United Nations, Feb 19 (AP) The UN Security Council on Friday called for those responsible for violence in Haiti to be held accountable and expressed deep concern at the Caribbean nation’s “ongoing and protracted crises” including escalating gang violence.
The UN’s most powerful body urged all political stakeholders “to engage constructively to address Haiti’s underlying drivers of instability (and) to enable a path towards elections.”
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Council members also expressed concern at Haiti’s humanitarian situation and called for continued international support for its people.
The Security Council issued the press statement after a briefing by Helen La Lime, the UN special envoy for Haiti, who said the situation in Latin America’s poorest country “remains fraught and highly politicized,” warning that “gang violence continues to plunge major urban centres into lawlessness and grief.”
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“Criminal armed groups have a strong hold on the economic and social lives of millions of children, women and men,” she said. “Their indiscriminate use of abduction, murder, as well as sexual and gender-based violence as a means to terrorize local populations in the fight to extend their territorial control is particularly abhorrent.”
La Lime said Haiti’s National Police has sought to improve the effectiveness of its anti-gang operations and adopt a more balanced approach between prevention and repression. But she stressed that “an over-stretched, understaffed and under-resourced police force cannot on its own curtail the alarming rise in gang-generated insecurity.”
The UN envoy said Haiti needs international funding and technical support not only for the police but for projects and activities to promote employment and revenue in the most affected neighbourhoods. And it also urgently needs to address impunity and the “grave structural weaknesses” in the country’s judicial system.
Haiti has been contending not only with escalating gang violence but the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July 7, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that killed over 2,200 people in the country’s south and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes last August, and the need to restore what La Lime described as “fully functional, democratically elected institutions.”
On February 7, seven months after Moïse was slain at his private residence and the official end of his term, opponents demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down, arguing that his administration is unconstitutional.
Henry has also faced accusations that he is not a legitimate leader given that Haiti’s chief public prosecutor — whom Henry has since fired — said the prime minister spoke with one of the main suspects in the presidential slaying hours after it occurred. Henry has said he received multiple calls that day and doesn’t remember all of them.
La Lime told the Security Council that the investigation into Moïse’s assassination “has stalled, a situation that fuels rumors and exacerbates both suspicion and mistrust within the country.”
Haiti currently has only 10 elected officials since it failed to hold legislative elections in October 2019 amid political gridlock and massive protests, with Moïse ruling by decree for more than a year before was killed. Since then, numerous opponents have challenged Henry and nominated their own leaders, moves that the prime minister has not recognized.
Henry has promised to hold general elections by the end of this year as his administration tries to improve security conditions.
La Lime said Henry has continued to engage with political actors and “negotiations among proponents of competing transition governance models have now reached the stage where success will be determined by their collective willingness to compromise,” which would mean putting national interests above their own aspirations.
While no electoral calendar has been announced yet, the UN envoy said “momentum does seem to be building around an effort to form an inclusive, credible and effective Provisional Electoral Council that would inspire confidence and trust among a critical mass of national stakeholders.”
On a positive note, she said donors pledged USD 600 million this week to start rebuilding parts of the southern peninsula destroyed in last August’s earthquake.
And she said earlier this month, Haiti marked three years without a laboratory-confirmed case of cholera, “which represents a significant step towards eliminating the disease in Haiti.” Cholera was introduced to Haiti’s largest river in October 2010 by sewage from a nearby base of UN peacekeepers from Nepal, sickening more than 850,000 people in a country of 11 million. (AP)
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