By Madeline Billet
Haiti has fallen to mass gang violence since July 2021, when Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by foreign mercenaries. As a result of major upheavals in the federal government, gangs across the nation have risen to prominence, committing mass violence within themselves and onto innocent Haitians.
Most of the gang violence has taken place in Port-au-Prince, where homes are burnt to the ground, and families are traumatized, kidnapped, or murdered.
The state of the nation has resulted in protests against the incumbent Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, who is accused of not containing the gangs efficiently. The administration is receiving international support in efforts to create a larger military police force needed to combat the gang violence. The 2021 assassination has resulted in political deadlock, with the end of Ariel Henry’s term nowhere in sight, nor a set plan of electing a replacement Prime Minister.
An April 2022 uptick in criminal violence resulted in at least 20 people dead, and thousands more displaced in Port-au-Prince. The gangs’ presence has led to a shutdown of businesses and schools, displacing innocent Haitians to encampment cites stationed by the local Mayor’s office. The Chen Mechan and 400 Mawozo gangs are reportedly to blame for the violence, who’s rivalry led to the kidnappings of 17 missionaries last year alone.
The gang’s tactics include moving door to door throughout neighborhoods, displacing all those residing, per the Global Press Journal. This violence has led to a mass mental health and displacement problem, with families seeking shelter in overpopulated camps lacking mental healthcare.
Additionally, armed gang individuals have previously blocked major roadways utilized by humanitarian organizations, leading to a reduction in aid provided to the Haitain community. Specifically, the gangs blocked a large oil terminal, impacting healthcare facilities, public transportation, banks, and emergency relief services, according to OCHA.
As Haitians seek refuge, the underfunded and overcrowded shelters increase the risk of gender based violence, food security, and malnutrition. Overall, the gangs in Haiti are targeting not only themselves, but innocent people who are now falling victim to the inactive state.