•   Thursday, 25 Jul, 2024
Haiti gang leader threatens civil war if PM does not resign

Haiti gang leader threatens civil war if PM does not resign

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Jimmy "Barbecue" Chérizier made the threat as members of his gang tried to seize the capital's airport to stop Mr Henry from returning from abroad.

Unrest has spread to other cities with a prison riot reported in Jacmel.

Thousands have been displaced by the violence.

Barbecue, who leads the powerful G9 gang alliance, said on Tuesday that "if Ariel Henry does not resign ... we'll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide".

The G9 alliance has unleashed a wave of violence, including attacks on police stations and the storming of the country's two main prisons. Thousands of inmates escaped in a mass jailbreak on Saturday.Haiti has been blighted by gang violence for years. But while Prime Minister Henry was on a visit to Kenya last week, Barbecue escalated the violence.

Mr Henry was aiming to agree a deal for Kenya lead a multinational police operation to quell the violence in Haiti.

Barbecue fears Mr Henry would use the forces to stay in power.

The gang leader has been opposed to the prime minister since he took over power shortly after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, without an election.

Critics of Mr Henry argue his rule is illegitimate. They also point to the fact that two and a half years after coming to power he has still not organised presidential elections, as he had originally promised.

The prime minister has not spoken publicly since the violence erupted. He has only retweeted the declaration of the state of emergency decreed by one of his ministers in his absence.

Mr Henry's whereabouts were unknown for days until late on Tuesday, when he flew from New Jersey to the US territory of Puerto Rico.

Heavily armed police were on guard at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan when Mr Henry touched down

Reports said he had planned to land in the capital of Port-au-Prince, but the airport remained closed due to the fighting nearby.

The director of the civil aviation authority in neighbouring Dominican Republic said he had denied Mr Henry's plane permission to land in the country because it lacked a flight plan.

Haitian media report that Mr Henry is now seeking alternative routes back into the country.

It is not clear what gang leader Barbecue's longer term aims are. On Tuesday he urged Haitians "to unite".

"Either Haiti becomes a paradise for all of us, or a hell for all of us," he told journalists, wearing a bullet-proof vest.

In the past he has suggested created a "council of elders", a group of civil society representatives from different regions, to replace the prime minister.

Haiti has no elected government officials. No elections have been held since 2016 in the country.

The vacuum created by the lack of elected officials has been filled by gangs, who are estimated to control around 80% of the capital.

Kidnappings for ransom are common and many schools and hospitals have had to close due to the lack of security.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said it had to temporarily suspend its mobile clinics in several sites.

"We fear we will run out of medicines and medical supplies, which are absolutely essential to meet the enormous needs we are facing at the moment," MSF head of mission Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho said.

Violence has so far been mainly concentrated in the capital and its environs. But there have also been reports of shootings in the town of Jeremie, in the south west, and of a prison riot in Jacmel in the south.

The United Nations Security Council said it would hold an emergency meeting later on Wednesday to discuss the violence.

According to the United Nations, some 15,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

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