Évelyne Trouillot is a novelist and poet who lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In the early hours of June 30, I received news of the brutal killing of Antoinette Duclaire, known as Netty, a young Haitian journalist and feminist activist who I had last seen marching during a protest. One week later, on July 7, I learned of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, de facto president of Haiti.

Human rights organizations in Haiti report that, between August 2020 and May 2021, at least 81 people were killed violently. But how do you count despair? How do you measure the heaviness of feet across the dangerous streets of my city? How do I recall the frequent losses without turning my friends into mere statistics? When one blow evokes another, does it lose some of its intensity?

I am reminded of a long series of violent attacks: the savage killing of my friend, poet and educator Farah Martine Lhérisson and her husband Lavoisier Lamothe in front of their son in June 2020. The illegal arrest of another couple, friends as well, and others, who spent months in prison. The killing of Evelyne Sincère, a high school senior whose body was found lying in a pile of trash.

I am inhabited by dozens and dozens of people who fell victim to the violence: the massacres of La Saline, Bel-Air and Cité Soleil, the disappearance and likely killing of journalist Vladimir Legagneur and killing of Monferrier Dorval, president of the Port-au-Prince bar. All the victims, even those whose names I don’t know, shout their rage through me, like an immense wave of indignation and sadness, growing forcibly and shouting the words “Enough! This has to stop!”

We have been living in an atmosphere of terror for months. Just two weeks ago, I realized it had been more than 10 months since I had seen one of my best friends, though we both live in Port-au-Prince. Of course, there is fear of covid-19, but the rampant insecurity, kidnappings and killings are more terrifying than the prospect of infection.

The populations of Martissant, Fontamara, and the South of Port-au-Prince have been held hostage by armed gangs for years. When they are lucky, they manage to take refuge with a friend or family member. More often, they remain trapped, terrorized and left with the feeling that they have no recourse. They are threatened, beaten and humiliated; often, some of them fall victim to a stray bullet; too many times, young girls and women are harassed and raped.

Now, the voices come to me, stronger than ever. Thousands of women and men, young and old, middle aged and disabled, with white hair and with dreadlocks, with picket signs and Haitian flags, shouting their courage and their desire to live decent lives in this country. In a country free from foreign interference, inequality and impunity, corruption and ugliness.

Even if we cannot identify the individuals responsible for each violent death and attack over the past 2½ years, we know the ultimate responsibility lies with the incompetence and indifference of Moïse and Haiti’s ruling party, the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK). Their deaths are the tragic consequences of political choices that have allowed violence to continue with impunity for individual gain.

Since Moïse’s assassination, the population has been oddly quiet and tranquil, wary of what is to come. Meanwhile, politicians are meeting openly and secretly, vultures vying for the reins of political power to gain access to more wealth in a country where more than 70 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day. At the same time, activists and grass-roots organizations that have been fighting for the population’s interests are gathering and watching. Will there be a national consensus? Will the political forces unite to find a national solution? What will be the population’s response to that solution?

In the past week, I thought about the turmoil into which Moïse’s death would plunge the country. I thought about the silence and indifference that our cries of protest could not pierce. The great powers are still trying to impose their view, supporting a government that the majority of the population rejects. Our protests went largely unnoticed by the international community and foreign media, who for many reasons decided we were not worthy of their front pages. After all, there was no earthquake, no coup d’état, simply thousands of people taking to the streets, willing to die to denounce violence and corruption in a small nation that, from its creation, showed the world the true value and meaning of liberty.

When I heard of the killing of Moïse, I thought that his death, like those of so many others, could have been avoided. But I remain first and foremost concerned about my fellow citizens. I worry about the blows that threaten us more than ever. Yet I am also reminded of Netty Duclaire, her courage and strength of mind, and of the many others, younger and older, who are determined to fight for a better system where every life is invaluable.

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