Tensions Rise as Dominican Republic Closes Border Amidst River Massacre Canal Dispute with Haiti

Port-au-Prince, September 15, 2023 – The longstanding dispute over the construction of a canal on the River Massacre, which straddles the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, has escalated dramatically. In a move that has sent shockwaves through the region, Dominican President Luis Abinader announced the closure of all border crossings between the two nations, effective from 6:00 AM on September 15, 2023.

The decision to close the border comes as a response to ongoing construction activities in Ouanaminthe, located in the northeast of Haiti, where a canal project on the River Massacre has been a source of contention. President Abinader stated that the closure encompasses all forms of border crossings, including land, sea, and air routes.

Haiti’s interim government swiftly responded to the Dominican Republic’s decision, acknowledging the closure in an official statement. “The Republic of Haiti can sovereignly decide on the exploitation of its natural resources, as it shares the River Massacre with the Dominican Republic, and has the full right to make catches in accordance with the 1929 agreement,” the statement asserted. It further emphasized Haiti’s commitment to protecting the interests of its people.

The statement from Haiti also highlighted the ongoing diplomatic discussions aimed at resolving the dispute. These discussions, facilitated by a delegation from Haiti and their Dominican counterparts, were reportedly making progress. However, the unilateral decision to close the border has disrupted these talks.

President Abinader has accused Haiti’s government, led by Ariel Henry, of failing to control its territory, adding to the tensions in the region. Despite this, Haiti expressed its commitment to dialogue, noting that negotiations were on the right track before the border closure was announced.

Efforts to find a lasting solution to the equitable use of the shared water resources of the River Massacre have been ongoing. Representatives from both governments met in Santo Domingo on September 13, 2023, in an attempt to address this pressing issue. Subsequently, a closed-door meeting took place on September 14, 2023, lasting over two hours, with both Dominican and Haitian authorities discussing the canal construction dispute.

In response to the escalating tensions, Haiti’s government has called for the protection of lives and property on both sides of the border and urged adherence to international conventions governing the matter. They have also vowed to ensure that irrigation in the Maribahoux plain proceeds under proper supervision, involving relevant ministries such as Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, and Environment.

The Dominican Republic’s measures include not only the border closure but also the suspension of visa issuance to Haitians, a ban on entry for those involved in the canal construction, and a request for a meeting of the bilateral Joint Commission to address the issue.

As tensions simmer between Haiti and the Dominican Republic over the River Massacre canal project, a notable aspect emerges: the unwavering solidarity of the Haitian community with the local farmers and their struggle to protect their natural resources. In the face of the border closure and mounting diplomatic tensions, Haitians from all walks of life have come together to express their support for the farmers in Ouanaminthe and their determination to safeguard the River Massacre. From social media campaigns to peaceful protests, the Haitian people have shown remarkable unity in standing up for their shared resources and the principles of sovereignty.

This grassroots movement reflects the broader sentiment in Haiti, where citizens are committed to defending their nation’s interests and ensuring that the exploitation of natural resources is carried out responsibly and equitably. The Haitian government’s call for calm and adherence to international conventions has resonated with its citizens, who are determined to protect their land and the livelihoods of those dependent on it. As the River Massacre canal dispute continues to unfold, the solidarity and resilience of the Haitian community serve as a testament to their commitment to safeguarding their nation’s natural heritage and pursuing a just resolution to this complex issue. It is a poignant reminder that, in the face of adversity, unity can be a powerful force for change and diplomacy. The world watches with hope that a peaceful resolution can be found for the benefit of all involved.

Farah Lamercie Augustin

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