The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti is conducting a two-pronged campaign to combat crime and violence, tracking down gangs while providing job training for youths in the impoverished country’s two largest cities.
In Port-au-Prince, the capital, troops and police from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have teamed up with national police in the past month to launch a dragnet to put out of operation bands of criminals and prison escapees in some of the city’s poorest quarters, netting more than 300 suspects in the last two weeks of January.
“We have been seeking to capture prison fugitives, violent gang members and criminals sought for murder and rape,” deputy commander Major General Carlos Mezzano said, stressing MINUSTAH’s mandate to create a secure and stable environment.
“And we have succeeded in seizing many criminals, arms and drugs,” he added of the most recent operations in the city neighbourhoods of Brooklyn, Cité de Dieu, Cité Soleil and Jean Marie Vincent camp sheltering people displaced by last year’s earthquake.
The January operation involved 1,000 UN troops and police and Haitian police officers backed by armoured vehicles, motorcycles and trucks, and further actions are planned. “It is important that we, the military and police component of the UN, continue to work with the Haitian police to maintain order and security,” Maj.-Gen. Mezzano said.
Meanwhile in the poorer neighbourhoods of Cap-Haïtien, some 120 young people aged 18 to 25 are taking part in a six-month, $200,000 MINUSTAH training programme in construction, electrical engineering, plumbing and mechanics.
“Every day many boys and girls in these neighbourhoods ask me for just one thing: to learn a trade so that they can be of use to their communities,” MINUSTAH regional community coordinator Emmanuel Sannoh said. “These young people, faced with their difficult situation in life, with no professional training, are vulnerable and exposed to exploitation by the peddlers of violence.”
MINUSTAH, with nearly 12,000 military and police personnel, has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.