Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Haiti declares emergency amid rising violence after mass prison break

Haiti’s government, on March 3, declared a state of emergency and a night curfew to control violence erupted after a mass prison break.

According to a government statement, thousands of inmates escaped after two prisons – one in the capital and the other in nearby Croix des Bouquets – were stormed by criminal gangs over the weekend.

The state of emergency and the night curfew between 6 p.m. and 5 am would be effective from March 3 to Wednesday (March 6.)

The government stated it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals it said it had escaped in the attacks, in the meantime.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is acting as prime minister while Ariel Henry is overseas campaigning for support for a United Nations-backed security force to stabilise the conflict-hit country.

Henry’s exact whereabouts remain unclear, though he was supposed to return from a visit to Kenya where he signed a security deal.

Gangs led by Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer known as Barbecue, are trying to force the resignation of PM Henry.

Only about 100 of the National Penitentiary’s estimated 3,800 inmates remained inside after the assault on Saturday night, Pierre Esperance of the National Network for Defense of Human Rights said adding that they found many prisoners’ bodies.

AFP and Reuters reported that the correspondents who visited the prison saw that the gates were open and there was hardly anyone left inside.

According to their reports, many prisoners chose to stay in their cells for fear of being killed in the crossfire. These included several retired Colombian soldiers who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise.

Violence in Haiti saw an increase in recent days after Cherizier made a call to unite and overthrow Henry.

Gangs headed by Cherizier face sanctions from the UN and the United States.

Around 15,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, with 10 sites hosting internally displaced people emptied over the weekend, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The tenure of Henry, who became prime minister in 2021 after Moise’s assassination, was supposed to end by February.

Nevertheless, but announced before travelling to Kenya that he would only hold elections by August 2025 once the situation was more stable.

The last elections took place in 2016.

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