What is Happening in Haiti?

July 2024 Assessment Update

Initial Publish Date 
Last Updated: 01 JUL 2024
Report Focus Location: Haiti
Authors: DO, DS

Note: This is a follow up assessment report from the February 2nd, 2024 Haiti Strategic Assessment report publishes on RileySENTINEL here.

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Key Points

  • The Transitional Council appointed a new Prime Minister, Garry Conille, who was officially sworn into office on June 3, 2024.

  • The deployment of a Kenya-led security mission in Haiti is ongoing following months-long delays. The first contingent of Kenyan police officers arrived in Haiti on June 25.

  • The looming onset of Kenyan-led security operations and associated violence will largely be driven by how the MSS opts to execute their mission.

  • As of June 2024, the UN reported that Haiti has 578,074 internally displaced nationals, the highest number worldwide due to crime-related violence.

  • Gang violence remains a persistent risk despite intermittent lulls in direct attacks and often contentious gang alliances, directly affecting quality of life. Those already facing severe food insecurity, poverty, and a breakdown of essential services are further impacted by impeded international support due to gang-controlled critical infrastructure and the recently resolved three-month suspension of commercial air travel to PAP airport.

  • The complexity of Haiti’s situation raises concerns about the impact of these critical circumstances on the regional geopolitical landscape.



After gangs influenced Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation in March 2024, Haiti was mired in a spiral of gang violence, as we described in our previous report. In April 2024, a nine-member Transitional Presidential Council was created with the purpose of choosing the next Prime Minister. As of late May, the Council was tasked with holding elections before February 7, 2026. Garry Conille, UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and Prime Minister of Haiti from 2011 to 2012, was ultimately chosen to be the country’s new Interim Prime Minister and was sworn in on June 3, 2024. Most recently, Conille appointed his new cabinet. Amid these changes, data collected by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicates that the number of internally displaced persons increased from 362,551 in early March 2024 to 578,074 as per the latest report published in June. The Haitian economy is in shambles, the healthcare system is overburdened, shelters remain unsafe, and food insecurity is worsening.

Latest Developments

The Transitional Council faced a tough decision: selecting the leader of a country characterized by political chaos, extreme gang violence, and, most importantly, a lack of confidence in public institutions. The consolidation of a legitimate authority in power to counteract the gangs’ chaotic dominance was key to restoring internal order in Haiti and preparing solid ground for the deployment of the Kenya-led security mission. In a certain sense, establishing the Transitional Council was itself a powerful step toward the ultimate goal of re-establishing peace across the state. In April 2024, the names of the Council members were disclosed: former central bank governor Fritz Alphonse Jean, former ambassador to the Dominican Republic Smith Augustin, barrister Emmanuel Vertilaire, former senate president Edgard Leblanc, former senator Louis Gerald Gilles, entrepreneur Laurent Saint-Cyr, and former diplomat Leslie Voltaire. Moreover, evangelical pastor Frinel Joseph and Regine Abraham were appointed as non-voting observers. The main promoters of the transition plan were the authorities of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). In addition, before Henry's departure from power, the United Nations Security Council authorized international intervention in Haiti through a multinational security support mission. The message was clear: as previously stated in our Strategic Assessment issued in February 2024, Haiti has not been able to establish a government capable of protecting its citizens and territory; thus, foreign involvement was needed.

The task of naming an Interim Prime Minister was not simple. Garry Conille wasn’t the first option of the Council, which on April 30 chose Fritz Bélizaire, a former Haitian sports minister, to hold this position by a majority vote. Reportedly, three of the seven voting members didn’t participate in the meeting that led to that decision and subsequently demanded the other bloc withdraw their choice. This event manifested a polarization within the entity and provoked an internal crisis, resulting in the annulment of the preliminary decision and the opening of a new process to choose the next Prime Minister of Haiti. Conille was appointed in late May, with the approval of six out of seven council members with voting power. 

