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It is becoming a daily occurrence that news coming from the country are depressing at best and worrying at worst. The stranglehold the gangs have on the country is actually choking economic activity thereby creating the humanitarian crises the media is talking about in recent days. The coalition of gangs known as G9 have effectively blockaded the Varreux oil terminal, which is the nation’s most critical fuel terminal and whose blockade has cause mass shortage in goods such as food, water and other basic necessities, not to say fuel to run facilities including hospitals now. This one activity of blocking the terminal has resulted in supply chain problems putting the entire island’s economic activity at a standstill. There are reports of hospitals across the country being forced to shut down because of lack of diesel and this at a time when shortage of clean water resulted in a resurgence of cholera, and food insecurity has reached catastrophic levels. According to the UN, more than 4 million people face food insecurity and for the first time in its history, the country had reached level 5 or catastrophic phase in hunger. As the violence against children, rape and looting continue strong anti-government protests have continued unabated and often devolving into violence, with shootouts between rival gangs and the police.

Under such circumstances, one of the sad casualties is education as children cannot be assured safety to and from school. Being the future of the nation, some teacher’s union is calling on the authorities to create the conditions favorable to promoting a return to school. Even though the government officially launched back-to-school on October 3, 2022, school children are unable to return to school. As such the teacher’s union, L’Union Nationale des Normaliens/ Normaliennes et Éducateurs/ trices d’Haïti (UNNOEH) is taxing the government for inaction on facilitating the reopening of classes across the nation. An average of 4million schoolchildren and 150,000 teachers in the private and public sectors are all in a standstill, not knowing when they can go back to the classroom, since no effective date to resume school activities has been provided. The union is also calling on the government to work to ensure that teachers in the private sector who have not been paid for four (4) months due to the blocking of school activities are able to receive their salaries.

In a statement made available to the media, Clarens Renois, the head of the UNIR-HAÏTI political party, said that it is high time school activities at both primary and secondary levels as well as the universities, because this is the only way for the children to prepare for their future. According to him, the country needs to train a new generation of citizens with the mission to love, protect and respect the laws of the country, and these citizens are the ones who will manage the state coffers and are unlikely to execute their compatriots with heavy weapons. At the same time, the politician and one-time presidential candidate invites enemies of the nation to invest in education, job creation and other opportunities instead of financing the gangs because this will improve the living condition of millions of Haitians instead of what is currently a state of siege with almost all citizen potential targets of the gangs roaming the country with impunity.  While appealing to the gang leaders, kidnappers and others terrorizing the citizenry, to lay done their arms, the UNIR-HAÏTI party said it had set up a training center, known as DEFI JENÈS AYITI, which seeks to train young people for a period of 9 to 12 months to train them to become competent citizens. Currently, the program is working with young people who had become involved in drugs, prostitution and other unhealthy activities condemned by society.

In an article that appeared on yahoo.com, the UN Security Council has approved a resolution to impose sanctions on the one individual identified as responsible for financing the gangs that are terrorizing Haitians and it is none other than Jimmy Chérizier, popularly known as Barbeque. Nearly two weeks after the interim Prime Minister Henry asked the international community for help in combating the insecurity in the country, the UN accused Jimmy Chérizier, leader of the powerful G9 federation of gangs, of threatening the security and stability of the nation and thereby placed a travel ban and asset freeze as well as an arms embargo on him with the potential of identifying other characters. Chérizier is a former police officer with Haiti’s National Police who worked with the Departmental Crowd Control Unit, which is deployed when there are riots or protests and has been accused of excessive force. He has since become what many consider Haiti’s most powerful gang leader. In an interview with the Associated Press in 2019, he said that he was born in the Port-au-Prince community of Delmas, next to La Saline slum, one of eight children whose father died when he was 5. He said his mother was a street vendor who sold fried chicken, and that’s how he was nicknamed “Barbecue,” denying he earned the moniker due to accusations that he set people on fire. He said he’s inspired by the late dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled with a bloody brutality. The police force fired him in December 2018, after allegations of his participation in a 2017 massacre in which he still faces an outstanding arrest warrant. Accused of involvement in a number of assassinations and massacres, Chérizier repeatedly denied any involvement in the massacres, saying he is a community leader who helps residents and is leading an armed revolution, adding that he will put guns in the hands of every child if he has to. He went on to intimate that he would never massacre people in the same social class as him, because he lives in a ghetto and knows what ghetto life is. Though he has demanded the interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigns, while his gang blockaded the fuel terminal at Varreux since mid-September, he has since changed his tune after the government called for foreign intervention to help break the stranglehold of the gangs. Now, he wants an amnesty as well as cabinet position as the Director of the national disarmament dismantling and reintegration commission. The government though has not responded publicly to those requests.

Finally, the Dominican Republic has approved a request by a trading firm to import 20,500 gallons of diesel for use principally in hospitals, according to letters seen by Reuters, as gangs continue blocking a key fuel terminal in Haiti. A firm called AFA Trading wrote a letter to the Dominican Ministry of Industry for permission to import diesel via land border with the intent of supplying three hospitals and one manufacturing facility. As stated earlier, the Fuel shortages created by the gang blockade have left hospitals without diesel to power their generators, which are the only way they can ensure consistent electricity due to chronic outages in power grid. Most hospitals have curtailed or halted operations in recent weeks, just as the country is facing a cholera outbreak on top of a humanitarian crisis driven by shortages of food and water. The authorities responsible for ensuring the exportation of Haitian mangoes to the US have said they will stop importation in January 2023 due to the security situation in the country, while the journalist, Roberson Alphonse, of Le Nouvelliste and Magik 9 radio station narrowly escaped assassination attempt Tuesday morning as he started to go to his morning show. Though not mortally wounded, he is under observation in an area hospital and his car riddled with bullets.

Dela Harlley

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