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Political Uncertainty Looms Over Haiti

The Oasis Reporters

March 13, 2024






A protester burns tires during a demonstration calling for the resignation of acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 7, 2024.Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images


Embattled acting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced late Monday that he would step down from the position once a transitional presidential council is formed, yielding to growing domestic and global pressure for a political transition as gang violence overtakes the country.

If all goes according to plan, the move could lay the groundwork for a long-awaited election in Haiti, but there remains considerable uncertainty and it is far from clear who Henry’s potential successor may be. Henry has held power since 2021, when he became caretaker president after the assassination of then-President Jovenel Moïse. In the years since, he has grown unpopular, particularly as he failed to follow through on pledges to hold elections and stamp out gang violence.
The crisis deteriorated rapidly last week after gangs effectively blocked Henry, who was on a diplomatic trip abroad, from returning to Haiti—forcing his plane to land in Puerto Rico, where he remains today. Gang violence grips the country, with the United Nations estimating that armed gangs have seized control of more than 80 percent of territory in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

“The government I lead cannot remain indifferent to this situation,” Henry said late Monday. “Haiti needs peace, stability, sustainable development and to rebuild its democratic institutions. I urge Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can to restore peace and stability as quickly as possible for the good of the country.”

Henry’s announcement came after Caribbean leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened for urgent talks about Haiti’s crisis in Kingston, Jamaica, on Monday. In recent days, Blinken also ramped up pressure on Henry to back a political transition proposal. The United States has pledged some $333 million in total toward a U.N.-backed security mission and humanitarian aid to Haiti.
But mounting uncertainty may also change some involved countries’ commitments. On Tuesday, Kenyan officials announced that they would wait for a transitional government to be established before sending 1,000 police officers to the country, a deal originally secured during Henry’s tenure.

“The deal they signed with [Henry] still stands, although the deployment will not happen now because definitely we will require a sitting government to also collaborate with,” said Salim Swaleh, a top spokesperson in Kenya’s Foreign Ministry. “Because you don’t just deploy police to go on the Port-au-Prince streets without a sitting administration.”

© Foreign Policy.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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