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 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, G-PEP, 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 G-PEP. Its residents have been held hostage by constant shootouts since early July. A report 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. Roughly 89 people have been killed in Cité Soleil alone, according to Haiti's National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l'Homme- RNDDH), 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 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, but given the pronounced weakness of the state exacerbated by the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse, such gains are harder to achieve.
The G9, led by Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue,” enjoyed the support of the PHTK under slain President Moïse. Barbecue cut ties with the PHTK in 2021 because his dominance over large parts of Port-au-Prince allowed him to control significant numbers of polling stations, especially in areas like Martissant and Lower Delmas. The continued extent of government support for G9 is uncertain though RNDDH reported on July 13 that G9 received "heavy machines for the destruction off houses and the digging of a passage," from the National Center of Equipment (CNE), in assistance to their conflict.
However, Barbecue’s main rival, Gabriel Jean-Pierre, alias "Gabriel," has been busy. The leader of the rival G-PEP federation has previously 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 Jean-Pierre in search of reliable new leadership. Eric Calpas, a gang researcher in Haiti, told InSight Crime that this union benefited G-PEP as well due to the influx of new members and revenue.
"Gabrielle's group was more of a political gang with a strong link to Lavalas," stated Calpas, referring to the Lavalas political movement which today is known as the Struggling People's Organization (Òganizasyon Pèp Kap Lité-OPL).
While the G-PEP remains broadly connected to opposition parties, it is unclear to what extent it receives material or financial support from them today.