14 March 2024

Plan to install new leaders in Haiti appears to crumble

14 March 2024

A proposal to install new leadership in Haiti appears to be crumbling as some political parties rejected the plan to create a presidential council that would manage the transition.

The panel would be responsible for selecting an interim prime minister and a council of ministers that would attempt to chart a new path for the Caribbean country that has been overrun by gangs. The violence has closed schools and businesses and disrupted daily life across Haiti.

Jean Charles Moise, an ex-senator and presidential candidate who has teamed up with former rebel leader Guy Philippe, held a news conference on Wednesday to announce his rejection of the proposed council backed by the international community.

Mr Moise insisted that a three-person presidential council he recently created with Mr Philippe and a Haitian judge should be implemented.

“We are not going to negotiate it,” he said. “We have to make them understand.”

His ally, Mr Philippe, who helped lead a successful revolt in 2004 against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was recently released from a United States prison after pleading guilty to money laundering, said no Haitian should accept any proposal from the international community.

The decision of Caricom is not our decision. Haitians will decide who will govern Haiti

In a video posted previously on social media, Mr Philippe accused the community of being complicit with Haiti’s elite and corrupt politicians and urged Haitians to take to the streets.

“The decision of Caricom is not our decision,” he said, referring to the regional trade bloc whose leaders presented the plan to create a transitional council.

“Haitians will decide who will govern Haiti.”

Other high-profile Haitian politicians declined to participate in the proposed transitional council.

The plan emerged late on Monday following an urgent meeting involving Caribbean leaders, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others who were searching for a solution to halt Haiti’s crisis of violence.

Hours after the meeting, then-prime minister Ariel Henry announced on Tuesday that he would resign once the council was in place, saying that his government “cannot remain insensitive to this situation”.

Mr Henry remains locked out of Haiti because gang attacks have closed the country’s airports. He is currently in Puerto Rico.

The gang attacks began on February 29, when Mr Henry was in Kenya to push for the United Nations-backed deployment of a Kenyan police force. The deployment has been temporarily suspended.

“My concern is that the longer there is a power vacuum and an effort to figure out a way forward on the political side, every day that delays resolutions, many, many people are dying,” William O’Neill, the UN’s independent expert on human rights in Haiti, said.

Armed men in the capital of Port-au-Prince have set fire to police stations and stormed the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Among those who fled are gang leaders of at least seven communities, according to information given by officials who are not being quoted by name out of safety concerns.

As of March 10, gunmen attacked, looted or torched at least 30 state institutions, more than 600 homes and private businesses and nearly 500 public and private vehicles, the officials said.

Gangs also have attacked neighbourhoods in a rampage that has left scores dead and more than 15,000 homeless.

More than 130 people were killed between February 27 and March 8. Meanwhile, at least 40 gang members were killed between February 29 and March 10, the officials said.

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