrorism lasted three (3) consecutive days, since Saturday when armed men erected a barricade and rode through the neighborhood brandishing assault riffles causing businesses to close and residents locked up in their homes, and even tap taps were no where to be seen on the streets. The St. Joseph police station which was taken over by the bandits was finally liberated by the police this past Sunday, including the antennas taken over by the criminal gangs, who killed three police officers during their take over last week. The security situation is still a major problem facing the nation, worrying our international partners also. In a recent tweet, the UN mission in the country, BINUH is said to me worried about the recent escalation of violence and insecurity in the country brought on by gangs on innocent civilians and called for calm. They asked interested parties to stop the violence and allow humanitarian aid to reach the vulnerable populations in need.

Meanwhile, President Jovenel Moïse has tried the third time to present his interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph to head the transition government following the former Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe’s departure in April, all this at a time when there’s no legislature to vote on his nomination. Without parliament, the appointed PM has no opposition, nor does he have any commitments or promises to make, he’s answerable to the one who appointed him. Observers opined that the two months in office for the interim Prime Minister scarcely yielded any tangible results or attempt to grasp the crises afflicting the nation. They argued that despite multiple meetings on security chaired by Claude Joseph, the situation is only getting worse with Martissant under siege for over two weeks. Despite the police saying things are under control, the reality on the ground is different. The armed gangs are in effect the ones dictating the law in the city; they decide when to allow traffic or not. The streets are deserted, and companies have not opened their doors for business. The picture is no different in other areas controlled by armed gangs. The scarcity of petroleum products in gas stations since the past weekend is a consequence of the gang warfare at the southern entrance to the capital and in Cité Soleil. There’s no telling whether the PM is being rewarded for a job well done in the past two months or lack of something better.

Talking about issues affecting the country, it appears that the Covid-19 pandemic is still causing havoc in the country, with 13 deaths recorded and 560 new cases recorded in the 72 hours from Sunday June 6, through June 9, 2021, according to data from the Ministry of Health. With some notable deaths in the past few days, the country is taking the threat of a new wave of the pandemic by instituting and enforcing social distancing protocols. When some concerned parents and educators got wind of some schools and educational establishments planning end of year and graduation festivities, they alerted the Ministry of Education which in turn threatened sanctions on those establishments planning on breaking the law. The Ministry reminded the heads of institutions about the rules in place forbidding the organization of any graduations or end of school year activities and those found in violation could lose their license, accreditation and thereby ability operate in the country.

Finally, Professor Tony Cantave, who taught economic and social history of Haiti at the Faculty of Humanities, l’Université publique du Nord au Cap-Haïtien for nearly 30 years died on Saturday, June 12, 2021, according to reports from the Center for Economic and Social Research and Training for Development, Centre de recherches économiques et sociales et de formation pour le développement (CRESFED). He’s been credited for promoting decentralization and local development in the country, and an assiduous collaborator to CRESFED. His death is seen as a big blow to the school, the revue, Rencontre by the research center and to society in general. Tributes have been pouring in from his past students on social media, and he was credited for his contribution to the elaboration of the 1987 Constitution, especially articles and sections pertaining to decentralization.

In another note, a 41-year veteran of l’Ecole des frères Louis Borno, in Léogâne, Lionel Jean, was surprised with a gift he will never forget any time soon. Former students of the career teacher got together and raised funds to purchase a Toyota Rav4 for their esteemed former teacher as a sign of their appreciation for his dedication to teaching and educating the youth of the city. At a ceremony with most educators, parents and former students present, the teacher was handed a key to the car and ample supply of gas, as a thank you gift to him.

Dela Harlley

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