Haitian gangs change tactics ahead of Kenya police deployment

Powerful gangs that control most of Haiti’s infrastructure have vowed to wage war against the Kenyan-led multinational police force arriving in the country this week.

According to a report from New York TimesPolice officers will face gangs that have evolved to thwart any opposition.

In particular, the gangs have changed their tactics in their operations, including public focus on social media, showing a united front.

Reports also indicated that the gangs have put aside their turf wars to unite and resist the Kenyan-led mission, calling them “invaders.”

Gang members in Haiti carrying weapons in the streets

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PBS

The alliance will be based on mutual terms as the gangs seek to overcome challenges related to drug smuggling operations.

Johnson André, better known as Izo, is the leader of the 5 Segonn gang or 5 Seconds, which is believed to be the largest cocaine trafficker in Haiti and will seek to use allies to export the product to neighboring countries, including Colombia.

The gangs will also depend on Dimitri Herard, the head of the security unit that protected President Jovenel Moïse, assassinated in July 2021.

Herard became involved in the controversial assassination after he was accused of ordering his security to stand down when mercenaries broke into the president’s home.

Since 2021, he has been in prison and was awaiting sentencing before being released during a gang-led prison break last month.

Two Western diplomats who spoke to reporters indicated that Herard will provide connections to operations including drug cartels and access to weapons used by the Gulf clan.

It will also use its resources from Colombia to bring in new sophisticated weapons.

According to President Gustavo Petro of Colombia, thousands of military weapons had been stolen and sold to armed groups mainly in Haiti.

Additionally, the gangs have ceased to depend on the Haitian business elite for funds and have since become autonomous in their operations.

“The gangs had been making money from kidnappings, extortion and payoffs from politicians during elections and from business elites in between,” said William O’Neill, a United Nations human rights expert.

“But the gangs are now much more autonomous and do not need the financial support of the old guard. They have created a Frankenstein that is beyond anyone’s control,” he added.

One of the most successfully operating gangs is led by Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, a former police officer who has since gone rogue and is a key part of the Vivre Ensemble coalition.

The Kenya-led mission will seek to restore peace at a time when the transitional council seeks to form an interim government before Haiti holds general elections.

So far, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin and Chad have notified the United Nations of their intention to contribute their security personnel to the mission.

Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue, addresses the press

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Vista Magazine