As Haiti sank into gang-dominated chaos, Kenya promised to send officers to pacify the streets. Now a court has rejected that plan, and there does not seem to be another.
Gangs have taken over entire neighborhoods in Haiti’s capital, and killings have more than doubled in the past year, but for the organizers of the Port-au-Prince Jazz Festival, the show simply had to go on.
So while judges an ocean away deliberated whether to send a contingent of officers to pacify Haiti’s violence-riddled streets, festival organizers made do by shortening the length of the event to four days from eight, moving the acts from a public stage to a restricted hotel venue and replacing the handful of artists who canceled.
As 11.5 million Haitians struggle to feed their families and ride the bus or go to work because they fear becoming the victims of gunmen or kidnappers, they also are pushing forward, struggling to reclaim a safe sense of routine — whether or not that comes with the assistance of international soldiers.
“We need something normal,” said Miléna Sandler, the executive director of the Haiti Jazz Foundation, whose festival is taking place this weekend in Port-au-Prince, the capital. “We need elections.”
A Kenyan court on Friday blocked a plan to deploy 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti, the key element of a multinational force meant to help stabilize a nation besieged by murders, kidnappings and gang violence.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has sunk deeper into turmoil in the nearly three years since the president was assassinated. The terms of all mayors in the country ended almost four years ago, and the prime minister is deeply unpopular largely because he was appointed, not elected, and has been unable to restore order.