Cité Soleil, or “Sun City” is Haiti’s largest slum and its most dangerous. The gangs run this ghetto. Some parts are too dangerous for the Haitian National Police to patrol.
Roughly 500,000 population live in Cité Soleil, the majority in poverty. Outsiders need permission from the gangs to travel in certain areas. “Ahh, the gangs,” police inspector Lemastre Dominique told War Is Boring. “All sorts of actions — rape, murder, a little of everything. Guns, stealing motorbikes and cars.”
Law-and-order effectively collapsed following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and thousands of prisoners held in Haiti’s jails escaped back into the slums.
Policing Cité Soleil falls to the Haitian National Police, which has received millions of dollars in funding and equipment from the United States and the United Nations. But as number of U.N. peacekeepers in the country declines, a greater share of the security burden falls onto the National Police.
“I do the patrol, two-three guys, every day to protect the streets,” John Charles Johnson, a National Police officer, told us during a patrol. “We do our job to protect the population in Haiti.”
The National Police has a reputation for excessive force, but it’s a “stronger and more respected force today,” according to the International Crisis Group. The HNP has focused heavily on arresting kidnappers.
The HNP replaced the military as the country’s security force in 1995. Before Haiti abolished its military, soldiers controlled the population through the deployment of sheer terror. Soldiers executed dozens of people every month, killed children with machetes and displayed bodies in public to frighten people into silence.