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Haitian’s march against gang violence ends in massacre

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Picture: Daniel Morel/REUTERS/Taken April 2005 – People carry the body of a man witnesses said was shot by UN peacekeepers during a clash between the peacekeepers and gang members in slum controlled by Dread Wilne and his armed gang in Haiti. On Saturday, August 26, 2023, more than 20 people were ruthlessly massacred in Haiti after an armed criminal gang opened fire against protesters during a march in Canaan, a makeshift neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince.

By Peoples Dispatch

Amid a swelling wave of brutal gang violence, Haiti witnessed a fresh tragedy on Saturday, August 26. More than 20 people were ruthlessly massacred in the Caribbean country after an armed criminal gang opened fire at protesters during a march in Canaan, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince. Over a dozen people were injured by gunshots.

The march was called for by Pastor Marcorel Zidor of the Piscine de Bethesda Evangelical Church against the crimes perpetrated by a gang that calls itself “the Taliban of Canaan”. Canaan is fully controlled by this so-called ‘Taliban’ armed group, which is led by a criminal known as “Ti Jeff”. The gang regularly clashes with the National Police and terrorises the population in the suburb.

According to reports from local media, hundreds of people took part in the march that began from the church. Some of the marchers were wearing T-shirts belonging to the congregation and carrying machetes and sticks in their hands with the aim to dislodge the gang operating in Canaan. When the people arrived at the gang’s stronghold, its members opened fire on them, killing and injuring several. Local newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that more than a dozen protesters were also taken hostage by the gang.

In some disturbing videos recorded by gang members and released on social media networks, the victims could be seen lying in their blood.

As with several other massacres in the past months, the police and the judicial and municipal authorities have not released any official information regarding this latest massacre in Canaan. Similarly, the de-facto government led by Ariel Henry and the ruling far-right Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) remain silent over the violent incident.

Haiti is facing a spiral of violence unleashed by illegal armed criminal gangs that have been increasingly exerting control over the national territory, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and causing fuel scarcity and food shortages as they continue their killings, kidnappings, and widespread sexual violence. According to reports from various international organisations, violent gangs control more than 80 percent of the capital and more than 50 percent of the national territory.

Most of the neighbourhoods in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince constantly witness shootings and suffer successive attacks by various armed gangs, who continue to commit their crimes with total impunity. According to a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), more than 2,400 people have been killed in Haiti so far this year as a result of gang violence.

The Haitian state and the police have failed to counter the expansion of armed gangs and curb gang-related violence. In the face of the failure of the authorities, who are supposedly waiting for the armed intervention by a multinational force, the common people of Haiti, who strongly oppose any foreign intervention, have taken it upon themselves to fight back and rid the country of gang violence.

A movement called ‘Bwa Kale’ (literally ‘peeled wood’, a metaphor for an act of swift justice) emerged at the end of April this year in response to an alarming rise in gang-related violence. With this movement, the people have established self-defence organisations to protect their neighbourhoods from the gangs.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch