New Haiti government sworn in during secret ceremony

Last Updated: June 20, 2024By

Haiti’s Political Turmoil: A New Dawn or Continuing Chaos?

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Amidst the shroud of secrecy, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, officially steps down, marking the beginning of a new interim government sworn in clandestinely at the presidential palace. This comes almost two months after a wave of criminal insurgency threw the capital into disarray.

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The newly formed “transitional council” consisting of nine members was formally established at the national palace in Port-au-Prince. As these individuals took their solemn oaths, Henry, currently in the US due to the turmoil sparked by gang activities, announced his resignation through a letter.

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“We’ve faced tough times serving our nation,” penned Henry, a former neurosurgeon turned politician who assumed office following the tragic assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Henry’s decision to step down was anticipated after his announcement last month.

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The early morning ceremony on Thursday was veiled in secrecy and deliberately kept under wraps due to the looming threat of violence. Reports hinted at the possibility of the event being held at a different government venue on the city’s outskirts.

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Recent days have witnessed skirmishes between law enforcement and armed criminals in downtown Port-au-Prince. Jimmy Chérizier, a notable spokesperson for one of the prominent gangs, issued a stark warning to the incoming caretaker leaders of Haiti, signaling a tense atmosphere.

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Despite these challenges, the US and the Caribbean Community (Caricom)-supported council proceeded with its inauguration, nearly two months after the onset of the criminal insurgency on 29 February.

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Since the outbreak of coordinated attacks, Port-au-Prince has been effectively isolated from the outside world. The international airport and port remain closed due to ongoing gun battles, while the roads connecting the city to other regions are under the control of armed groups notorious for their extortion and kidnapping activities.

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Foreign governments have facilitated the evacuation of hundreds of their citizens to the US or the neighboring Dominican Republic, leaving Haiti grappling with its internal turmoil.

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An official photograph from Thursday’s ceremony hinted at the underlying turmoil. The council members, dressed in suits, stood against a backdrop adorned with the national colors, while a helmet-clad police officer stood guard nearby.

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As the councillors, representing various political parties, civil society, and faith groups, took their oaths, a military band heralded the new leadership with a symphony of trumpets, tubas, and trombones.

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Political activists cautiously welcomed the formation of the council, which now faces the daunting task of selecting a new prime minister and steering the nation towards elections.

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At a subsequent ceremony commemorating the council’s establishment, Dennis Hankins, the recently appointed US ambassador to Haiti, expressed hope for the country’s return to stability, democracy, and economic prosperity.

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“This marks a new beginning for Haiti,” remarked Hankins. “In times of crisis, the Haitian people have shown remarkable resilience, and we stand ready to support them in finding solutions to their challenges.”

Acknowledging the US’s role in Haiti’s predicament, Hankins admitted to the influx of weapons from the US into the hands of Haitian gangs, stressing his government’s commitment to curbing such exports.

Haiti, still reeling from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, remains without elected officials and has not conducted elections since 2016. Armed groups reportedly control a significant portion of the capital, leaving the beleaguered police force struggling to contain them.

With over 50,000 people displaced and thousands more injured or killed since the beginning of the year, Haiti faces a dire humanitarian crisis with 1.6 million people teetering on the brink of famine.

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