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In Haiti, political parties lash out at PM over council limbo

Haitian policemen stand guard on a street corner amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince on April 8, 2024
Haitian policemen stand guard on a street corner amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince on April 8, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File -
Haitian policemen stand guard on a street corner amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince on April 8, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File -

The Haitian parties set to form a long-awaited governing council have called for the body to be installed “as soon as possible,” accusing the outgoing prime minister of changing the terms of their earlier deal.

The statement came after a decree in Haiti’s official gazette announced the council’s formation on Friday, a month after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he would step down amid a wave of attacks by armed gangs in the capital. 

The council is meant to ensure a smooth transition as Henry — who has been Haiti’s unelected leader since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise — leaves office, paving the way for new presidential elections to be held. 

But its formation has been delayed by weeks of political squabbling — and Friday’s decree appeared to ignite more discord.

In a text dated Saturday, the nine groups and political parties who will be represented on the council said they were “deeply shocked” by the decree. 

They denounced “the introduction of major modifications” that “distort” the project and challenged the validity of the text. 

In particular, they demanded publication in the official gazette of a political deal reached on April 3 which outlined the mission and organization of the council and named its members.

In its decree, the outgoing government acknowledged the creation of the council, but did not mention its members by name. 

The government then called on “the personalities designated by the stakeholders” to submit documents to authorities for approval. 

That appeared to delay the setting up of the council, and stirred fears the government could reject some of the names. 

Henry and his government must facilitate the installation “as soon as possible” of the council as agreed in the April 3 deal, insisted the nine stakeholders.

Haiti has not held elections since 2016. In the years since Moise’s killing the impoverished nation has grappled with spiraling security and political crises. 

Last year a UN-backed force led by Kenya was tasked with deploying to the country and helping its beleaguered police rein in criminal gangs wreaking havoc.

But the force has yet to deploy, even as humanitarian agencies plead for aid amid growing hunger, surging poverty and a lack of health care. 

Henry was in Kenya in February trying to organize the deployment of the international force when gangs launched a coordinated attack and demanded the 74-year-old’s resignation. 

The ensuing explosion in violence saw foreigners evacuated and thousands of Port-au-Prince residents flee the city, even as aid agencies warned that infrastructure in other parts of the country could not support them.

After intense US and regional pressure, Henry agreed in March to step aside and facilitate the formation of the transitional council.

The council is to be made up of seven voting members selected across Haiti’s political spectrum, and two non-voting observers.

Doubts remain over its ability to rein in the gangs as the political infighting continues. 

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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