Ariel Henry sworn in as new Haitian Prime Minister

Photo by Patrice S Dorsainville

Ariel Henry has been sworn in as Haiti’s new prime minister following the resignation of Claude Joseph, as interim Prime Minister. Joseph, who had assumed the leadership of the country after the assassination of the country’s President, Jovenel Moïse, had lost the support of the International Community. (Caribbean Insight 10 July 2021). 

According to reports, in recent days the informal group of ambassadors and foreign envoys known as the “Core Group” which includes Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the US, France, EU, UN and the OAS had withdrawn their support for Joseph who had been appointed by Moïse before his death. 

In a statement, the group spoke to the need for a “consensual and inclusive government” to be put in place by “the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government”. 

There had been an ongoing political tussle between the two since President Moïse’s assassination. Although Moïse had chosen Henry to replace Joseph as interim prime minister, he was killed before he could see him sworn in. 

At one stage, it appeared that the Core Group would support Joseph after Helen La Lime, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN and Head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), told the UN Security Council that he should continue as leader until elections are held. However, “Joseph’s fate was sealed over the weekend,” Robert Fatton, a US-based Haitian politics expert told The Associated Press. “Everything that happens in Haiti has a powerful foreign component.” 

Both men shared a stage as Henry and his 18-member cabinet were sworn in on 20 July. “It is in the context of extreme polarisation… that we must find and implement a lasting solution to the multifaceted crisis with which we are confronted,” Henry said at the ceremony. “You’re inheriting an exceptional situation characterised by the absence of a president to serve as your shield, a political crisis unprecedented in the history of the country, galloping insecurity, a morose and precarious economic situation,” Joseph cautioned as he returned to his former role as foreign minister. 

There have been mixed reactions to Prime Minister Henry’s appointment both in Haiti and abroad. Aljazeera reported that a main opposition coalition known as the Democratic and Popular Sector called Henry a puppet of the international community and rejected his appointment. “This step is only a political provocation that will add fuel to the fire and push the country further into crisis,” it said. 

Lawyer Caleb Jean Baptiste, who runs a human rights legal group, rejected the CORE group’s involvement. “The CORE group is not Dessalines, it is not Henry Christophe, it is not Haitian, they are interfering in our country, they are violating the OAS charter, they are violating all the agreements that we have signed and ratified, the CORE group does not have the right to do that,” he told VOA. 

Meanwhile, as investigations into the attack continue, Haitian police chief Léon Charles announced four more formal arrests, including at least three police officers, whose ranks he did not release according to Aljazeera. “There was infiltration in the police,” said Charles, without providing additional details. 

To date, over two dozen people have been detained in connection with the killing. According to reports, two Americans arrested have told a Haitian judge that they were not in the room when the President was killed and that they were involved only as translators. During their interview with the judge, they admitted to meeting with other participants at a hotel in the Pétionville suburb of Port-au-Prince, to plan the attack. They also said that the goal was not to kill the President, but rather to bring him to the national palace. 

Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-born doctor based in Florida has also been arrested. At a news conference, police chief Charles suggested that he believed Sanon was plotting to become president. “He arrived by private plane in June with political objectives and contacted a private security firm to recruit the people who committed this act,” said Charles. 

Reports had also emerged that Police Chief Charles has himself been implicated, along with former interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. However, authorities have vehemently denied that current government officials are involved. “The police warn of all propaganda creating a diversion,” Charles said, adding that the government has no evidence to support such accusations. 

Joseph had made requests for foreign intervention to help stabilise the nation, including calling on the UN and US to send troops. However, the UN Security Council would have to approve the entry of a multinational UN force into Haiti. President Joe Biden has said that he is not in favour of US military involvement in Haiti, but that he would deploy troops to fortify the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince. 

Biden recently received a briefing from a special US delegation which was dispatched a to Haiti to assist with the investigation. The delegation included FBI, Department of Homeland Security, State Department and National Security Council officials. In an indication of US concern about the consequences of further unrest in Haiti, the US Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas issued a strong warning to Haitians against trying to enter the US. “I repeat: do not risk your life attempting to enter the US illegally. You will not come to the US,” he said in remarks. 

Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic has called on the international community to contribute as much as possible to the creation of a favourable environment for internal dialogue in Haiti. In a press note, the Ministry of Foreign Relations said, “it adheres to the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states and respect for the Inter-American Democratic Charter, especially with regard to the participation of citizens in decisions concerning their own future”. The Ministry also affirmed its commitment to the promotion of good neighbourliness and mutual co-operation with Haiti. 

The statement came as the government ordered that merchandise exports be restarted across the countries’ borders, having ordered them shut after the attack. A press release from the Presidency indicated that “the decision seeks to maintain the supply of the Haitian commercial system at the levels required to reduce the possibility of a general shortage that produces social instability and migratory flows.” 

Private sector leaders in the Dominican Republic had issued calls for trade to be restarted after significant lost revenue and spoilage. Executive vice-president of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Circe Almánzar cautioned that “the commercial exchange must be re-established in a safe way, without affecting our citizens or our companies.” 

President Moïse’s funeral will be held on 23 July. First Lady Martine Moise who was shot during his assassination, recently returned from the US where she was being treated for her injuries. The First Lady’s direct-witness testimony is expected to be pivotal in the ongoing investigation. 

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.