Five killed in clashes between protesters and police in Haiti

Port-au-Prince (AFP)- Five agents of an environmental protection agency were killed in clashes with police near the Haitian capital this Wednesday, while the country is experiencing mass protests demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

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Five officers from the National Agency for Protected Areas, an armed state office declared in rebellion against the government, were killed after refusing to lay down their rifles and firing in the direction of police, a police source told AFP.

Three other members of that unit were arrested.

Under an agreement reached after the assassination of then-Haitian President Jovenel Moise in December 2022, the current prime minister was to hold elections on February 7, 2024, to hand over power to newly elected officials.

But Henry remains in power and one of his aides has announced that the Prime Minister intends to form a government of national unity.

Thousands of people have been protesting in the capital Port-au-Prince and across the country since the beginning of the week to demand his resignation, according to local media.

“This Wednesday is D-Day. This is the day Ariel Henry must resign,” a motorcycle taxi driver told AFP, declining to be named. “I hope he comes to his senses. If not, the voice of the people will be heard.”

February 7 is a particularly symbolic date in Haiti, as it marks the anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986.

There have been no elections in the poor small Caribbean country since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.

According to another protester, Prime Minister Henry, in power since 2021, has “offered no solutions” to the problems.

Participants in a demonstration held in Port-au-Prince to demand the resignation of the Haitian Prime Minister on February 7, 2024
Participants in a demonstration held in Port-au-Prince to demand the resignation of the Haitian Prime Minister on February 7, 2024 © Richard Pierin / AFP

“The country is hostage to gangs. We can’t eat. We can’t send our children to school (…). We can’t take it anymore,” attacked a 40-year-old unemployed man, who did not want to identify himself. For.

Haiti is facing a serious political, security and humanitarian crisis, with armed gangs taking control of entire parts of the country. The number of murders has more than doubled in 2023.

At least two other people were declared dead after being shot outside the rallies, according to local media.

The country’s main roads and schools have been closed since Monday due to the protests.

The neighboring Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola, announced on Wednesday that it was in a “state of alert” and had increased security on its borders.

Faced with the crisis, the UN Security Council in October agreed to send a Kenya-led multinational mission to Haiti to support Haitian police overwhelmed by gangs.

However, in late January, a court in Nairobi blocked the Kenyan government from sending police officers.

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