Cite Soleil: The Most Dangerous Place in the World!

Cité Soleil is the most infamous and most violent slum of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The United Nations has declared it the most dangerous place in the world many times, and their peacekeepers are unable to patrol the streets of the ghetto. Extreme poverty, armed gangs, rape, AIDS and unemployment plague the community,  and the people in the“Sun City” have to live with virtually no sewers and electricity.

The neighbourhood was originally constructed in the 1950s to house sugar workers and their families, but as jobs in agriculture began to disappear, and more and more people from the countryside moved to find work in the city, the community of Cité Soleil grew rapidly. Due to political turmoil and a coup d’état in 1991, which led to a boycott of Haitian products, theindustrial sector was also given a crushing blow. Since then, chaos has been the norm for the almost 400,000 inhabitants of one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous areas. Sevenout of ten Haitians live on less than US$ 2 a day, and the situation is  even worse in the “Sun City”.

Since the 90s, more than 30 opposing factions have continued to terrorize the neighbourhood.Armed gangs control every block and murder, rape, kidnapping, looting and outrightlynchings are common. There is no presence of law enforcement in this large community, and the gangs bring their kidnapped victims into the ghetto. Cité Soleil has become a separate community and to leave the slum you have to go through armed checkpoints. Other importantpublic services are also non-existent, and clean drinking water is hard to come by. Red Cross has called the ghetto “a microcosm of all the ills in Haitian society”. Unemploymentand illiteracy only makes the complex situation even more hopeless, for a slum where most of the residents are children or young adults. All this is happening just a 2 hour flight from theidyllic coast of Florida.

Armed Gangs Roam the Streets of Cité Soleil

When the enormous 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Cité Soleil was not one of the parts that was hit the hardest. But since UN forces and relief workers had a hard time breaking into the slum though, the repercussions were severe. The people of the slum were mostly neglected and left to survive on their own, which only increased the anti Westernsentiment that was already strong. 4000 prisoners also escaped from the ruins of Haiti’s main prison after the earthquake. Many of them were gang members that returned back to the ghetto, and the crime rate rose even more. Since then there have been some improvements in the everyday life for the inhabitants of one of the biggest slums in the world. When thepolitical situation became more stable, the gangs and even death squads that roamed the streets lost some of their power. Border towns like Ciudad Juárez in Mexico and Mogadishu, Somalia are now considered more dangerous than Cité Soleil, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a long way to go. The fact that law enforcement has been able to establish some sort of presence in the ghetto and that the international community is investing millions to better the conditions, gives some hope for the future though.

Young people make up most of the slum’s population

There is a documentary from 2006 called Ghosts of Cité Soleil that shows how the gangsused to rule the slum, and how the political elite supplied these criminals with weapons to maintain their political power. We follow 2Pac and Bily, two brothers who are each in charge of two of the most powerful gangs in the ghetto, and how their chimeres (ghosts) control the“Sun City”. The inside look shows us the sense of hopelessness and despair that a news broadcast cannot give us. Some have criticized the movie for being a propaganda work forPresident Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his reign, when the criminals had free hands to do whatever they wanted as long as they supported him. I won’t say I highly recommend the movie, but if you are interested you can check out the trailer here.