4 Presidential Assassinations, History of Gang Dominance in Haiti

Haiti Gangs Kenya Police Set to Face Killed 4 Presidents
A photo collage of Haiti gang and the Kenya General Service Unit
Haiti Times/The Independent

Following the government's move to send 1,000 police officers to Haiti to restore normalcy to the Caribbean nation, critics have questioned whether police officers will achieve their mission, considering that gangs control 80 percent of the country.

Although reports indicate that Kenyan police officers will not actively battle the gangs and will instead guard key government infrastructure, including airports, seaports, and main roads, questions have emerged on the capacity of Kenyan law enforcement to deal with the vicious gangs if such a situation presents itself.

As it stands, the country is in a full-blown security crisis.

Haitian politicians are deeply interconnected with the gangs, and the police are no longer able to keep them at bay.

So dire is the situation that gangs have taken over the country and control up to 90% of Haiti’s capital. 

This has led to a humanitarian crisis, as most parts of Haiti are no-go zones with the gangs erecting checkpoints, blocking supply routes leaving many without food.

Even in light of these facts, President William Ruto has insisted Kenya will send Kenyan officers to help quell the gangs.

So how did the North American country get here?

Haiti Gangs That Kenya Police Is Set to Face Killed 5 Presidents
A neighborhood in Haiti

After gaining independence, Haiti experienced a significant increase in insecurity and the dominance of gangs, leading to the tragic assassinations of four sitting presidents. 

This wave of instability and violence can be traced back to the tumultuous post-independence period when Haiti became a breeding ground for political and economic chaos, eventually prompting the United States to launch a military intervention in 1915.

The most recent of these assassinations was that of Jovenel Moïse, who served as President of Haiti from February 2017 until his tragic death in July 2021.

Jovenel Moïse

In the assassination of President Moïse, he was fatally wounded at his private residence by a group of 26 heavily armed individuals, during which the Haitian first lady, Martine Moïse, was also shot.

According to the Haitian Police, 15 suspects were arrested, while 4 assassins were killed.

Following the assassination, Haiti's security forces engaged in a gun battle with the assailants, further plunging the nation into chaos.

Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, revealed in an interview that the assassins had posed as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents when they gained access to the President’s home at night.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Jean-Jacques Dessalines is the Founder of the Republic of Haiti, having initially served as Governor for nine months before becoming the country's first Emperor.

Emperor Dessalines ruled for 2 years and 9 months, from 1804 to 1806, until his administration encountered formidable opposition and resistance. 

Historical records indicate Generals in the Southern region of the country turned against him.

Dessalines was ambushed by a group of officers, while en route to the capital, who fatally shot him at Pont-Rouge on October 17, 1806.

Cincinnatus Leconte

Cincinnatus Leconte's presidency was brief, spanning only one year from August 1911 to August 1912. 

He ascended to the position of President of Haiti on August 14, 1911,  in a victory marked by violence.

However, opposition to his rule swiftly gained momentum within the country.

He tragically lost his life in August 1912, while asleep at the Presidential residence. Reports indicate that the building was rocked by a devastating explosion.

Cincinnatus, his grandson, and 300 Haitian soldiers lost their lives in the blast lending credence to the argument he was assassinated.

Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam

Jean Vilbrun succeeded President Davilmar Theodore who spent only three months in power and served as President of Haiti for only four months. 

Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, a political leader and medical doctor opposed Jean Vilbrun's dalliance with the United States. 

According to historical reports, Dr. Rosalvo was a well-respected leader of the anti-U.S. movement in the country and led his followers and allies in Port-au-Prince to overthrow President Jean Vilbrun. 

In his response to the opposition, President Jean Vilbrun executed 167 political prisoners, making the tension against his presidency increase in the capital. 

Following the revolution, he fled to the French embassy to seek refuge where an angry crowd dragged him into the street and tore his body to pieces.

History records indicate that the rebels beat him and threw his limp body over the embassy's iron fence. His body was ripped into pieces and paraded through the capital's various neighborhoods. 

Kenya's Mission in Haiti

Kenya with the backing of the United States to the tune of Ksh14.8 billion ($100 million) is preparing to send police officers to the Caribbean nation to restore normalcy in the troubled country.

Both President William Ruto and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Dr. Alfred Mutua have voiced their support for the move exuding confidence that the operation will yield the desired results.

"Haiti is the ultimate test of international solidarity and collective action. The international community has failed this test so far and thus let down a people very, very badly,’’ President Ruto noted in his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 21.

"We expect the UN mandate within the next few weeks. After that, we will deploy to Haiti. We have also started teaching some of our officers French as well," Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Dr. Alfred Mutua said on September 26.

Several nations have thrown their support behind Kenya’s initiative to send police to Haiti.

However, Kenya's bid encountered a hitch on September 27 after a group of Haitian-American elected officials wrote to United States President Joe Biden asking him to withdraw support for Kenya its Peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

President Joe Biden at his office in Washington DC on August 4, 2023.
President Joe Biden at his office in Washington DC on August 4, 2023.
Joe Biden
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