PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, (CMC) – A local human rights group says violence by armed gangs in Haiti has declined significantly following the emergence of a vigilante group known as Bwa Kale in April.
The Centre d’analyse et de recherche en droits de l’homme (CARDH) in a report said that the vigilante group, linked to at least 160 killings last month, began after residents in Port-au-Prince lynched and set fire to more than a dozen suspected gang members.
It said the activities of Bwa Kale have resulted in no kidnappings taking place from April 24 to May 24, while 43 gang-linked slayings occurred during the same period. CARDH said 146 gang murders were recorded between April 1 and April 23.
“Without making a value judgment, the ‘Bwa Kale’ movement has in just one month produced convincing, visible results; fear has changed sides. Both kidnappings and gang-related killings have fallen drastically,” CARDH added in the report.
CARDH said the vigilante groups are mainly made up of young people, including some children, and likely emerged from the extreme cruelty inflicted by gangs, the ineffectiveness of the government, police and army and the lack of international action.
Last week, Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders appointed three former prime ministers as members of an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) as the regional integration grouping seeks to extend its Good Offices to the government of Haiti and other Haitian stakeholders.
At their summit in the Bahamas in February, the regional leaders reiterated that Caricom must play a leadership role in addressing the deteriorating situation in Haiti, “towards which there are moral and political obligations.”
Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Haiti as a “tragic situation” and appealed to the international community to do more to help the French-speaking country overcome its present political and socio-economic conditions.
Guterres said that Haiti faces dramatic humanitarian needs, a political system that is paralysed and levels of violence by gangs “that are absolutely appalling.
The UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) said in April alone, more than 600 people were killed in violence in the country’s capital. This follows the killing of at least 846 people in the first three months of 2023.
BINUH said that overall, the number of victims of killings, injuries and kidnappings increased by 28 per cent in the first quarter of the year, with a total of 1,634 cases reported.