Tim*, a Jamaican fisherman who claims that he used to barter meat and fish products for ammunition in Haiti between 2013 and 2017, is adamant that he will never set foot on that soil again even if he was being paid millions of US dollars.
The 62-year-old said he will stay as far away from Haitian waters whenever he and his colleagues are out fishing as they fear being caught up in the ongoing gang violence that is crippling the French-speaking Caribbean country.
"All di gyal dem a gun gyal over deh so. Mi nah go deh so make anybody limb mi up. If di people dem a do dem own suh, yuh can imagine weh dem would a do to mi. Mi is not a rich man but all if dem a offer mi whole heap a money mi nah go back a da place deh," he said. Tim said that he was always able to elude authorities throughout his travels, earning good money on each successful trip.
"Mi know other man who go buy gun but mi ting never big like that. I used to trade the meat for shots, all type a shots from for likkle to big gun. When mi come back a Jamaica sometimes mi sleep fi days the way mi tired. But mi only sleep after mi drop off the goods to di man who send mi out and mi can't tell yuh what happen after," he said.
Earlier this month, news emerged that Haiti was on the brink of a civil war. One humanitarian group in the country warned that violence between criminal gangs and civilians was escalating. Vigilante killings are reportedly surging in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, where men are being slain and set ablaze in the streets. Some of the bodies were left strewn along the road that leads to the home of former President Jovenel Moise, who was killed in July 2021.
Tim said he has been keeping watch on the situation and recalled how he used to walk about freely and fearlessly in the country. He said he was a bit hesitant to visit at first, but realised that many rumours were untrue.
"Mi mind flash on obeah and witches and dem ting deh, plus people use to make it look like once yuh enter the country, mi stand a chance of dying. But that wasn't the case," he said. Spending days at a time in Haiti, Tim said he would hear of gang wars but had never seen anyone being killed. He also spoke about the infrastructure in areas of Port-au-Prince.
"Mi nuh know if dem really poor. Dem might nuh have lot a food and sometimes di place seem cramp up but mi wouldn't say poor," he said. Tim said in 2015, he met a young woman who tickled his fancy. He said he could not utter a word in French but somehow managed to understand her native creole.
"She was a nice girl. Is a man over deh did gimi har still. She did all wah come back home wid mi but dat couldn't work because mi live with woman. Nice likkle catty mi a tell yuh man," he said. Tim hasn't ventured into Haitian territory since 2017 and claimed he is no longer associated with 'bandoloo' business. He said that while he continues to make a living as a fisherman, he will never venture into illegal activities again.
*Name changed to protect identity