Yvens Rumbold is the 32-year-old director of communications for Policité, a public policy think tank in Haiti. He lives in Delmas, part of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, with his mother and cousin. He shared his story in his own words. His account was slightly edited for length and clarity.
Every day there is something new. In Port-au-Prince, in the south of the city, there are gangs that are fighting against each other and they block the streets between Port-au-Prince and other towns. I never go down to downtown Delmas or downtown Port-au-Prince, close to the Parliament, because of the violence. Luckily, I’m not too far from the supermarket and I’m working from home because of covid. But because of the violence, I only go to three places: my friend’s house, the supermarket and home.
When you go to the streets, there is trash everywhere. Is there anyone in this city that is taking charge of the environment? There are gas shortages due to the gang violence in the south. I never go to the gas station. One of my friends lives in front of a gas station so he can go in the morning at 6 a.m. The last time he called me to come, there were six cars in line. And by the time they got to the fourth car in line, they closed.
Nothing is working. When we as Haitians ask, “What is one good thing that is functioning in the country?,” we cannot think of one. But when you think about who is responsible, you cannot just say Haiti is a failed state without looking at its past — and the interference of the international community.
On Wednesday morning, I was sleeping and my cousin woke me up because everyone in the neighborhood was talking about the assassination. I saw a lot of missed calls from people who were telling me the news. It was like 6 in the morning. I said, no, it can’t be true. I stayed home all day in the living room, monitoring the TV, the radio, the Internet. I could see on the TV that the streets were empty, totally empty.
I live with my cousin and my mom, and my mom is mentally ill. She doesn’t really grasp the situation right now. When the president was killed she wanted to go out. She sells things in the neighborhood — bar soaps, vegetables. I was telling her, “This is not safe right now.” I had to actually close the gate and hide the keys. The feeling was maybe people are going to go on the street, they’re going to ransack things. Nobody knew what was going to happen. I didn’t want her to risk her life.
Yesterday was the first time I decided to go out. I went out to see what was going on in town. I passed a gas station and there were long lines and people arguing, and I didn’t go. There’s a water crisis as well. People can’t find water to buy in my neighborhood. You can’t drink the tap water here, so you have to buy a big cistern. But the cisterns aren’t being delivered.
But I can kind of see a semblance of normal activity in Delmas. I saw police cars parked in their usual places. Young people were playing in their streets. People are selling their things in the street market. I was like, oh my God, life is going back to normal.
People in Haiti, they are used to events like this. I’m very shocked by the assassination of the president because he represents the country. I couldn’t believe that a commando could pass not only his personal security but the security of the neighborhood and kill him. It’s unbelievable. But at the same time, when you step back, you think of all of the events ongoing in the country and you think, huh, it’s not that surprising. Gangs are killing people not too far from the National Palace. Two weeks ago, the president was giving a press conference and you could hear the shots firing in the background. I just say, okay, anything could happen in this country.
I think people that can afford to leave Haiti will go. That has been happening in the last two years. I have personal friends that went to the U.S. and were supposed to come back, but they didn’t come back, they stayed. I think we’re going to see more of those cases.
I don’t want to go. I have electricity, I have water, I work from home. I can bear the stress. I can bear the insecurity, so far. I love Haiti, and I want to be engaged. I want to be a part. I love the idea of Haiti and the foundation of Haiti, what it represents to the world and to Black people all over the world. That’s the significance that is holding me in Haiti right now.
Ten years ago, I was optimistic. Right now, I don’t know. This optimism is shaken. But I want to try.