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Three Haitians threatened by foreign soldiers in the bay of Port-au-Prince


The incident occurred in a context where the Haitian government provides little information on foreign missions in national waters

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Half a dozen soldiers on board a small vessel aimed their weapons at the three occupants of a canoe from Petit-Goâve, going to Gonâve, in the bay of Port-au-Prince, at the end of the month of March 2024, according to witnesses.

“They ordered me to empty the bags, turn off the motors and then to turn around, which I did,” reported Jean Robert Cinéus, one of the occupants of the Petit-Goâve canoe.

The soldiers’ boat belonged to a French unit sent to evacuate European nationals, according to Gilbert Guichard, a coast guard inspector.

They ordered me to empty the bags, turn off the motors and then to turn around, which I did

Jean Robert Cinéus

More than 170 French citizens and nearly 70 nationals from European and non-EU countries were able to leave Haiti, announced the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

“Warships generally fear any incursion by small foreign boats in their vicinity,” analyzes Guichard in response to the allegations of aggression brought forth by Jean-Robert Cinéus.

When asked about the incident, the man said he was ‘traumatized’. “I was traveling on my own territory, he said. It is a terrible humiliation for me.”

Contacted by AyiboPost, the French Embassy in Haiti did not comment.

This incident occurred in a context where the Haitian government communicates little regarding foreign missions in national waters. This lack of transparency is fueling conspiracy theories.

« Nobody notifies us of the presence of these boats. And sometimes we get scared, » Petit-Homme Missondor, a native of Gonâve Island, tells AyiboPost.

He revealed that he regularly sees foreign boats off the island’s coast.

« I think these foreign boats take advantage of these patrols to exploit the country’s resources, » says Missondor.

There is no evidence of foreigners illegally exploiting the country’s mines at sea.

Most foreign boats come to fish illegally in Haiti.

Others traffic drugs.

Read also: Gangs engage in boat piracy in Haiti

But maritime cooperation contracts exist between the Haitian State and foreign countries.

The United States cooperates closely with Haiti on maritime surveillance issues.

“There is no agreement, past, present or planned, to cede part of Haitian waters to the United States,” the country’s embassy in Haiti maintains to AyiboPost.

Nevertheless, American boats patrol Haitian waters to fight against illegal immigration and stem illicit trafficking.

In May 2024, the American government, via the American Embassy, ​​reported to the Maritime and Navigation Service of Haiti (SEMANAH) the arrival of a US Navy patrol boat in the bay of Port-au-Prince and the Gulf of Gonâve to control the boats entering and leaving the area.

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

According to an agreement dated October 17, 1997, signed between Haiti and the USA to combat illicit drug trafficking in the maritime environment, the presence of a Haitian agent remains necessary for these exercises.

“Initially, the command of this American patrol vessel required the presence of a coast guard on board throughout their activities, explains Guichard. Later, they did not.”

American boats are practically present 24 hours a day in the area which includes Caracol Bay and Môle Saint-Nicolas, according to Gilbert Guichard.

The United States is also helping SEMANAH, which along with the coast guard, should ensure surveillance of maritime traffic in Haiti.

There is no agreement, past, present or planned, to cede any portion of Haitian waters to the United States.

After the earthquake, the coast guard received five boats from Cooperation Canadian as a gift.

These vessels have now reached their end-of-life. Only three are functioning with difficulty, a senior official at the institution reveals to AyiboPost.

The USA helped buy the parts to repair them, but they are so costly that the latter promised to help buy new boats.

Haitians have been waiting for these boats since January.

At the same time, the country’s bandits take to the sea, transporting drugs and attacking merchants and passengers.

Alerted to a suspicious presence in the bay of Port-au-Prince, several coast guards discovered and exchanged fire with six bandits aboard a boat filled with weapons at the end of January 2024, according to  a senior executive of the institution who requests anonymity for security reasons.

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

Four bandits were killed and the other two managed to escape, according to the source. 

By Junior Legrand & Widlore Mérancourt

Cover image: A Haitian boy watches American sailors aboard inflatable boats. January 19, 2010 | AFP PHOTO/US NAVY/Kristopher Wilson

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Junior Legrand est journaliste à AyiboPost depuis avril 2023. Il a été rédacteur à Sibelle Haïti, un journal en ligne.