Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Vigilantes in Haiti strike back at gangsters with brutal street justice

Published:Sunday | June 4, 2023 | 3:48 PM
Nertil Marcelin, leader of a community group, distributes machetes to residents in an initiative to resist gangs seeking to take control of their neighborhood, in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, May 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Old cars, used tyres, and barbed wire block off the biggest neighbourhood in the capital of Haiti.

Gun-toting gangsters have been robbing, raping and murdering the innocent.

Weak or corrupt police and officials have done little, or worse.

Now, the people are taking action and a wave of brutal vigilante justice is roiling Haiti, concentrated in this capital of about one million.

The vigilantes close off neighbourhoods.

They stone and often chop the limbs of suspected gangsters, behead them and set them afire, sometimes while they are still alive.

Vigilantes have killed at least 164 people since the movement dubbed “bwa kale” began in April, according to the United Nations.

The name means “peeled wood” in Haitian Creole and insinuates male dominance and power in street slang.

“If you're not from here, we're going to kill you,” said Leo, a community leader who granted the AP access to the Turgeau neighbourhood so that journalists could see how the neighbourhood is responding to the gangs estimated to control 80% of Port-au-Prince.

He did not provide his last name to protect his family.

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