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Caribbean updates: Haiti’s Bwa Kale reduces kidnappings, raises concerns (May 31 2023)

Just Caribbean Updates:Bwa Kale reduces kidnappings, raises concerns
Just Caribbean Updates:Bwa Kale reduces kidnappings, raises concerns

Violence by armed gangs in Haiti — where criminal groups control large swaths of territory — has fallen in the past month, since the emergence of a vigilante justice movement, according to a local rights group. At least 160 alleged gang members were hunted down, burned alive and lynched across the country since April 24. (Le National)

The Centre d’Analyse et de Recherche en Droits de l’Homme (CARDH) said that kidnappings dropped drastically in the month after a group of Port-au-Prince residents lynched and set fire to more than a dozen suspected gang members on April 24. The group documented 43 gang-related murders in that time period, compared to 146 homicides in the preceding month. (Reuters)

“Without making a value judgment, the ‘Bwa Kale’ movement has in just one month produced convincing, visible results; fear has changed sides,” CARDH said in the report. “Both kidnappings and gang-related killings have fallen drastically.”

The “Bwa Kale” movement — Haitian Creole for “peeled wood” — reflects frustration over insecurity in a country increasingly described as a failed state.

The economic and security crises have left people feeling “like a bwa kale, a branch without bark. The majority of roads in the country are blocked. The economy is dry. People are sometimes skin and bones and in many cases almost no possessions. Faced with the problems associated with armed violence, they have almost nothing to lose. Most of Port-au-Prince is under the control of armed criminal groups,” explains DÈYÈ MÒN ENFO, a Haitian journalist collective.

But rights advocates warn that lynch mobs are not a security solution. Vigilantes could be targeting people who are not gang members — either by mistake or intentionally to settle unrelated scores — and could foster further violence. (Washington Post)

CARDH said Bwa Kale must be replaced by a permanent security solution to avoid brutal gang retaliations. (Washington Times)

More Haiti

  • CARICOM appointed an Eminent Persons Group for Haiti, consisting of former Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie; former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding; and former Saint Lucia Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony. (Caricom Today)

  • “Haiti fatigue” is a danger for CARICOM efforts to aid the country, including a new eminent persons group on Haiti, but “there is a possibility, too, of Haitians becoming fed up of outsiders, even those from nearby and with whom they can relate, telling them what they need to do. They might, in the circumstance, stop listening”, warns the Jamaica Gleaner’s editorial board.

  • The United Nations missions and international initiatives in Haiti have lacked a vision of state-building, resulting in unsatisfactory results and a deepening crisis in the country. Haiti needs a focus on constructing and strengthening state institutions, argues former Dominican Republic diplomat Flavio Darío Espinal in Global Americans.

Democratic Governance

  • St. Kitts and Nevis boasts a strong economy but there are serious concerns that its laws do not go far enough to minimize or stamp out corruption and corrupt practices, according to the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network, in a piece on the country’s Citizen by Investment Programme. Attempts are now being made to remedy that situation through legislative amendments but progress is slow.

Food Security

  • A total of 4.9 million people in Haiti – nearly half of the country’s population – are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

Economics and Finance

  • Theo Maret does a deep dive on Suriname’s May IMF debt restructuring agreement. Suriname’s agreement includes a high-fangled security pledging to hand creditors a cut of a potential oil bonanza — after an initial $100m of oil royalties goes to the government, creditors will be able to claim 30% of the yearly oil royalties from block 58 until 2050. It’s a kind of sweetener that often hurts developing countries, reports Bloomberg.

  • Grenadians lost more than EC$100,000 through unauthorized use of debit and credit cards for the period 2015 to 2022, according to records from the FIU, reports the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network.

Climate Justice, Environment, and Energy

  • A growing community of campaigners, scientists and now governments are raising an urgent alarm about decisions to be taken in July by the International Seabed Authority. They argue that unless immediate action is taken, it might be too late to halt the devastating environmental and ecological impact of mining the global high seas, reports the Guardian.

  • Guyana received 94.5 million U.S. dollars in 2022 as royalty for its sweet light crude in the Stabroek Block — and gave away 290 million U.S. dollars in taxes to multinational oil corporation, ExxonMobil, according to Kaieteur News.

  • Caribbean journalists are finding it essential to report on climate justice — many argue that addressing shortfalls such as limited resources, lack of scientific expertise, and insufficient coverage can lead to more effective communication and awareness about climate change, reports Cari-Bois News. (Via Global Voices.)

  • A group of Guyanese Indigenous women armed with drones are helping to measure the carbon held in remote coastal ecosystems — data that could nudge the government to create policies and programs to protect critical areas, reports the Associated Press.

  • EcoVybz Podcast interviews Guyanese attorney-at-law Saeed Hamid, who does a deep dive into the plastics pollution issues plaguing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and discusses the upcoming sessions on the road to a global plastics treaty.

Indigenous Rights

  • A fifteen-year-old girl was accused of intentionally starting a fire that killed 19 people in Guyana, last week. The doors to the boarding school dormitory that serves Indigenous communities were locked to prevent the female students from sneaking out to socialize, reports the New York Times.

  • The fire raised many calls for government accountability and questions about unequal access to education. (See last week’s Just Caribbean Updates.) However, the sister of one victim also issued a plea for politicians to refrain from exploiting the tragedy for political purposes.


  • Lets Talk Justice: Examining the state of the Juvenile Remand System: Is there a need for reform? — Jamaicans for Justice


  • El Toque discusses the exodus of artists who have emigrated from Cuba in 2022 and 2023, highlighting the challenges they face and the impact it has on the country’s cultural scene.


  • Jamaica’s government is celebrating the anniversary of the Windrush departure — but what legacy is being celebrated, asks Emma Lewis at Petchary’s Blog.

Culture and History

  • Scientists have found what they believe to be the earliest known evidence of wine drinking in the Americas, inside ceramic artefacts recovered from Puerto Rico and examined using molecular analysis techniques — Repeating Islands

  • Disney’s new Little Mermaiddes is set in the Caribbean “a refreshing change, and one that makes sense for the live-action film,” writes Mae Abdulbaki in Screen Rant. “And since the movie’s cast is so diverse, a fictitious Caribbean setting works all the more.” (Via Repeating Islands)

  • On a London stage, Once on this Island, based on a novel by the Trinidadian-born American writer Rosa Guy, is a different reworking of the story† of The Little Mermaid. It takes place in Haiti, where the poor live in a separate realm to the light-skinned elite. (Times of London via Repeating Islands)


  • Sign the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition list of demands for the Bonn Climate Conference (SB 58).

  • Contribute to Island City Lab, which works to advance the collective effort of city-making in small island nations across the Caribbean.

  • Join civil society organizations from across the Caribbean calling on the U.S. Biden administration to support multilateral, global action that will mobilize the tools and resources needed for the Caribbean to address climate change.

  • Apply — Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility — Regional Internship Programme


Just Caribbean Updates

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