From Port-au-Prince “surrounded” by “predatory” gangs, the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization (UN) on Saturday called on the world to make the “drama” of Haitians a “priority”, deploring the ” hesitation” to send an international force to help the police.
“We must put Haiti on the map of international political life and put the tragedy of the Haitian people as the absolute priority of the international community”, pleaded Antonio Guterres at the end of a visit of “solidarity” of a few hours, his first in the impoverished Caribbean country as UN chief.
“I met Haitians and I felt all the exhaustion of a population that has been facing for too long a cascade of crises and unsustainable living conditions,” said he added, saying he had “listened to their call for help”.
“This is not the time to forget Haiti,” he insisted, after meeting in particular the Haitian Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, leaders of various political parties and members of civil society.
Antonio Guterres in particular urged the Security Council, which is due to discuss the situation again in July, “to authorize the immediate deployment of a robust international security force”.
He had relayed in October this call from Ariel Henry for a non-UN force intended to support a police force overwhelmed by gang violence which continues to spread.
But nine months later, the appeal has gone unheeded. While a few countries have indicated that they are ready to participate, none has volunteered to lead such an operation in a country scalded by multiple foreign interventions.
“I call on the States which have the capacity to provide a robust security force to no longer hesitate and to be ready to follow a decision of the Security Council”, insisted Antonio Guterres.
“Every day counts. If we don’t act now, instability and violence will have a lasting impact on generations of Haitians,” he said.
“Generalized sexual violence”
Snipers on the roofs, kidnappings, schools targeted… Many UN officials have successively described the nightmare experienced by the Haitians in recent months.
“Port-au-Prince is surrounded by armed gangs who are blocking the main roads that lead to the northern and southern departments, which control access to water, food and health care”, said alarmed the Secretary General on Saturday.
He condemned “in the strongest terms the widespread sexual violence used by armed gangs as a weapon to instil fear”.
Words that echo the “horrors” described this week by the boss of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, speaking of a situation “never worse than today”.
“An 11-year-old girl told me in the sweetest voice that five men grabbed her in the street. Three raped her. She was eight months pregnant when we spoke and gave birth a few days later,” she said.
And nearly half of the population, or 5.2 million people, needs humanitarian assistance, including nearly 3 million children.
But humanitarian aid is not enough to meet these needs. So here again, Antonio Guterres appealed to the international community: “it is a question of solidarity, but it is also a question of moral justice”.
He also called for a return “to democratic order as soon as possible”, asking everyone to “go beyond their personal interests and make concessions in order to facilitate the emergence of a common vision and a viable and credible electoral path”.
No election has been held since 2016, and Ariel Henry, appointed prime minister just 48 hours before the last president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, faces questions about his legitimacy.
After Haiti, Antonio Guterres goes to Trinidad and Tobago for the summit of the countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a summit in which the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, must also participate to discuss the Haitian file.