Considered one of Haiti’s most dangerous suburbs, the seaside slum of Cité Soleil in the capital Port-au-Prince is overcoming its dark past.
The highly marginalised community of over 300,000 people was for decades noted for gang wars and political violence.
UN peacekeepers who have been in the island nation since 2004 have managed to restore order in Cité Soleil.
With the restoration of order, dozens of the slum’s youth as well as various organisations are striving to promote peace in the neighbourhoods. Their efforts are duly being recognised.
At a recent peace concert, five young people helping promote peace in the community were awarded.
One of the honorees, Frantz Francois regarded as an ordinary young man, was recognised for his non-violent attitude, a trait organisers hope the other youngesters will emulate.
“This plaque for me symbolizes love, brotherhood and change. It also symbolizes children who are working together. This board represents all community organizations” Francois said about his award.
Stephen Italien another honoree is the founder of La Difference, a model community founded in 2008.
“Many family members and friends died during the violence in Cité Soleil. We recorded many deaths and I cannot name them all. The last one we recorded was a friend of mine who died on the “Saint George” bridge. He was a friend who used to rise on a motorcycle. I feel very sad,” he said of the community’s violent past.
He said other attempts to bring peace to the community in the past failed because it did not come from the people.
“Over time, we realised that this peace we are looking for cannot come from the outside but from us, from the neighbourhoods in conflict. This peace will be real for our efforts” he said.
Salaka, a local group is offering alternatives to peaceful living in the community by training some 250 children and youths in athletics. According to the group, since 2004, there have been no violent incidents recorded.
But Italien says Cité Soleil can no longer be neglected by the Haitian government as they need more support.