To the Sound of Gunshots, Haiti Installs a New Ruling Council

To the Sound of Gunshots, Haiti Installs a New Ruling Council

By Oghale Apr25,2024

The prime minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, formally signed his resignation letter on Wednesday, paving the way for a new government and bringing a measure of political stability to a nation mired in gang violence and an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

With the sound of gunshots as a backdrop, the nine members of a transitional council took the oath of office early on Thursday in the National Palace.

“We have served the nation in difficult times,” wrote Mr. Henry, whose resignation letter bore a Los Angeles address. “I sympathize with the losses and suffering endured by our compatriots during this period.”

Mr. Henry, who has been unable to return to the country because of security concerns, had said in March that he would step down once the transitional council was established.

Michel Patrick Boisvert, a former Haitian minister of economy and finance who stepped in for Mr. Henry in his absence, was named as acting prime minister. He and the new governing council now face the challenge of restoring order in Haiti, reforming the constitution and organizing a presidential election.

Armed gangs — some of which are now working together — continue to attack neighborhoods, looting houses, kidnapping civilians, raping women and killing people at random, rights groups say. And the gang leaders have said they intend to do what they can to disrupt the current political process.

It is also unclear how long Mr. Boisvert will stay on as prime minister, however, as the council is equipped with presidential powers and can remove him and appoint a replacement if it so chooses.

Under the council’s mandate, a new president is to take office and all elected authorities are to be sworn in by February 2026, but it is not yet known when those elections will be held. Haiti has had no president since its last one, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021. All the local authorities’ terms — from senators to elected mayors — expired years ago.

“Haiti, our country, finds itself at a crossroads, in search of ideal solutions to emerge from this multidimensional political crisis that has lasted too long,” Mr. Boisvert said on Thursday. “This day, in fact, opens the prospect of a solution.”

U.S. officials welcomed the inauguration of the council. Brian Nichols, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, hailed it in a social media post as “a vital step in Haiti’s return to inclusive governance.”

The seating of the council is expected to clear the way for the arrival of a multinational police force led by Kenya that will be tasked with stabilizing the violence-plagued nation. In March, Kenyan officials had said that they were pausing their plans to deploy the force of 1,000 police officers until the new government was formed.

It remains to be seen precisely when the Kenyan police will arrive and how money allotted for the force will be spent.

“I’m not convinced that they are taking this as seriously as they should be taking it, meaning there is not a plan,” said Emmanuela Douyon, a Haitian policy expert and social justice advocate who fled Haiti for Boston in 2021.

She said accountability problems had plagued previous peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, adding: “Send money in the name of Haiti, things go wrong, blame the Haitian people and move on.”

When they do arrive, the police force will face a daunting scene, with local news outlets reporting fresh gang attacks in Port-au-Prince, the capital, in recent days.

“It pains me to note,” María Isabel Salvador, who heads the U.N. mission in Haiti, said earlier this week, “that some of the worst scenarios for Haiti have become realities in recent months and weeks.”

During the first quarter of the year, she said, about 2,500 people were killed or wounded as a result of gang violence, a 53 percent increase over the previous period, making it the most violent quarter since the group began compiling the data in 2022.

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By Oghale

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