PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- Seven months after the president’s assassination, the Caribbean island of Haiti faces renewed political instability as president Jovenel Moise’s term comes to an end today Monday February 7. There are fears about who will attempt to take charge next.
Moise was assassinated last July 7 when armed attackers stormed his Port-au-Prince home. In addition to killing Moise, the gunmen wounded his wife, Martine Moise. In this period, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has led the country to the completion of Moise’s term.
Those days are over now. Observers and political experts know that several groups are interested in managing the often troubled island in the Caribbean.
An opposition group called Montana Accord has called on the United States to withdraw its support for Henry, arguing that Moise’s term will render the current government unconstitutional.
The rival of Henry, Claude Joseph, served as prime minister for about two weeks before giving way to Henry, who Moise chose as prime minister just two days before he was killed.
To restore security before new elections, the Montana Accord has called for the creation of a transitional government headed by Fritz Alphonse Jean.
“Insecurity is rampant, fear of kidnapping and rape are the everyday situation of the average Haitian,” Jean said on Friday, according to The New York Times.
“This is a state of disarray and the Henry government is just sitting there unable to address those challenges.”
Nevertheless, Haiti’s recent troubles go well beyond the political sphere.
As well as losing its leader, Haiti was hit by a deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August. There has also been a growing gang presence that set off a fuel crisis in October when it blocked Haiti’s main roads, ports and held Christian missionaries captive.
Brain Concannon, founder of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti based in the United States, told Al Jazeera that armed gangs have called for Henry’s resignation. Armed gangs control more than half of Haiti and half of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“People live in daily fear that going to work or to school or getting some food at the store will be a lethal decision,” Concannon told the outlet.
“People don’t even leave their houses for days and hospitals are closing because it is too violent for staff to get there.”
In the wake of resettling Haitian refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border and a video featuring agents on horseback charging and herding migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough to assist the country.
Furthermore, the United States and other international observers have been accused of being too entangled in Haiti’s politics.
Daniel Foote, the former U.S. special envoy who resigned following the U.S. treatment of refugees, says the U.S. administration has been “stubbornly arrogant” in pressing Haitians to accept an unelected prime minister and rush into elections.
In addition, Foote said Henry “impeded investigations” into Moise’s assassination for six months, adding that Bed-Ford Claude, one of Port-au-Prince’s top prosecutors sought charges against Henry last September.
He cited phone records that show Henry spoke shortly after Moise’s death with former Haitian Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio, who’s a suspect in the assassination investigation.
Henry has repeatedly denied involvement in the killing, asserting that the killers are yet to be caught.
Haitian police detained more than a dozen possible suspects after the killing, and two individuals have so far been charged by U.S. officials. Gunfights with police also left several dead. In light of these threats, U.S. officials worry that Henry’s tenuous grip on power could result in continued violence and political unrest.
“How the government of Haiti moves forward after Feb. 7, the official end of assassinated President Jovenel Moise’s term, will be an important inflection point for Ariel Henry’s government and its ability to bring some measure of political stability to Haiti,” one U.S. intelligence official told McClatchy.
The uncertainty in Haiti has prompted some migrants to flee the country and head for the United States.
More than 200 were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard a week ago after arriving in the Florida Keys and northern Florida last fall.