Anarchic Haiti: Transitional Ruling Council Finally Forms in Caribbean Nation

Sat Apr 13 2024
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: A governing council tasked with filling Haiti’s leadership vacuum and restoring some semblance of order was formally formed on Friday in the Caribbean nation rocked by an explosion of gang violence.

A decree published in Haiti’s official journal “Le Moniteur” announced the creation of the council, a month after Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his resignation amid a wave of mob attacks in the capital.

Friday’s announcement, which had been delayed for weeks by political infighting, is a promising step in efforts to create the conditions for the deployment of an international police force under UN sanctions.

The decree mandates the council to “promptly” appoint a new prime minister and a government “inclusive” of Haiti’s various political factions.

The important thing is that the creation of this council is also the first step to hold presidential elections until early 2026.

But questions remain about whether the U.S.-backed transitional government, called the Presidential Transitional Council, can exercise power over armed groups that control much of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

A UN agency recently compared the situation in Haiti to a “scene out of Mad Max,” the Hollywood fantasy famous for its depictions of roving gangs in an apocalyptic landscape.

“The Presidential Transition Council exercises specific presidential powers during the transition period until the investiture of the elected President, which must take place no later than February 7, 2026,” the decree on Friday said.

Haiti has not held an election since 2016 and has been without a president since the assassination of Jovenel Moise in 2021.

Henry was in Kenya in February trying to organize an international police deployment when gangs launched a coordinated attack, demanding the 74-year-old’s resignation.

Nearly 4,000 prisoners were freed in a mass raid on two of Haiti’s largest prisons. Attacks on police stations and raids on the airport have largely cut off Haiti from the outside world.

Countries including the United States and members of the European Union have evacuated their diplomats and citizens due to the worsening security situation.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF has warned of widespread hunger and malnutrition in Haiti, which is struggling to recover from a 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 220,000 people.

Under intense pressure from the United States and the region, Henry agreed to withdraw and facilitate the establishment of an interim council.

He had served as Haiti’s unelected leader since being appointed by then-President Moise in 2021.

New council vs gangs

The main purpose of this council, consisting of seven voters and two non-voting observers from across the Haitian political spectrum, is to name a new prime minister and prepare the country for elections.

It was also agreed that the new government would allow UN-recognized police to assist the Haitian police in fighting gangs. The mission of the new organization will continue until February 7, 2026.

Negotiations to appoint a transitional council have been fraught with infighting, prompting the intervention of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called on stakeholders to put aside their differences.

Powerful gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, whose 1,000-member G9 coalition controls parts of Port-au-Prince, will be removed from the new government under conditions barring UN sanctions.

Those who were accused or convicted of crimes were blacklisted, along with those who planned to participate in the next elections or opposed the plans of the international security forces.

It remains to be seen whether the gangs will agree to withdraw.

The United Nations has sanctioned five leaders of the most powerful criminal groups


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