Shots fired in Haiti’s capital as gang leader makes threats against police chief and government officials, causing disruption.

Estimated read time 3 min read

The capital of Haiti was brought to a standstill by intense gunfire on Thursday, after a prominent gang leader threatened to abduct the police chief and government officials.

During Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s absence as he works to finalize details for the deployment of a foreign armed force to Haiti for combating gangs, the decision was made to move forward.

Unknown assailants opened fire at Haiti’s primary international airport and various other locations in a sudden outburst of aggression that left many individuals taken aback. This resulted in the early closure of businesses, government institutions, and schools, while families with small children frantically escaped through the streets. In response, Sunrise Airways halted all of their flights.

In a recorded video, Jimmy Chérizier, also known as “Barbecue” and a former police officer who is now a gang leader, declared his plan to restrain the police chief and government ministers in order to prevent Henry from coming back to Haiti.

He declared that with the help of our guns and the support of the Haitian citizens, we will liberate the nation.

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. The head of Haiti’s national police, Frantz Elbé, and police spokesman Garry Desrosiers did not return messages for comment.

There was uncertainty regarding whether Chérizier’s group, called G9 Family and Allies, had the support of other dominant gangs believed to have control over 80% of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

According to Diego Da Rin from the International Crisis Group, Barbecue mentioned a group known as Viv Ansanm, which translates to “living together” in Haitian Creole, in his speech. This coalition was formed last year as part of a peace agreement between Barbecue’s federation and the influential gang, G-Pep. Their main objective was to overthrow Henry’s government.

Unfortunately, the alliance fell apart shortly after its reveal. Da Rin stated that it is uncertain if Barbecue actually has the backing of fellow gang leaders.

Da Rin expressed uncertainty about the reliability of Barbecue’s information. Due to the intense rivalries and constantly changing alliances among gangs, it seems unlikely that they could sustain coordinated actions for an extended period without any difficulties.

Yet, he acknowledged that armed attackers orchestrated simultaneous assaults in Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti on Thursday. Along with the assault at the primary global airport, armed individuals also ignited a blaze at a police station in central Port-au-Prince.

The assaults occurred the day after Henry’s meeting with Caribbean leaders in Guyana, where he promised to organize general elections by mid-2025, which marks the third time he has set such a timeframe. Previous promises were made in 2022 and 2023. Haiti currently has no elected officials as Henry was appointed as prime minister with support from the international community following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Henry traveled from Guyana to Kenya with the goal of progressing the process of sending Kenyan police officers to Haiti. Although a court in Kenya declared the deployment to be against the country’s constitution last month, Henry and Kenyan authorities have been negotiating a solution that would permit the arrival of the officers in Haiti in the near future.

Da Rin expressed concern that as talks continue and the mission’s objective draws near, the gangs may attempt to assert their power and discourage the troops.

The Haitian government announced in a statement that Henry arrived in Kenya on Thursday, but did not specify when he plans to return to Haiti.


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