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On Monday morning, January 24, 2022, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nippes with preliminary reports indicating several minor injuries; 191 houses destroyed and 591 damaged in Anse- à -Veau, Fond-des-Nègres and Petite-Rivière, according to the ministry of the interior. More than 30 aftershocks were felt in the capital Port-au-Prince and other major cities as Port-de-Paix, Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel, Jérémie and Cayes. There were two casualties of the earthquake: one person died in Fond-des-Nègres and a second in Anse-à-Veau, where 35 homes were destroyed. The road at St. Sauveur and Petite-Rivière-de-Nippes has been destroyed, as well as the Teinturier bridge. Students in the area were not spared the psychological trauma of the earthquake either. The quake interrupted classes as 21 students were admitted to l’hôpital Sainte-Thérèse in Miragoâne, while in Anse-à-Veau, the L’hôpital Jules Fleury received traumatized students with some of their teachers counseling them on the post-quake effects. Again, as the previous earthquake in August last year, which registered 7.2 on the Richter scale, killed more than 2000 people in the rural areas, this current quake also hits the rural more than urban areas. The August 2001 earthquake destroyed tens of thousands of homes, left families sleeping outside in torrential rains and forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to suspend elections that had been scheduled for November.

Meanwhile, after a meeting initiated by the government of Canada on the crisis in Haiti, more than US$160m has been promised by nations attending the virtual meeting. The government of Canada promised $50m Canadian dollars (US$39.7m) to help improve the police force and other projects to improve young people’s and women’s rights as well as for the fight against food insecurity. According to the Minister of International Development Harjir S. Saijan, $12.35m will be used to train the national police to become more professional while increasing the number and role of women in the force. $17.48 million will be distributed across three projects to improve the sexual and reproductive health rights of the most vulnerable women and adolescent girls, while $12 million will be split across two projects to address food insecurity and support humanitarian services through the World Food Program (WFP).

On the other hand, the US promised $15m to support the police. According to the Creole service on Voice of America, VOA, the US will be sending 16 experts to supervise the SWAT teams and border guards (Polifront). The US also promised 60 new vehicles and protective equipment for the police force as well as another $100m through USAID. French Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean Yves Ledrian announced on tweeter his country’s pledge to provide assistance to the national police force address the insecurity in the country, and a humanitarian aid to the tune of 6.5m Euros in 2022. Other notable countries that pledged their support to the national police are Chili, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan. VOA also announced a UN planned donors conference on Haiti in February. The international virtual meeting on Friday, January 21 was initiated by Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, while traveling to three European countries to discuss with the reinforcement of the Russian army on the Ukrainian border. The international virtual meeting brought together more than twenty ministers, representatives of the United Nations, Caricom, the International Organization of La Francophonie and the Organization of American States (OAS).

In other news, following allegations by the human rights network RNDDH of bribery and corruption of the judge charged with investigating the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Garry Orélien, the superior council of the judiciary, Le Conseil supérieur du pouvoir judiciaire (CSPJ) called for an investigation the allegations. Judge Jean Robert Constant who heads the technical division of the CSPJ sent a letter to the director of judicial inspection, Judge Sonel Jean François, ordering him to investigate this matter as soon as possible. The judge has since recused himself from the case investigating the assassination of the former president. He has been accused of bribery in return for releasing various accused persons from prison. Judge Garry Orélien vehemently denied the accusations, calling it defamatory and unsubstantiated. He challenged his main accuser Pierre Espérance, to produce evidence of his claims. In a note to the media, Judge Garry Orélien warns Mr. Pierre Espérance and all other individuals, who for reasons or interests which are personal or malicious, would have sought, through reputedly criminal organizations, to discredit a professional concerned with the transparency, discretion, and integrity of his mission.

Finally, the police announced the arrest of an influential leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, Chouby Fenelon, when he went to receive treatment at the hospital after being wounded in clashes between the police and gangs. The gang operates in and around Croix-des-Bouquets and has been tied to numerous kidnappings and violent crimes. On Jan. 19, police also arrested Kesnel Noel, the father of gang leader Wendy Charles, who is considered a key suspect, according to a post on the PNH’s Facebook page on Jan. 22. The police are launching widespread operations against gang activity in Croix-des-Bouquets, to bring a semblance of peace to area residents. Human rights groups and Haitian authorities have also linked the gang to fatal shootings, along with kidnappings and other crimes that have target ordinary Haitians and foreign nationals alike. The gang attracted international attention in October 2021 when they kidnapped 17 Christian missionaries, including a Canadian and 16 Americans. Although the details are unclear, an unspecified ransom payment was involved in the eventual release of the captives last December. The gang is also suspected of being behind other kidnappings, including 10 catholic clergy and worshipers from France and Haiti in April 2021.

Dela Harlley

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