World News 22 Mart 2024

Prominent Haitian gang leader shot dead by police as political groups near finalisation of transition council

A prominent Haitian gang leader who escaped prison earlier this month has been shot dead by police – as political groups appear to be getting closer to finalising a transition council in the country.

Ernst Julme, known as Ti Greg, was the head of Delmas 95 which is part of Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier’s alliance of gangs.

Julme was shot by police in the Petion-Ville neighbourhood of the capital Port-au-Prince a day after Makandal, another gang leader, was killed in a suspected resurgence by a vigilante group called Bwa Kale, police and sources have told Reuters.

The death of Julme marks a setback for Cherizier’s “Viv Ansanm” alliance of gangs that hopes to take over more parts of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti entered a state of emergency on 3 March after Cherizier called for criminal groups to unite and overthrow the country’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Attacks by powerful gangs on key government targets had begun on 29 February across Port-au-Prince, with gunmen having burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing 4,000 inmates.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed reports that political groups in Haiti had selected all members of a transitional council set to assume presidential powers ahead of future elections in the country.

The council, intended to bring together Haiti’s fractured political class, is mandated with appointing a replacement for Mr Henry, who announced his resignation on 11 March as gang violence prevented his return into the country.

The council will also wield certain presidential powers until elections can be held.

Prominent Haitian gang leader shot dead by police as political groups near finalisation of transition council
Image:
People run through the streets of Port-au-Prince as bullets fly. Pic: Reuters

The transition plan was brokered in Jamaica by the intergovernmental Caribbean Community (CARICOM), alongside
representatives of Haiti’s government and opposition.

CARICOM released a list of political groups that would be represented in the council.

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Haiti: Gangs attack upscale neighbourhoods

The nine-member council was initially expected to be finalised within a couple of days of Mr Henry’s resignation, but
some Haitian political factions were unable to unite behind one representative.

One party rejected the plan altogether then backtracked, while groups left out of the plan criticised the return of
politicians from previous administrations seen as corrupt.

Cherizier has threatened reprisals against politicians and their families if they take part in the proposed council.

As the council seemed to near completion, heavy gunfire was heard on Thursday near the National Palace off the Champ de Mars square in downtown Port-au-Prince, while people fled fresh shootings in the capital’s Petion-Ville suburb.

Read more:
What happened to Haiti?
The moment I met Barbecue

Prominent Haitian gang leader shot dead by police as political groups near finalisation of transition council
Image:
Police move through Port-au-Prince. Pic: Reuters

The Haitian government has been largely absent during the violence and police are ill-equipped against heavily armed criminal groups seeking to expand their territorial control of the capital city.

Plans for an international security mission, requested by Mr Henry in 2022, remain on hold.

The UN and other international bodies and embassies have been evacuating staff and other foreigners by helicopter because Haiti’s main airport is not secure.

The US government on Thursday organised the departure of 90 of its citizens from Haiti’s northern city of Cap-Haitien to Miami as well as from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic, in addition to 70 it has flown out since Sunday, a state department spokesperson said.

source

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