Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry Steps Down Amidst Gang-Fueled Disorder

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry Steps Down Amidst Gang-Fueled Disorder

Ariel Henry, Haiti, Gang Insurrection, Transitional Council, Barbecue, Jimmy  Cherizier,port au prince , kenya , porto rico,usa,Guy Philippe

The Caribbean nation of Haiti finds itself in a state of political upheaval as Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his resignation following a surge of gang violence that destabilized the country and disrupted his return from Kenya. Currently in Puerto Rico, Henry declared his intention to step down once a transitional council takes over the reins of the politically turbulent state. This comes in the wake of the country's ongoing turmoil since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïses in July 2021 by Colombian mercenaries.

Over the past few days, Haiti has been a witness to a horrifying increase in violent activities, ranging from assassinations and attacks on law enforcement to looting and the systematic destruction of public and private infrastructure. Henry expressed profound regret over the loss of lives and emphasized that his government could not remain indifferent to the turmoil. His plea to the nation was for calm and collective efforts to restore peace and stability.

In a meeting held in Jamaica, Haitian leaders reached a consensus to establish a new transitional government. This would be led by a seven-member presidential council that would select an interim prime minister. However, the puzzle of who will navigate Haiti through this crisis remains unsolved, given the total collapse of democratic accountability since the last elections in 2016.

Henry had previously attempted to assemble a UN-backed taskforce of international troops to reinforce the country's police and restore order since October 2022. His efforts eventually paid off on March 1 when Kenya agreed to deploy 1000 officers to the Caribbean. However, this promise came too late. While Henry was away in Nairobi, armed gangs, who usually battle each other for territory, joined forces against his rule, threatening severe consequences if he didn't resign.

The challenge ahead lies in negotiating with Haiti's gangs, now in control of 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince, to disarm them. Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, believes that dialogue with the gangs is inevitable, regardless of the form of government. The question to answer is, what concessions would convince them to surrender their weapons?

Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a former policeman and now Haiti's most influential gang leader, warned that international backing of a transition could lead to further chaos. Chérizier, who heads the G9 Family and Allies gang federation, insists that the decision about the country's leadership and governance model should be made by Haitians.

During ten days of chaos, Haiti's gangs collaborated, setting fire to police stations, attacking ports and prisons, and besieging the capital's international airport. Unable to enter Haiti due to the closure of its main international airports, Henry landed in Puerto Rico a week ago, having been denied landing in the Dominican Republic due to a missing flight plan. A senior US official confirmed that he remains in Puerto Rico and expressed a desire to return to Haiti in the future.

However, Henry's resignation alone seems insufficient to resolve Haiti's enduring governance crisis marked by violence, natural disasters, and external interventions since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. The government, already weakened by President Moïses's assassination, has crumbled under the pressure of gang and vigilante violence, some of which is linked to political figures.

Haiti, the western hemisphere's poorest country, has been grappling with extensive corruption among its political and business elites. With gangs often better equipped than the country's ineffective police, extensive areas have turned into no-go zones, with gangs controlling roads and neighbourhoods. Due to its repeated failure to hold elections, Henry's government was widely perceived as corrupt and illegitimate. The last election was held in 2016.

A glimmer of hope amidst the chaos came in the form of street celebrations, seen in videos circulating on Haitian social media. While it's a welcome sight, the reality remains grim with gangs terrorizing civilians, disrupting food and fuel supplies, and blocking roads. Nearly half of the country’s population, approximately 4.35 million Haitians, suffer from chronic hunger.

As the new council takes shape, voting rights will be granted to parties such as the Pitit Desalin, led by former senator and presidential candidate Moïse Jean-Charles, a known ally of Guy Philippe. Philippe, a former rebel leader who orchestrated a successful coup in 2004, was recently released from a US prison after pleading guilty to money laundering.

News Agencies

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