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HomeUS GovernmentAs leader resigns, Haitian politicians rush to create a new government

As leader resigns, Haitian politicians rush to create a new government

Facing intense pressure from the international community, including US officials, Henry announced late Monday that he would step down to make way for a transitional presidential council that will appoint a new interim prime minister and lead the country to new elections. His resignation followed a lengthy meeting in Jamaica among Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders, Haitian politicians, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other world leaders aimed at reaching an urgent agreement to bring political stability to a country of almost 12 million consumed by its worst violence in decades.
Meanwhile, the deployment of a UN-approved, Kenya-led security force to Haiti has been put on hold until a new government has been put in place, Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s principal secretary for foreign affairs, told the BBC and AFP.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian political leaders are scrambling to meet a 24-hour deadline to establish a transitional council to lead the deteriorating country after the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
The council will temporarily carry out the duties of the country’s president, a position that has been vacant since the still-unsolved 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The new transitional council will be composed of seven voting members representing seven sectors of Haitian society, including Henry’s political party. It will also include two nonvoting members, from civil society and the interfaith community, according to a statement from the Caricom regional bloc.
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US officials say the goal is to name a replacement prime minister as quickly as possible. But it is unclear how soon the transitional government will be in place, and whether the new leadership will be able to quell the violent gangs that control an estimated 80 percent of the country’s capital.
For more than a week, Haiti’s all-powerful gangs have terrorized Port-au-Prince, attacking the airport, port, government buildings, and at least a dozen of the city’s police stations. The United States this week airlifted much of its embassy staff out of the country as the crisis deepened. Henry was unable to return to his own country, with the airport shuttered and the neighboring Dominican Republic refusing to allow the prime minister to land on its soil.
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Haiti’s most powerful gang leader, former police officer Jimmy Chérizier, also known as “Barbecue,” had threatened civil war unless Henry resigned. On Monday, before the announcement of Henry’s resignation, Chérizier said his coalition of gangs would not accept the new presidential council either, and he threatened to attack hotels where “the traditional politicians” typically stay. He said a new government should be chosen by his coalition of gangs and “the Haitian people.”
“If the international community continues down this path, it will plunge Haiti into chaos by selecting a small group of traditional politicians, sitting in a hotel, and negotiating who will be president and what the model of government will be,” Chérizier said. “We are having a bloody revolution in the country.”
While the United States initially supported Henry remaining in power to help create the council, Henry had shown an unwillingness to hand over power in recent weeks. Washington reversed course, urging him to step down to make way for a transitional council and new prime minister.
“The government I lead cannot remain indifferent to this situation,” Henry said in a video address Monday night from Puerto Rico, where he remained Monday. “Haiti needs peace, stability, sustainable development, and to rebuild its democratic institutions.”
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Blinken spent much of his time at a Monday meeting in Jamaica working out who exactly would join the transitional council, a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.
Through the course of Monday, it became clear to Henry that global leaders broadly sought his departure, the official said.
“Throughout these conversations, it became clear that there was a credible deal on the table that was reflective of what we feel is reflective of the will of the Haitian people and reflective of a broad coalition of ideas and people across their democratic spectrum,” the official said.
The council will exclude any individuals who are under indictment or UN sanctions, or anyone who has been convicted of a crime, according to the Caricom agreement. Those who oppose the Kenyan-led security mission to Haiti will also be barred from participating.
The security force deployment remains a work in progress, the US official said, with the precise details of US assistance still under discussion. The State Department is still vetting all of the Kenyan police units that would deploy to Haiti to make sure they have not been involved in human rights violations, which would exclude them from US assistance. A “significant portion” of Kenyan forces have been vetted already, the official said.
At Monday’s meeting, Blinken announced that the United States would commit another $100 million for the force, bringing total US support to $300 million. That sum will fund equipment, training, and logistics for the force that will go into Haiti, the official said, but there is no intention of increasing a US security presence in the country beyond the force already stationed there permanently to protect the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
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General Laura Richardson, who oversees US Southern Command, told lawmakers Tuesday that more than 300 gangs with a combined 7,200 members have “consolidated and conducted simultaneous” attacks, taking advantage of Henry being out of the country to force his ouster.
Claude Joseph, a Haitian political leader and former interim prime minister involved in Monday’s discussions, said the Kenyan-led security mission should arrive as soon as possible, but he believes the transitional council should be able to govern before then.
A fierce Henry critic, he argued for a transition of “reconciliation” and not of vengeance. He encouraged Henry to return to Haiti if he wishes.

web-intern@dakdan.com

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