Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry says he will resign as law and order collapse

26

After weeks of escalating pressure and rising levels of violence in the nation, the chair of the Caribbean group of countries announced that Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, had decided to step down.

It follows a meeting of regional leaders on Monday in Jamaica to discuss a political shift in Haiti. Armed gangs have stopped Mr. Henry from going home, leaving him stuck in Puerto Rico. Since the former president’s murder in July 2021, he has served as the nation’s leader.

“We acknowledge his resignation upon establishing a transitional presidential council and naming of an interim prime minister,” said Guyana President and chair of the Caribbean community Irfaan Ali after the meeting in Kingston.

In recent days, heavily armed gangs have taken over Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, and are demanding the resignation of the prime minister, who was not elected.

A month-long state of emergency has been imposed on Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area, and the curfew has been prolonged.

When a group of gangs stormed two of Haiti’s biggest jails and attacked police stations, Mr. Henry was in Kenya, signing an agreement to send an international security team to help combat violence.

After persistent attacks, Mr. Henry’s plane was prevented from landing at Haiti’s international airport.

For a few days now, his resignation has been anticipated. He was viewed as a threat to Haiti’s stability, and the Caricom group of Caribbean countries had made it plain that he would have to step down for the transition to a transitional council to start.

The intensity of the fighting in Haiti has caused the White House to reconsider its initial desire for Mr. Henry to manage the transitioning process there. With no backing from the US State Department or his neighbors, Mr. Henry was left with no choice but to resign.

The US, which was present at the meetings in Kingston on Monday, stated that although Mr. Henry has expressed a desire to return to Haiti, the security situation must improve before he can do so. According to a senior US source, Mr. Henry decided to resign on Friday but held off on announcing after it was official so that negotiations could begin.

An extra $100 million (£78 million) was pledged by US Secretary of State Blinken to the 1,000-man UN-backed security force that Kenya is anticipated to command in Haiti. After Mr. Blinken’s declaration, the estimated US contribution to the security force is now $300 million, with an additional $33 million set aside for humanitarian assistance.

According to President Ali, there will be two observers and seven voting members on the transitional presidential council. These members will include representatives from various coalitions, the business community, civic society, and one religious leader. He added that anyone planning to run in Haiti’s next elections will not be allowed to participate and that the council has been instructed to “swiftly” choose an interim prime minister.

The council is expected to open the door for Haiti’s first elections since 2016. Since President Jovenel Moïse’s killing, Mr. Henry has presided over a purportedly temporary administration and has repeatedly delayed elections, citing the need to restore security first. He had been leading the nation without an elected president for this long, which had drawn criticism from many Haitians.