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Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigns amid bloody violence. Who will replace him?

A US official said the decision for Henry's resignation was made on Friday, though he did not officially tender it to his cabinet until Monday evening and later issued an official video address.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Port-au-Prince Published on: March 12, 2024 16:04 IST
Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry
Image Source : AP Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry

Port-au-Prince: Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry has resigned amid pressure and chaos in the Caribbean nation. He became the Prime Minister in 2021 following the assassination of the country's last president, Jovenel Moise. Henry has issued his resignation as the Caribbean nation's head of government, the chair of the Caribbean Community said on Monday. "We acknowledge his resignation upon the establishment of a transitional presidential council and naming of an interim prime minister," said Caribbean Community chair Irfaan Ali, also the president of Guyana, thanking Henry for his service to Haiti.

However, the conflict dramatically escalated in his absence and left the 74-year-old neurosurgeon stranded in the US territory of Puerto Rico while regional leaders called for a swift transition. "The government that I am leading will resign immediately after the installation of (a transition) council," Henry said in a late-night video address. "I want to thank the Haitian people for the opportunity I have been granted."

"I'm asking all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can for peace and stability to come back as fast as possible," he added.

Videos distributed on Haitian social media appeared to show celebrations in the street, with people dancing to music in a party atmosphere and fireworks launched into the night sky. A senior US official said Henry was free to remain in Puerto Rico or travel elsewhere, though security in Haiti would need to improve for him to feel comfortable returning home. The official said the resignation had been decided on Friday.

Who will replace Henry?

Henry is set to be replaced by a presidential council that will have two observers and seven voting members, including representatives from a number of political coalitions, the business sector, civil society and one religious leader. The council has been mandated to quickly appoint an interim prime minister; anyone who intends to run in Haiti's next elections will not be able to participate.

Haiti has lacked elected representatives since early 2023 and its next elections will be the first since 2016. Henry, who many Haitians consider corrupt, had repeatedly postponed elections, saying security must first be restored. Regional leaders met on Monday in nearby Jamaica to discuss the framework for a political transition, which the US had urged last week to be "expedited" as armed gangs sought to topple his government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had earlier Monday said the council would be tasked with meeting the "immediate needs" of Haitians, enabling the security mission's deployment and creating security conditions necessary for free elections. Haiti declared a state of emergency early this month as clashes damaged communications and led to two prison breaks after Jimmy "Barbeque" Cherizier, a leader of an alliance of armed groups, said they would unite and overthrow Henry.

Why did Haiti's PM resign?

Henry's resignation comes alongside regional talks over participation in an international force, which he had requested to help police fight the gangs, whose brutal turf wars have fueled a humanitarian crisis, cut off food supplies and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Blinken said earlier Monday the United States would contribute an additional $100 million to this force and $33 million in humanitarian aid, bringing the US' total pledge to the force to $300 million.

It was however unclear how long it would take the funding to be approved by lawmakers and transferred. A UN spokesperson said that as of Monday, less than $11 million had been deposited into the UN's dedicated trust fund - with no new contributions since Haiti declared its state of emergency on March 3.

Mexico's foreign minister added that the country had contributed an unspecified amount of funds, and called for more action to stem the trafficking of arms to Haiti. The UN believes Haitian gangs have amassed large arsenals of weapons trafficked largely from the United States.

The United Nations estimates over 3,62,000 people have been internally displaced, half of whom are children, and thousands have been killed in the overall conflict, with widespread reports of rape, torture and ransom kidnappings since 2021.

Bloody history

In Haiti, gang leader Cherizier has threatened to go after hotel owners hiding politicians or collaborating with Henry. He demanded that the country's next leader be chosen by the people and live in Haiti, alongside their families. Many influential Haitian political figures live abroad. "We're not in a peaceful revolution. We are making a bloody revolution in the country because this system is an apartheid system, a wicked system," Cherizier said.

Residents in the capital saw heavy gunfire over the weekend as armed men downtown surrounded the National Palace on Friday night and by Sunday the United States airlifted staff from its embassy. On Monday, authorities extended a nightly curfew until Thursday. Washington said it was looking to expedite the deployment of the planned security mission.

Henry first requested an international security force in 2022, but countries have been slow to offer support, with some raising doubts over the legitimacy of Henry's unelected government amid widespread protests. Many in Haitian communities and abroad are wary of international interventions after previous UN missions left behind a devastating cholera epidemic and sex abuse scandals, for which reparations were never made.

Mike Ballard, intelligence director at security firm Global Guardian, said if gangs take control of ports and airports, they would be in charge of humanitarian aid to the country, adding that he did not believe Kenyan forces would effectively police or maintain peace. "Countries with actual stakes in the region will need to step up and help shore up security," he said, pointing to the United States, neighbouring Dominican Republic and other CARICOM members.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read; Haiti violence: US military airlifts embassy personnel, EU temporarily closes its offices















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