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Chaos Grips Haiti As Main Port Suspends Operations Amidst Escalating Gang Violence

The initial 3 day state of emergency has been extended to one month

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – The main port of Haiti has announced the suspension of operations due to widespread sabotage and vandalism, plunging the capital city further into violence and disorder.

Local media reported that armed men broke into the port, engaging in looting and contributing to the already dire situation in Port-au-Prince.

This disturbing development follows a series of attacks by armed gangs on critical infrastructure, including the airport, police stations, and prisons throughout the week. The assailants are advocating for the removal of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

In response to the escalating crisis, a three-day state of emergency has been extended for an additional month.

Caribbean Port Services, the port’s operator, released a statement attributing the suspension of all services to “malicious acts of sabotage and vandalism.” The consequences of this decision are far-reaching, with more than 20 trucks carrying essential equipment, medical supplies, and food reportedly stranded at the port.

The UN’s World Food Programme has confirmed the suspension of its maritime transport service due to the prevailing insecurity. The organization expressed concern about the potential impact on the delivery of vital supplies to the Haitian population.

Amidst the chaos, the UN humanitarian affairs agency has issued a stark warning, stating that Haiti’s already fragile health system is “nearing collapse.” The violence has prompted a mass exodus, with aid groups estimating that over 15,000 people have fled their homes in the past week alone.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has engaged with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, urging an “urgent” political transition. Brian Nichols, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, emphasized the need for a broader and more inclusive government to address the deepening crisis.

Prime Minister Henry’s attempts to return to Port-au-Prince faced obstacles, with the international airport closed due to ongoing security concerns. Gangs intensified their attacks during his absence, targeting key locations such as the airport, prisons, and police stations.

During his visit to Kenya, Prime Minister Henry signed a reciprocal agreement with President William Ruto for a multinational force, including 2,000 Kenyan police officers, to restore order in Haiti. However, challenges to the deal have emerged, with a Kenyan opposition politician planning to contest it in court.

The gangs, taking advantage of the Prime Minister’s absence, have unleashed coordinated attacks, resulting in the death of at least six police officers, the destruction of the National Police Academy, and the release of thousands of inmates from prisons. The situation remains volatile, with gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier threatening a “civil war” and potential “genocide” if Prime Minister Henry does not step down.

Against the backdrop of intensified violence, Medecins Sans Frontieres estimates that over 2,300 people were killed in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Cite Soleil in 2023 alone, underscoring the severity of the humanitarian crisis engulfing Haiti.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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