PORT-AU-PRINCE — A two-day forum to address Haiti’s escalating gang violence drew sharp criticism from various observers, who called it a futile expenditure of time and resources – even as the country’s Prime Minister promised to bring significant changes in the coming weeks.
“We have already talked too much about the insecurity of the country, today we must take action against insecurity,” Deus Deronneth, who attended at the Karibe hotel said. “Organizing forums is how to start looking for the cause of the problem. We already have a lot of facts, people whose names are mentioned in kidnapping, gang connections and acts of corruption.”
With the two-day forum held in Pétion-Ville on May 23 and 24, the (HCT) sought to start a dialogue among Haitians toward lasting solutions to eradicate the country’s insecurity crisis and initiate constitutional reform. It brought together government officials, diplomatic representatives, political parties signatory to a December 2022 agreement that established the HCT and civil society groups to gather recommendations for addressing insecurity, constitutional reform and upcoming elections.
“The dialogue must be primarily inter-Haitian and must take place in Haiti,” HCT President Myrlande Hyppolite Manigat said. “The HCT is mobilized to meet the expectations of the people, and to put an end to their impatience and worries,” Manigat added.
Garcien Jean, a political scientist, said the proposals presented will be used to develop strategies that can help the government address the country’s challenges. The recommendations include enhanced training and increased deployment of public security forces, allocating funding for essential security equipment, deploying the Haiti armed forces alongside the police and implementing strategy to reduce local violence.
“I can tell you that in the days and weeks to come, you will have the opportunity to see significant changes, both in security strategies and in our country’s governance,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised on Twitter. alongside the HCT for both days. “Let’s get to work because the task is immense and our time is short.”
Many solutions, no bites
The search for a solution to gang violence is increasing at every opportunity in the country with various organizations and individuals proposing their own strategies. Meanwhile, the life-saving solution lingers on as gangs kill police officers, set armored police vehicles on fire and attack the population. Representatives of BINUH, the UN Secretary General, sounded the alarm on Haiti.
Despite such effort, some vigilante mobs began the “bwa kale” vigilance movement, where they and the police chase and capture the anyone suspected of looting, killing, ransom and rapes along the roads.
Further, international consensus on deploying troops to Haiti in support of the police’s fights against gangs remains divided. Henry made the plea in October 2022.
Initiative frowned upon by some
However, the initiative has garnered mixed reactions with some praising the HCT’s efforts while others deem the forum a futile attempt. Critics argue that excessive dialogue have already taken place and immediate actions are now required to combat insecurity.
Dieumerite Pierre-Louis, head of the political organization “Ayiti Tounèf”, opposed the security strategies presented, saying the Prime Minister and his cabinet, police, the army and judicial authorities must tackle the issue.
“They must unite to solve the problem of insecurity,” said Pierre-Louis, who participated in the forum.
“It is inconceivable to organize a forum to speak in public about security strategy, about the means of disarming and arresting bandits.”
Like Deronneth, some said the forum is a waste of time and that today action is needed which would be better against insecurity.
Himmler Rébu, a former member of the Haitian army, said the government and HCT know what they must do against the gangs.
“To solve the problem of gangs, we don’t even need to shoot them, just surround them inside and prevent any means of subsistence,” Colonel Rébu said. “We should cut off the water, suspend electricity and prevent any means of communication with the outside. The bandits would not last 15 days.”