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Families continue to flee capital as new bout of gang violence grips Haiti

People flee their homes in Cite Soleil due to gang violence as they walk to a police station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.   -  
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Odelyn Joseph/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Haiti which is recovering from a recent spate of violent demonstrations demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, grapples with violence once again.

Hundreds of families have been steadily leaving their homes under heavy shootouts since Sunday as rival gangs fight for control of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Onne Monday (Feb. 12), a fresh bout of gang violence had driven new families out of their homes.

“We have a lot of victims," Joseph, a Fuji resident said.

"We don’t know who and how many yet, but we are sure that it will be a lot of victims because it was a heavy shootout in an open area today [Editor's note: February 12]”

“There was heavy gunfire, so we decided not to stay," Maricia, a displaced grandmother says.

"They burned houses we don't know if our house was burned. We have been in the street since this morning we don't know where we are going.”

Some of the displaced are residents of the Fuji neighbourhood in the in the north of Port-au-Prince, most of them women and children.

Most violent month since 2022

Kenya was supposed to lead a UN-backed security mission but a court ruling has halted the Haiti deployment.

A spokesperson for the Kenyan government said in late January that the decision would be contested legally.

Kenya was supposed to send 1,000 police officers. Burundi, Chad, Senegal, Jamaica and Belize also have pledged troops for the multinational mission.

Speaking in Geneva on Friday (Feb. 09) the UN Human rights spokesperson said that January 2024 had been the most violent month in two years.

“At least 806 people, not involved in the in the violent exchanges taking place, were killed, injured, or kidnapped in January," Marta Hurtado said.

"In addition, some 300 gang members were killed or injured bringing the total number of people affected to 1,108, more than three times the number recorded in January 2023. People in areas controlled by gangs have been targeted directly. Gangs also continue to use sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon.”

“The impact of this torrent of violence on children continues to be of particular concern. In 2023, 167 children were killed and injured by bullets. Some were executed by gangs or so-called “self-defence” groups for their suspected support for rivals. The recruitment of children into gangs remained extremely worrisome,” Hurtado said.

Displaced families now camp with their few belongings near a police station they hope will keep them safe.

In addition to the violence, the island nation experiences a profound governance crisis, the 11 million Haitians have no elected representative.

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