Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, senior reporter Daniel Grandclément has made the island one of his favorite subjects.

In 2016, “Les Enfants du port” told the story of the miserable daily life of Idsom, a young one-legged man left to his own devices, or that of Richie, a cripple whose wheelchair had been stolen.

It is again with this particular attention to the fate of children that the former TF1 journalist left in January.

Its objective: to help a disabled child obtain an operation for his clubfoot.

On site, Daniel Grandclément must deal with particularly difficult filming conditions as the country sinks into ever deeper chaos since the assassination in July 2021 of President Jovenel Moïse and for which his widow has just been indicted.

Almost everywhere, gangs rule the roost and violence is unleashed.

According to the UN, the month of January 2024 was “the most violent in more than two years”.

At least 806 people were killed, injured or kidnapped during this period and some 300 gang members were also killed or injured, making a total of 1,108 people.

To this endemic violence has been added in recent weeks deadly clashes between the police and demonstrators demanding the departure of the head of government, Ariel Henry.

According to an agreement reached in December 2022, the current Prime Minister was to organize elections so as to leave power on February 7, 2024. In this small poor Caribbean country, no elections have taken place since 2016. 

See also Claude Joseph, former Haitian Prime Minister: “Ariel Henry provokes a civil war in Haiti”

In these conditions, working as a Western journalist is a challenge.

Daniel Grandclément is, however, a regular at extreme documentaries: the great reporter is particularly known for having embarked at the risk of his life with Somali migrants who were trying to reach the coasts of Yemen.

A film entitled "The Martyrs of the Gulf of Aden" which won him the Grand Prize in 2008 at the International Festival of Major News Reporting and Society Documentaries (FIGRA). 

In this interview with France 24, Daniel Grandclément talks about this new extraordinary journey to Haiti and shares his thoughts on the destiny of an island which is sinking a little more each day into violence and despair.

France 24: After "les enfants du Port", a documentary series on street children in Haiti, what led you to return to the island?

The main goal was to help a child I had met on a previous trip escape from slavery.

This is what we call in Haiti the “remainders”, poor children who are abandoned by their parents and entrusted to slightly richer people who are supposed to raise them.

In reality, they live in conditions of semi-slavery.

This boy had a club foot which was very disabling.

So I came back hoping to get him to see a doctor who claimed he could put his leg back straight and allow him to live a normal life.

I also shot images and during this report I was able to investigate the wave of children joining gangs.

Overall in Haiti, children are mistreated and the “stay-withs” often prefer to join the ranks of armed gangs rather than stay with a master who mistreats them.

On social networks, we see a lot of kids armed with machine guns who shout their hatred of their enemies but I have also met people who try to put these young people back on the right path.

Read also: Haiti more than ever prey to gang violence

How do

you prepare

 a report in a city 80% controlled by criminal groups?

This report was very different from those I did in other years because currently we can no longer walk in Port-au-Prince.

Before it was dangerous, but now we have really turned a corner.

Now there are too many kidnappings, dozens per day.

As a white person, it's absolutely impossible to get out because the people who kidnap you are guaranteed to receive a good ransom.

Besides, there are no more Westerners in the hotels.

We have the impression that the city has been completely deserted.

Port-au-Prince is like a city at war.

So we're stuck in the hotel.

When I go out, it's surrounded by my fixer and often by one or two other people and even then, I have to hide.

It was a very complicated shoot.

My fixer was attacked and my camera was stolen. 

People flee gang violence in the Pétion-ville district of Port-au-Prince, January 30, 2024. © Richard Pierrin, AFP

You are a very seasoned journalist, used to difficult and dangerous reporting, but have you been afraid?  

Yes one time.

To reach the Adventist hospital where the child was to have surgery, you had to go to Carrefour, in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince and cross two different gang roadblocks.

To avoid them, I had to go through the mountains, that is to say, travel three hours on the back of a small motorcycle.

But on a bend, I see that there is a group of people who have stretched a chain on the road.

It was a small gang.

It is enough for five or six young people in a village to find two pistols and a rifle and they can stop travelers to demand something, just like bandits in the Middle Ages.

We were stopped and threatened with kidnapping but eventually my driver gave them some money and I was able to pass.

There, I was afraid.

Otherwise, as a general rule, I'm not afraid or I wouldn't do this job.

The plan for a law enforcement force deployed by Kenya seems compromised since its rejection at the end of January by the High Court of Justice in Nairobi.

What could improve the situation in Haiti a little?

There is no longer a State in Haiti.

Obviously, the Americans don't want to go there and it doesn't seem to be working for Kenya.

In any case, the Haitians do not want the arrival of an external intervention force.

The economic situation is increasingly bad and daily life is punctuated by the fight between gangs.

This is what makes the news with kidnappings.

All people who have little social importance remain cloistered at home and everyone who can leave does so.

In reality, I do not see a glimmer of hope in the political situation in Haiti.

I think we talk too little about the influence of voodoo on the island, including in its political life but also in the functioning of gangs.

Most of the time, armed gangs kill people in a ceremonial manner.

There, people believe in it.

I believe that this is very specific to Haiti and that perhaps partly explains all of its difficulties. 

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