The newly elected PM, who will rule Haiti until elections take place, has extensive experience in international development. Media sources reveal that between 1999 and 2024, he occupied several significant positions at the United Nations and international NGOs, notably working as Deputy Representative for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Haiti from 2008 to 2010. As previously stated, he held the position of UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City, Panama, from January 2023 until his resignation on May 28, 2024. This is not the first time that Conille has served as Prime Minister, as he briefly held this position for five months between October 2011 and May 2012. It is known that political disputes with former President Martelly and other government officials led to his abrupt term. In mid-June, it became known through a decree published in the state paper Journal Le Moniteur that all 18 ministries of Henry’s administration were retained, and 14 ministers, including Conille himself, were formalized to oversee these ministries. With the new cabinet complete, these circumstances are expected to be early moves toward regaining normalcy and a positive sign for the future development of the security mission.

Foreign Intervention Framework

Under these circumstances, the next step for Haiti’s reestablishment of stability seems to be the arrival of the UN-backed security mission. Before exploring the potential aftermath of this mission, it should be noted that the United Nations has approved successive operations in this country since 1993. The most relevant one, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) lasted from June 2004 to October 2017. The MINUSTAH was succeeded by the U.N. Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), which was replaced by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) in October 2019. The Haitian National Police (HNP) has had primary responsibility for domestic security since MINUSTAH's departure. As of April 2024, the BINUH continued to coordinate with the national police, humanitarian agencies, and international partners to ensure effective coordination with the planned Multinational Security Support Mission.

However, Haiti's status as a young democracy is also a significant factor in analyzing the roots of the state's chronic instability (See here for a brief analysis of democratic transition in Haiti after the Constitution of 1987 was sanctioned). Most controversially, Haiti was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to free itself from colonial oppression in 1804. To complete this overview, from a geographical perspective, Haiti is located in an area prone to natural hazards. Constant risks exist due to its location in the path of hurricanes from the North Atlantic and on the boundary where the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates meet. These facts could appear completely unrelated, but instead, they are key to understanding why these attempts to restore internal order were unsuccessful and to anticipate what the future of this new security mission will be. 

As of today, the MINUSTAH continues to draw nuanced perceptions among international opinion. At the mission's conclusion in 2017, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations revealed a 95% decrease in the kidnapping rate, homicide rates were allegedly at their lowest in four years, and the Haitian National Police had 15,000 trained officers deployed across 140 municipalities. Although this information sounds extremely encouraging for the next mission, some say that international aid did fail Haiti after all. In 2011, Columbia University surveyed random households in Port-au-Prince in Haiti, where around 30% of the population preferred an immediate departure of the MINUSTAH peacekeepers from Haiti, while 25% expressed a desire for MINUSTAH to leave within the next year. Later reports indicated that the peacekeeping mission was accused of sexual misconduct against locals, and mentioned sex with minors, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation as some of the incidents that occurred during the deployment. The introduction of cholera in late 2010 also increased the unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti, as the disease would have arrived in Haiti when a new contingent of United Nations peacekeepers from a cholera-infected region landed in the country.

Possible Implications

Despite these perspectives, factual data illustrates that Haiti's primary challenge post-MINUSTAH has been transitioning from peacekeeping to national development, or more broadly, achieving sustainable development. In a dynamic international landscape, new pressing conflicts continually emerge, and the UN’s budget has its limits. In addition, the negative image that cholera and sexual abuse allegations left of MINUSTAH promoted the idea of rebranding the mission and changing the focus of the mandate which happened with the establishment of the MINUJUSTH. Nowadays, the internal situation in Haiti reached a critical condition, in which international intervention proved indispensable. 

