What will happen when Henry steps down in Haiti?


Experts say Haitians need to lead political process after PM Henry’s resignation, as uncertainty and tensions swirl.
“The streets continue to be empty.”Since late February, Haitian armed groups have launched attacks on police, prisons and other state institutions.
“Today again, we have the impression that the West Department is holding its breath because we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Ducena added.
“It was US and foreign support for Henry that pushed the situation to its dire state,” said Johnston.
From the very start of his tenure, Henry faced calls to step down in favour of a representative council that would guide Haiti to elections — but he refused.
“And the US and the CORE Group and the UN and these transition councils … need to take their lead from people in Haiti who are trusted in Haiti by the Haitian people,” she added.
“They need support, they need food, they need water.
She explained that, for years, Haitian political leaders have maintained ties to armed groups in an effort to maintain their grip on power.
Ducena said Haiti also needs to put programmes in place to support survivors of the violence that has engulfed the country since Moise’s 2021 assassination.
“Here in Haiti, we can’t afford to have just anyone in power once again.”

Given the uncertainty and tensions surrounding PM Henry’s resignation, experts argue that Haitians should take the lead in the political process.

Millions of Haitians awoke to the news that Prime Minister Ariel Henry would step down, following nearly two weeks of increased gang violence and instability.

Following American calls for him to resign and initiate a transitional political process to quell the unrest, the announcement was made late on Monday.

Civil society leaders in Haiti hailed Henry’s resignation as a long overdue move. Henry was an unelected leader appointed to his position in 2021, just before President Jovenel Moise was assassinated.

What will happen next, though, is now a matter of debate. The nation has suffered for years from violent conflicts between rival armed groups, dysfunctional state institutions, corrupt leaders, and a lack of federal elections.

About the prime minister’s resignation, Rosy Auguste Ducena, a lawyer and program director at Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), stated, “First of all, we have to say that we think this is a good thing.”.

However, in a phone interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday morning from Port-au-Prince, Ducena said that his announcement had little effect on reducing the level of fear and anxiety in the area.

According to her, following days of gang violence, the West Department, which includes the capital city, is still “very tense.”. “The roads are still deserted. “.

Armed groups in Haiti have attacked police, jails, and other government buildings since the end of February. Because of the closure of Port-au-Prince’s main airport, locals have been reluctant to leave their houses in order to obtain supplies like food, water, and other necessities.

Ducena continued, “We feel like the West Department is holding its breath today because we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”.

council for transitions.

What happens next is a question that is still not entirely clear.

The heads of Haiti’s armed factions, one of which had threatened to declare a “civil war” if Henry didn’t step down, have not yet responded to the prime minister’s declaration.

However, it doesn’t seem likely that the groups will lay down their arms in response to Henry’s pledge to resign following the election of a transitional presidential council and his successor.

Prior to Henry’s remarks, Barbecue, a former police officer who is the head of Haiti’s formidable G9 gang alliance, declared that he was against any international solution that was put forth.

The conditions of Henry’s departure, which will take effect following the “establishment of a transitional presidential council and the naming of an interim prime minister,” were laid out at an emergency meeting of the Caribbean nations, or CARICOM, on Monday. This led to Henry’s resignation.

Senior research associate Jake Johnston, an expert on Haiti, stated that CARICOM’s declaration “is unlikely to lead to a solution to the current crisis by itself” at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC.

Johnston wrote on Tuesday in a post to CEPR’s website, “After criticizing Henry for relying on the support of the US and other foreign powers, an agreement pushed by those same foreign powers is likely to face legitimacy concerns from the moment it forms.”.

The majority of Haitians are in the dark about the negotiations, even though they have been going on for more than a week without any public disclosure of the participants or discussions. “.

Seven voting members, chosen from the private sector and different political factions in Haiti, will make up the transitional council, according to a statement released by CARICOM. Additionally, two non-voting members from civil society and religious organizations will be selected.

Washington anticipates the council members to be appointed in the next 24 to 48 hours, US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“And following that, they’ll move to name an interim prime minister soon after,” Miller stated.

In contrast, CARICOM’s statement linked involvement in the process to backing for a proposed UN-backed and Kenya-led international security mission to Haiti.

More concerns about who is controlling the nation’s political transition are raised by CARICOM’s announcement that anyone critical of the Kenya-led mission would not be allowed to serve on the transitional council.

Concerns about the possibility of a multinational force in Haiti have previously been voiced by some leaders of the Haitian civil society, who have emphasized the need for safeguards to prevent crises caused by previous foreign interventions.

In the wake of Henry’s resignation, Kenyan officials have informed news organizations like Reuters and the New York Times that any police deployment from their nation is on hold.

Johnston stated, “The situation reached its worst point because of the support that the US and other countries gave Henry.”.

But those same foreign powers have chosen a stability pact that, it would seem, is likely to lock in an unsustainable status quo at least in the short term, rather than allowing a truly Haitian-led process to unfold. “.

“Should never have arrived at this location.”.

In order to map out a course for the future, the majority of analysts and specialists concurred that it is critical to comprehend how Haiti arrived at this location.

Yale University professor of French and African American studies Marlene Daut emphasized that Washington, the UN, and other Western powers never should have supported the unelected Henry in the first place.

Just before President Moise was assassinated in July 2021, the prime minister was personally chosen for the position. Henry refused to resign from his position in favor of a representative council that would have led Haiti to elections from the beginning of his term. Amidst the impasse in politics, he has functioned as Haiti’s de facto president.

Daut said on Tuesday to Al Jazeera, “It should never have come to this point.”. “Because either the UN, the CORE Group, and the United States really believe in democracy, as they claim, or they don’t.”.

And they would never have approved of an unelected individual assuming office if they truly believed in democracy, which is the people’s participation in their own government through elected officials. “.

The importance of Haitians being “involved at every step” of the political process was emphasized by Daut. She went on, “And the people in Haiti who are trusted in Haiti by the Haitian people need to take their lead from the US, the CORE Group, the UN, and these transition councils.”.

“Haitians’ will must be the foundation for whatever comes next. “.

Stay away from past governments’ pitfalls.

In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, where gangs are thought to control 80% of the city, the UN has reported that there has been a lot of violence.

Humanitarian organization Mercy Corps’ Haiti director, Laurent Uwumuremyi, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday from Port-au-Prince that restoring security is the most important priority. “.

People might go hungry because the city is at “a standstill” due to the unrest, according to Uwumuremyi.

“We have over 200,000 internally displaced people in Port-au-Prince,” he declared. They require assistance, nourishment, and hydration. However, things will get worse very quickly if there is no access and people are unable to move around normally. “.

Ducena, the human rights defender in Port-au-Prince, asserts that it is imperative that the incoming Haitian government adopt a rights-based strategy and steer clear of the bad governance model that its forerunners used.

She clarified that, in an effort to hold onto power, Haitian political leaders had been linked to armed groups for a number of years. She said to Al Jazeera, “We hope that the next government will not use this same strategy of poor governance.”.

According to Ducena, Haiti must also establish initiatives to assist those who have survived the violence that has engulfed the nation since Moise’s murder in 2021. This includes paying reparations and enabling victims to return to the homes that armed groups have taken.

In addition, she called on other nations participating in talks about Haiti’s political transition “to show lucidity and above all, morality” in determining which people will be permitted to participate in that process.

We cannot afford to have just one person in charge here in Haiti. “.

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