“We are the masses, and we are being let down,” he told The Washington Post Thursday, his voice shaking as gunfire rang out in the background.
Dozens of people have died and thousands more have died in days of violent clashes between warring gangs in Cité Soleil, the Haitian capital’s main slum caught without food or water makes it worse increasing insecurity and humanitarian crises in this beleaguered Caribbean nation.
The United Nations said at least 99 people have been killed and more than 130 injured since the current wave of violence erupted last week.
Jöel Janéus, the mayor of Cité Soleil, said the gangs burned most of the bodies and many families had few answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office and the Home Office have been in contact with local officials, Janéus told The Post, but have done little to stop the bloodshed. He said he spent his own money on food and water for residents because the mayor’s office had no money.
Janéus said he was hiding. “I get a lot of pressure and threats,” he said.
The bloodbath in Cité Soleil, a community of more than 260,000 on the Bay of Port-au-Prince, is part of a wave of violence and violence kidnapping for ransom by armed gangs amid worsening political instability after still unsolved assassination a year ago from President Jovenel Moïse.
The United Nations said this week that 1.5 million people in Port-au-Prince are trapped by gang violence, “deprived of their basic services and their freedom of movement”. The UN Security Council voted on Friday to extend its political mission in Haiti for another year.
Violence in Cité Soleil erupted last week between warring gang coalitions: G-Pèp and G-9, a Amalgamation of nine gangs led by Jimmy Chérizier. The United States has imposed sanctions on Chérizier, a former police officer who goes by the nickname Barbecue. for alleged leadership of armed groups in “coordinated, brutal attacks in neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince”.
In a video shared on social media This week, Chérizier held a long gun and proclaimed, “The struggle to liberate the country is waged against kidnappers and robbers.”
Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network said more than a dozen people have disappeared in Cité Soleil and that more than 120 homes were destroyed by arson or by heavy machinery it claims the National Equipment Center supplied the G-9 .
Kington Louis, director general of the National Equipment Center, said The Post considers the allegations to be false. He said one of the center’s loaders was kidnapped by the gangs, who murdered the driver when he refused to do what they asked.
MSF called on the gangs to spare civilians. The organization said the need for food, water and medical assistance was acute in Brooklyn, a remote neighborhood of Cité Soleil that residents have been unable to leave since July 8.
“Along the only road into Brooklyn, we have encountered bodies that are decomposing or being burned,” Mumuza Muhindo, the group’s mission chief in Haiti, said in a statement. “It could be people who were killed during the clashes or who were trying to leave who were shot. It’s a real battlefield.”
A fuel terminal near Cité Soleil temporarily halted deliveries this week, exacerbating nationwide fuel shortages and sparking protests that blocked main roads in the capital. Fuel deliveries resumed on Thursday.
Janéus, the mayor, is personally affected by the increasing insecurity. In November, gunmen raided his home in Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood east of Port-au-Prince, which is a stronghold of the infamous 400 Mawozo Gang, and kidnapped his wife.
Friends, family and residents of the Cité Soleil helped him collect the $40,000 ransom demanded by the gang. Janéus said he negotiated with Germine “Yonyon” Joly, the leader of 400 Mawozo, who ran the gang’s operations from a Port-au-Prince prison via cell phone.
Joly was extradited to the United States in May bring charges for his alleged role in a criminal conspiracy to violate US export laws by smuggling firearms into Haiti and a conspiracy to commit a hostage situation the abduction of 17 missionaries by an Ohio-based charity last year in Port-au-Prince.
“My three children are in the United States now,” said Janéus, “but my wife is in Haiti with me. Despite seeing a psychologist, she is still unstable since the kidnapping.”