The next security mission aims to stabilize the country and strengthen Haitian police training and resources. On June 18, 2024, the U.S. government authorized $109 million in funding to facilitate the deployment of Kenyan forces. Earlier, U.S. military forces, assisted by on-site civilian contractors, supplied materials for constructing the operations base next to the airport. As recently announced, the first contingent of 400 members of the Kenyan police, out of the 1000 offered for the mission, arrived at Port-au-Prince on June 25, 2024, to lead the UN-backed mission. Officers from around 15 other nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Spain, and other Caribbean and African countries, are expected to join the security forces. Given the aforementioned background of the previous peacekeeping mission, the members of this force will probably encounter initial prejudices on the part of the local communities. Additionally, this mission faced initial legal challenges, such as the decision of Kenya’s High Court to rule against the deployment of Kenyan police in Haiti in January 2024. An appeal is pending on this matter, and a new lawsuit, led by Thirdway Alliance Kenya leader Dr. Ekuru Aukot and Miruru Waweru, challenging the deployment of Kenya police to Haiti was presented in a hearing in Court in mid-June. Human Rights Watch informed that U.S. government sources confirmed Multinational Security Support (MSS) members are being vetted to avoid human rights risks. The same organization stated that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is working together on designing the mission’s regulatory framework. 

As criminal gangs have outmatched police in organization and firepower in Haiti, the current condition in this State involves around 5,000 coalition gang members equipped with AR15s, AK47s, Galils, .50 sniper rifles and belt-fed machine guns. This involves the challenge of addressing adversaries with this wide strength and growth potential without committing human rights violations that can worsen the civilians’ life quality. Self-defense movements emerged after civilians were constant targets of deadly violence during turf wars involving two major gang coalitions (G9 and Gpèp) in Cité Soleil and Port-au-Prince communes, as well as due to the territorial expansion of other gangs in eastern and southern communes of the capital. High violence rates join food insecurity and lack of resources to complete a dramatic scenario for Haitians. Hunger, a severe issue that persists despite the assistance of organizations such as the World Food Programme, is leading Haitian children to join violent gang groups. Save the Children, and UN verified data, report that currently, between 30% and 50% of armed groups in Haiti include children among their ranks. Hurricane season is also a serious threat to Haiti, which will exacerbate the already precarious living conditions in Haiti. In the case of a hurricane, the country could face a catastrophic outcome, as it does not have enough resources or preparation to cope with a natural phenomenon and even reduce its impact on the population. 

Kenya’s role as leader of the new security mission in Haiti is quite representative, as this year President Biden confirmed that Kenya had been designated a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) U.S. ally (MNNA). In this context, Kenya becomes a key partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa, which will also deploy forces for a security mission in the Western Hemisphere. In addition, Kenya will receive, along with this status, privileged access to advanced military equipment, training, and loans to boost its defense budget. Although the Ukraine and Gaza conflicts occupy significant positions in the foreign affairs agenda of the United States, Haiti’s internal conflict is still a trouble spot regarding regional security in the Americas. The mission will take place in an extremely hostile environment, that will expose the multinational force members to radical violence, adverse weather conditions, and scarcity of food, medicine, and other critical supplies (See our previous report for a better understanding of the evolution of Haiti’s situation).

The situation in this State could easily destabilize the countries of the region, both by generating an even larger migratory wave, and by experiencing the expansion of local gang groups to other nations. In April 2024, media sources reported that members of the 5 Seconds and Taliban gangs (the latter is allegedly not related to the Afghan talibans) committed acts of piracy, as they hijacked a cargo ship in one of the national terminals, and took the crew members and hostages. If modern piracy evolves in Haiti, this could consolidate Haiti as a Caribbean version of Somalia. Haitian migrants have encountered a wave of xenophobia in the land of their neighbor, El Salvador, which ultimately decided to close its borders with Haiti. The chaotic scenario of this country in March of this year also led to the announcement of heightened security measures and surveillance on the part of Jamaica. In the case of the United States, which is already facing a notable flow of migrants from the Americas and other places of the world, it was known that President Joe Biden’s administration ordered deportation flights to Haiti to return nationals of this country to their homeland recently. 

