Thu | Jun 13, 2024

Bahamas orders evacuation of diplomatic mission in Haiti

Published:Saturday | January 28, 2023 | 12:27 AM
Students walk past a burning barricade that was set up by members of the police protesting bad police governance in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday.
Students walk past a burning barricade that was set up by members of the police protesting bad police governance in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday.

NASSAU, (CMC):

The Bahamas government has ordered an immediate departure of all diplomatic personnel from Haiti, or as soon as security conditions permit.

“Up to this time, there was a voluntary departure order in place and all staff at the embassy chose to stay. Per the new instructions, they are to leave for home as soon as conditions permit,” according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday night.

“This is only a temporary measure in light of recent developments which require a corporate security and intelligence assessment and restaging.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that on Thursday morning, the head of the diplomatic mission in Port-au-Prince “reported that they had been stopped by Haitian police and relieved of their vehicle and weapons.

“This is part of a protest by the Haitian National Police against their own authorities. All of our diplomats are personally safe. There also is a report of five Bahamians from Bahamasair who landed at Port-au-Prince Airport who were unable to leave the environs of the airport. They are all safe and well.”

Nassau said that the security situation in Haiti “appears less stable over the past three days in the country, and we are taking steps out of an abundance of caution. The pattern of security concerns is one of ebb and flow and these withdrawals are sometimes necessary to regroup.

“The security forces in our country have been alerted to these developments. As soon as conditions permit a team will be sent back into Haiti without further announcement,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Meanwhile, Haitian police officers on Thursday blocked streets and forced their way into the main airport to protest the recent killing of officers by armed gangs.

Media reports said that protesters in civilian clothes who identified themselves as police first attacked Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s official residence and then flooded the airport as Henry was arriving from a trip to Argentina where he attended the seventh summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Henry, who came to office following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, had urged member countries of CELAC, “especially those who can” help deal with the ongoing socio-economic and political situation in his country.

“As you all know, Haiti is going through a period of political turbulence and economic and social difficulty, aggravated by a climate of insecurity fuelled by armed criminal groups. Their behaviour is seriously disrupting the lives of peaceful citizens and my government’s efforts to restore democratic institutions,” Henry said.

Henry was temporarily stuck in the airport, but returned to his residence in Port-au-Prince followed by police protesters.

But the spokesperson for the National Police of Haiti (PNH) Inspector Garry Desrosiers, said it appears that the police officers killed in Metivier this past weekend had not been dispatched by the police station of Pétion-ville.

He said that the officers acted on their own initiative by deciding to lend assistance to a loved one who was in a difficult situation during the attack carried out by members of the Vitelhomme gang, in Metivier.

Media reports had said that the police patrol had been on its way to the area after reports of one criminal gang was seeking to regain possession of the territories held by the former policeman, Alex Armstrong Dumornay, now a gang leader.

In a statement, the PNH denounced the deadly attack.

“The General Directorate takes this opportunity to wish its most sincere condolences to the parents, friends and loved ones of all the victims, in particular the police officers, and to the entire large police family hard hit by these brutal disappearances.”

The PNH said it is also appealing “for calm and respect for … all police officers whose sensitive mission places them on the front line to face dangers of all kinds to protect and serve the population”.

Gangs have killed at least 10 officers in the past week; another is missing and one more has severe bullet wounds, according to the PNH.

Earlier this week, a senior United Nations official told the UN Security Council that Haiti’s protracted political and humanitarian crises, marked by spiking levels of gang-related violence and a badly struggling national police force, are reversing crucial security and development strides made since the devastating 2010 earthquake.

“Years of hard-fought recovery gains are being undone, and Haitians are grappling with setting the country back on a path to democracy,” said Helen La Lime, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti.

In briefing the 15-member Council, La Lime said more than 2,100 murders and an estimated 1,300 kidnappings were reported last year and gang violence overall reached levels not seen in decades.

She said turf wars involving two gang coalitions, namely the G9 coalition and G-Pep, reached unprecedented levels in several neighbourhoods of Cité Soleil.

During the UN Security meeting, UN Secretary General António Guterres said the situation in the French-speaking country had gotten worse and that gang violence “has reached levels not seen in decades”.