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Gangs are increasing attacks on boats off the coast of P-au-P


As a modus operandi, the bandits use motorized fishing boats, which makes their ability to strike much faster

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It was three o’clock in the afternoon on June 23, 2023, when the boat « La vie des enfants », loaded with goods and carrying a hundred people on board, left the Jérémie wharf for the commune of Arcahaie.

A light breeze swept across the horizon and « during the trip the sea wasn’t bad, » says Holdy, a passenger who was on board the boat.

« La vie des enfants » was accompanied by two other small boats « Pa prese di sa » and « Maranatha », which sailed a little further back.

Suddenly, around five o’clock, a longboat containing several hooded and heavily armed men burst in and chased one of the two boats.

Alerted by a passenger to the presence of the bandits who were chasing the first boat, the « La vie des enfants » crew members tried to speed up. However, their efforts were in vain, as the boat was overloaded with cargo and passengers.

Quickly, the first two boats were captured and forcibly diverted under the leadership of armed bandits, to the vicinity of the Minoterie, an area under the control of the « 5 Secondes » gang of the Village de Dieu.

Read also: Gangs engage in boat piracy in Haiti

Next came the sailboat « La vie des enfants ». The passengers were visibly distraught when 5 masked men boarded the vessel. Three of them seized all phones. After the search, they beat up Captain Bereno Louis.

The passengers were visibly distraught when five masked men boarded the rowboat.

At around 7 a.m., « the bandits entered their stronghold with us, around la Minoterie, » says Holdy, who also remembers hearing gunshots during the brutal murder of Captain Bereno Louis. His corpse was burned in the vicinity.

The passengers spent the night in the bandits’ stronghold. The next day, they were all embarked on one of the sailboats heading for Arcahaie around noon.

The boat « La vie des enfants » was destroyed by the bandits, almost two months after the events. Daniel Pierre, owner of the sailboat, revealed that he had « spent 150,000 gourdes [in vain] to recover the boat ». The bandits’ persistence has left the father, in coastal shipping since 1997, with no other recourse.

« The goods the ship was carrying could be valued at 650,000 gourdes, » says Kervens Lubin, the sailboat’s captain.

At about 7 o’clock, the bandits entered their stronghold with us, near the flour mill.

This is not an isolated incident. Members of the notorious « 5 Secondes » gang, dissatisfied with controlling the stretch of Martissant that leads to the south of the country, are violently chasing and kidnapping more and more small sailboats bound for Carrefour or Arcahaie, according to interviews collected by AyiboPost in the coastal shipping sector.

Read also: Pictures | Haitians push back the sea in Carrefour for “fè tè”. A dangerous practice.

Attacks are on the rise, while overland routes are becoming increasingly impassable due to gang violence.

As a modus operandi, the bandits use motorized fishing boats, which makes their ability to strike much faster in a context where ordinary boats are slow and often filled with goods, Gilbert Guichard, an inspector at the Haitian Coast Guard, told AyiboPost.

According to testimonies, the bandits also have binoculars in order to spot boats from a distance.

At least 53 people fell victim to piracy during the quarter. This represents 35.33% of kidnapping cases in the country during this period.

« In the beginning, the kidnappings were recorded in Cité Soleil. But, at a certain point, when the Coast Guard began to monitor the surroundings, the bandits moved to the Minoterie d’Haïti, » says Gilbert Guichard.

Read also: Haitian aquaculture on the brink of collapse

In 2023, several notable cases were recorded by the Maritime and Navigation Service of Haiti (SEMANAH).

This includes the attacks on the sailboat « Dye Inosan » in February 2023, the abduction of « Pa prese di sa » in April 2022 and most recently, in June, the hijacking of the three aforementioned sailboats.

SEMANAH acknowledges its impotence. « The institution does not have an armed wing, it is up to the Coast Guard to assume its responsibilities, » says Érold Champagne, SEMANAH’s coordinator of territorial representations.

The Coast Guard is also powerless. Gilbert Guichard mentions that they do not have effective means and equipment to sail the seas. Among other things, the inspector mentions a persistent lack of fuel, the defective patrol boats, etc.

Read also: Insecurity and corruption plague maritime traffic regulation in Haiti

Jean-Marie Djouly, the wife of Captain Bereno Louis of the boat « La vie des enfants », learned the news of her husband’s death at around three o’clock in the morning on June 24, 2023. « When I heard the news of his death, » the mother of three told AyiboPost, « I felt like I was dissociating. »

Today, Jean-Marie Djouly has to rely on the generosity of some relatives to support his children.

By Jerome Wendy Norestyl

Cover image: Passengers aboard a sailboat named ‘Virewon’ in Port-de-Paix, located in the Nord-Ouest department. | © AyiboPost

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Journaliste-rédacteur à AyiboPost, Jérôme Wendy Norestyl fait des études en linguistique. Il est fasciné par l’univers multimédia, la photographie et le journalisme.