Future Outlook

Haiti is currently going through an asymmetric conflict. The main characteristic of asymmetric warfare pertains to the nature of the actors involved. In an asymmetric conflict, one party usually consists of the armed forces of a specific state, while the opposing party is typically a non-state armed actor. The objective of all parties involved in an asymmetric conflict is to legitimize their power. Thus, by employing technological, military, and/or economic means, they pursue essentially political or cultural goals. Haitian gangs intend to seize power by imposing their own terms and agenda directly, which they previously did through corrupt public officials. On March 29, 2024, Haitian gang leader Jimmy Chérizier stated in an interview that "until they are invited to the negotiating table, Haiti will not know peace." Gangs have become dangerous actors who have demonstrated no mercy when it comes to reaching their goals. The new security mission and its supporters will again tackle an enemy that is not easy to identify, as it smoothly camouflages itself into Haitian society; has no respect for international law of armed conflicts; and will expand the theater of operations to encompass the entire local community. Within this framework, the capability of the security mission members to produce strategic intelligence to stay ahead of gangs’ strikes is crucial.

At present, gangs fill the leadership vacuum that the government left. This means not only the empowerment of the gangs while undermining public institutions, but also that Haitian society identifies gang members as protection providers. In this sense, the security mission will, at least initially, struggle to get the locals’ collaboration, as betraying the gangs could lead to retaliations. Citizen engagement might be achieved through well-financed programs, but the primary issue consists of earning the Haitians’ trust. Many others before this Kenya-led security mission made attempts to provide an ultimate solution to the country’s problems and weren’t able to produce sustainable results in time. The locals are very aware of this and essentially rely on NGOs for medicine and food supply. Should current foreign intervention efforts fail to engage the local population to address economic hardship, education, and the roots of organized crime, then not only will this mission be at major risk, but future UN peacekeeping operations may face a “crisis of legitimacy.”

In Resolution 2699 (2023), adopted by the UN Security Council, a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission in Haiti was authorized for an initial period of twelve months following the adoption of the resolution. The resolution also stipulates that the MSS will be reviewed nine months after its adoption, and the cost of implementing this temporary operation will be covered by voluntary contributions and support from individual Member States and regional organizations. The budget for the security mission and the internal situation in Kenya will be crucial for the development of this operation. Reports from late June indicate that the mission is projected to include up to 2,500 police personnel, deployed in phases, with an annual cost of approximately $600 million. The same report notes that, as of April 2024, the UN-administered trust fund for the mission had received $18 million in contributions from Canada, France, and the U.S. Meanwhile, Kenya is currently facing substantial civil unrest following violent protests against a tax bill. The riots escalated to the point where part of the Kenyan parliament was set alight, and clashes between protesters and the police resulted in five fatalities. On June 25, 2024, Kenya's defense minister announced that the military had been deployed to assist the police during the "security emergency" and to protect "critical infrastructure." If social unrest continues, there is a high chance that internal security will become a more prominent concern for the Kenyan government than the MSS mission.

Safety and Security Recommendations

  • Stay informed about developments regarding the Multinational Security Support (MSS), and be prepared for potential social unrest and increased security presence.

  • Monitor weather conditions in Haiti to assess the current situation and prevent exposure to natural hazards.

  • Develop or update comprehensive security plans that include protocols for travel, accommodation, communication, and emergency response. Ensure all staff members are briefed and have access to necessary resources.

  • Conduct thorough research on the specific security situation in operational regions, paying close attention to the capital city, Port-au-Prince, where gang activity is increasingly high.

  • Regularly review and update security protocols and emergency response plans, conducting training and drills to ensure preparedness.

  • Build a reliable network of local contacts, including trusted NGOs, community leaders, and government officials, to obtain valuable information and assistance.

  • Engage with the international community to share information and best practices related to security management in challenging environments.

  • Carefully consider the decision to work in high-risk areas based on the organization's mission, duty of care resources and risk tolerance.


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