PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Haitian capital is undergoing a resurgence. In a text message sent out Monday, the country’s elections minister announced that Claude Joseph, the prime minister who immediately assumed control of the government following the assassination of President Jovenel Mose earlier this month, is stepping down.
Since the assassination of Haiti’s president on July 7, political leaders in the country have been fighting for control of the government. Mr. Joseph had been scheduled to be replaced the week before the killing, but the newly appointed prime minister, Ariel Henry, had not yet been sworn in as leader of the country. Both declared themselves to be the legitimate prime ministers of their respective countries.
Additionally, the remaining members of the nation’s Senate stated that the Senate president should be in charge of the country, sparking an explosive debate over who should be in charge. At least one senator had referred to Mr. Joseph’s decision to take over the country and impose a state of siege following the assassination as a coup attempt of sorts.
Adding to the difficulty of the situation was the fact that Mr. Mose had presided over a period in which many of the country’s democratic institutions had been undermined or completely destroyed. Because the terms of the other 20 senators had expired and no elections were held to replace them, only 10 senators were still in office out of a total of 30. Mr. Mose was able to rule by decree for more than a year before he was assassinated because the lower house was completely vacant because the terms of its members had expired the previous year.
Aside from that, the chief justice of the nation’s highest court died of Covid-19 in June, depriving the country of yet another means of determining who should be the next president.
However, on Monday, the minister of elections, Mathias Pierre, stated in a text message that Mr. Joseph would resign in “favour of Ariel Henry.” Mr. Joseph had previously stated that he would resign.
According to Mr. Pierre, the elections minister, “I can confirm that Prime Minister Claude is stepping down.”
Doctor Henry made a prerecorded speech, addressed to the Haitian people, and shared it via social media channels late Sunday evening.
His words were a tribute to the maturity of the Haitian people in the face of “what could be described as a coup d’état,” and he urged the nation’s political leaders to follow in the footsteps of the country’s citizens by following the path of peace.
It was his first public statement since taking office, and he promised to announce his cabinet members as soon as he had reached “sufficient consensus” to lead an interim government until the conditions for elections were met. He did not use the term “transition.”
“I call on the altruism of Haitian patriots to go above and beyond themselves in order to face together the dangers that threaten us all and threaten the very existence of the nation,” he said.
The Assassination of Haiti’s President
Several powerful foreign governments and international organisations with significant influence in Haiti, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU), the United States (US), France (France), Spain (Spain), Canada (Canada), Germany (Germany), and Brazil (Brazil), called on Saturday for the formation of a government that is “consensual and inclusive.”
At the same time, they urge “the prime minister-designate Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him” of forming a government of national unity.
Shortly after the assassination, the United States announced that it recognised Mr. Joseph as the legitimate president and that it would cooperate with him in that capacity. It was not immediately clear what had prompted international actors to change their positions and lend their support to Mr. Henry rather than Mr. Henry’s opponents.
The response was swift throughout the country.
“It is not their decision. Our opinion counts,” said Velina Chartier, an activist with the anti-corruption group Nou Pa Dormi, which was at the forefront of large demonstrations against the government in 2012. In this country, we are the ones who must manage and find a way to coexist peacefully.