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Haiti on brink of civil war, Dominican Republic warns

People flee gang violence in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on January 30, 2024 (Richard PIERRIN)
People flee gang violence in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on January 30, 2024 (Richard PIERRIN)

Haiti is on the verge of civil war, and if the international community does not intervene quickly, the Dominican Republic will seek to protect itself, its president warned at the United Nations Tuesday.

Haiti has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, leaving the economy and public health system in tatters.

"The international community cannot allow the Haitian catastrophe to continue for one more day," President Luis Abinader, whose country shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, told reporters after he addressed a UN Security Council meeting on climate, food insecurity and conflict.

He said the Dominican Republic has been warning the world body since 2021, when president Jovenel Moise was assassinated, about the spiralling security crisis in Haiti.

Now the gang-plagued nation "is on the edge of civil war," Abinader said, pleading with the international community to fulfill its promises and send a multinational force to boost Haiti's beleaguered security forces.

Last year, the UN Security Council gave the green light for just such a force, to be led by Kenya. But it has been held up by months of logistics, a legal challenge in Nairobi, and funding shortfalls.

Abinader said the time for "promises" to fund the force was over.

"Either the money comes now or the collapse of Haiti will be irreversible... Dominican Republic will fight with all its might to avoid being dragged into the same abyss."

"Our slogan from now on will be: either we fight together to save Haiti, or we will fight alone to protect Dominican Republic," he said.

No elections have taken place in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, since 2016 and the presidency has remained vacant since Moise's slaying.

Gangs run rampant in large swaths of the country, and homicides more than doubled last year to nearly 4,800, according to a UN report released this month.

More than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti in January alone, making it the most violent month in the country in two years of conflict, the United Nations has said.

Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince have had a tumultuous relationship due to immigration and the construction of an anti-migrant wall along their shared border by the Dominican Republic, which is much more prosperous than its neighbor.

Tensions have risen in recent months with the construction by private Haitian operators of a canal drawing water from the Dajabon, a river marking the border.

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