Haiti Gang Leader Warns of “Civil War” and “Genocide”

Drastic Escalations

Some of Haiti’s primary gangs have launched an assault against the airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, in an attempt to stop Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry from returning to the country.

The assault upon the airport was just one of a multitude of attacks that the “G9 Alliance”, a group of gangs headed by former police officer turned gang member Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, launched throughout the capital.

A group of Hatian gang members, headed by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier (Photo from Matias Delacroix/AP).

Cherizier has demanded PM Henry’s resignation, and warned of dire consequences if he does not resign.

“If Ariel Henry does not resign … we’ll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide” -Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier

The gangs appear to have been somewhat successful. On Tuesday, March 5th, PM Henry was attempting to return to Haiti late in the afternoon. He had boarded a flight from New Jersey which was bound for Haiti, however due to ongoing gang attacks at the airport the plane was unable to land. The neighbouring Dominican Republic refused the planes request to and there, and thus the plane was redirected to Puerto Rico, where it is believed PM Henry currently is.

The attacks which halted the PM’s return are just a few of a wave of attacks that have been ongoing since PM Henry left the country over a week ago.

On Saturday, an attack by the G9 on two of Haiti’s prisons, the National Penitentiary and the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison, led to the escaping of several thousand prisoners.

Political Pressures

Besides from the gangs at home, PM Henry is additionally facing external political pressure. According to the Florida based newspaper the Miami Herald, the US State Department has recommended to PM Henry that he resign. Officially, however, the US’ ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated that “what we have asked the Haitian PM to do is move forward on a political process that will lead to the establishment of a Presidential Transitional Council that will lead to elections.”

Pressure upon PM Henry, who has been the acting President since the assassination of President Jovenal Moise in 2021, has been growing to form some sort of transitional government.

Photo is of a wall which Haitian civilians had built on a public road in an attempt to prevent gangs from entering their neighbourhood. The wall was constructed after repeated kidnappings of residents (Photo from Natalie Gallon/CNN).

PM Henry has several times promised elections, however most of these dates have come to pass with no elections having yet been held. Recently, PM Henry promised to hold elections by August of 2025, however stated that security must be re-established in the nation before elections are to take place.

A Potential Intervention

PM Henry had left the country in order to travel to Kenya to sign agreements aimed at finally bringing to fruition a multi-national UN deployment to Haiti, headed by Kenya.

The deployment would see Kenya, among other nations, deploy several thousand police officers in support of Haiti’s vastly under-equipped and under-manned police force of merely 9,000.

A Haitian SWAT member stands guard following an anti-gang operation (Photo from Natalie Gallon/CNN).

It is unclear when, or even if the deployment will be going ahead, however PM Henry has stated him and Kenyan President William Ruto are exploring avenues to expedite the process.

Rapidly Deteriorating

For several years now, there has been an upward trend of homicide rates and kidnapping rates within Haiti. In 2023, an estimated 4,800 homicides took place, more than double that of 2022.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, a “staggering 1,193 people have been killed” so far in 2024 by gang violence. If things continue as is, Haiti is again set to top the previous year in homicides.

In recent weeks, approximately 15,000 people have been displaced by the gang violence. Gangs control approximately 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Turk has described the situation as “beyond untenable”, and called for the international community to “act swiftly and decisively to prevent Haiti’s further descent into chaos.”

“Either Haiti becomes a paradise for all of us, or a hell for all of us” -Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier

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Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.