InSight Crime : G9 vs. GPEP – The Two Gang Alliances Tearing Haiti Apart

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The G9, led by Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue,” enjoyed the support of the PHTK under slain President Jovenel Moïse, and continues to do so under the current interim government of Ariel Henry. As a federation, it relies on its rivals being divided to become an indispensable ally to whatever party is in power.

While violence and homicides are spiking across Haiti, the Port-au-Prince suburb of Cité Soleil has become the latest battleground for two well-armed and well-connected gang alliances.

On July 16, after weeks of intense fighting that has claimed several hundred lives, the United Nations voted unanimously to ban the sales of small arms and ammunition to Haiti, although a full embargo on all weapons sales was rejected. The UN Security Council requested members « prohibit the transfer of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to non-State actors engaged in or supporting gang violence. »

Most of the gang fighting in Haiti is due to a protracted conflict between two gang federations, the « G9 and Family » (G9 an fanmi – G9), connected to the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale – PHTK), and its rival, GPEP, broadly supported by PHTK’s political opponents.

While large parts of the capital have been affected, a key flashpoint in recent fighting has been the southern commune of Cité Soleil, long a stronghold for GPEP. Its residents have been held hostage by constant shootouts since early July. A published by Doctors Without Borders revealed that thousands are trapped by the violence, unable to leave their homes and with no access to water, electricity, healthcare, or functioning toilets. Over 300 people have been reported killed in Cité Soleil alone, according to media outlet Le Nouvelliste, though that number is likely to grow.

« The commune has no police officers, no…court. The state must come back, we must implement projects to give alternatives to these young people who kill each other, » the mayor of Cité Soleil, Joël Janéus, told Le Nouvelliste.

InSight Crime Analysis

There is no easy answer to understanding the gang violence in Haiti. Since the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, a country already mired in crisis has seen its situation further deteriorate, with food prices soaring and an oil shortage worsening. However, the use of gangs as weapons for political factions has been underreported.

There have long been deep connections between gangs and political parties in Haiti. These political links have provided protection to the gangs and given them access to funding directly through government « contracts, » while in return they have repressed opposition movements and maintained social order in impoverished neighborhoods.

Over the last year, the country’s main gang federations have cemented their role as de facto rulers in poorer areas, while increasing extortion and kidnapping to bolster income. Rival political parties have been keen to leverage this control for electoral gain.

The G9, led by Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue,” enjoyed the support of the PHTK under slain President Jovenel Moïse, and continues to do so under the current interim government of Ariel Henry. As a federation, it relies on its rivals being divided to become an indispensable ally to whatever party is in power. This strategy allowed Barbecue to cut ties with the PHTK in 2021, when his dominance over large parts of Port-au-Prince allowed him to control significant numbers of polling stations, especially in areas like Martissant and Delmas.

However, Barbecue’s main rival, Gabriel Jean Pierre, alias « Gabriel, » has been busy. The leader of the rival GPEP federation has secured some backing from the political opposition. He has also swollen his federation’s numbers with the addition of 400 Mawozo, a gang that brought with it control of numerous crucial areas surrounding the capital.

Having seen their leader extradited to the US in May 2022, and under pressure from police raids, 400 Mawozo seem to have turned to Gabriel in search of reliable new leadership.

This has strengthened GPEP’s control of voting stations in Port-au-Prince, and has helped level the playing field between GPEP and G9 in terms of political clout.

It is that access to political influence that is so highly coveted in this gang war. Pierre Esperance, Director of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), told Le Nouvelliste that this is the primary motivation behind the gang war in the city. « The West department represents more than 40 percent of the electorate and when the gangs gain territory in the metropolitan area, they are sure to win the elections [for political parties] thanks to their influence, » he stated.

And so the cycle continues. With territorial control and the right political backing, gangs are given impunity to bring in money from kidnapping, extortion, and authority over fuel supplies.

G9 vs. GPEP – The Two Gang Alliances Tearing Haiti Apart (https_insightcrime.org)

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