by Robenson Geffrard
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who has run the country since the assassination of president Jovenel Moise, will step down to make way for a new government headed by the man Moise handpicked days before his killing, an official said Monday.
The new government — due to take over on Tuesday — will not have a president, and will be tasked with organizing fresh elections “as soon as possible,” said the government official, who is close to the prime minister’s office.
Moise had tapped Ariel Henry to replace Joseph as prime minister just days before the controversial Haitian president was shot dead in his home in Port-au-Prince in the early hours of July 7. Henry will now assume the post.
In the hours after the assassination, Joseph declared a “state of siege” and said he was in charge, launching a power tussle in the violence-wracked, impoverished Caribbean nation. Monday’s announcement would seem to put an end to that uncertainty.
The United States welcomed the move, saying it was “encouraged to see Haitian political and civil actors working to form a unity government that can stabilize the country.”
Haiti has no working parliament and no workable succession process, and was already mired deep in a political and security crisis when the 53-year-old Moise was killed.
“For several days, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry have been holding a number of working meetings that will lead to the formation of an inclusive government with Ariel Henry as Prime Minister,” said the official.
“There will be no president of the Republic. The mission of this new government will be to organize general elections as soon as possible,” he added.
Joseph will return to his former post as foreign minister in the new government.
‘Consensual and inclusive’
Moise had ruled Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in the wake of multiple disputes, including on when his own term ended.
As well as presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti had been due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The official did not give a timeline Monday for when new elections would be held.
It would seem that the balance tipped in Henry’s favor over the weekend when an informal group of ambassadors known as the “Core Group” — representing Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Spain, the UN special envoy, the United States and the representative of the Organization of American States — threw their support behind him.
The group called for the formation of a “consensual and inclusive government.”
First lady returns home
Henry, a 71-year-old neurosurgeon, has previously served as interior minister and labor minister.
Moise will be laid to rest on Friday in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. His widow Martine, who was seriously wounded in the attack on their home, was treated in a Miami hospital before returning home on Saturday to attend her husband’s funeral.
She had her right arm in a sling and wore a bulletproof vest on the tarmac at the airport in Port-au-Prince.
As funeral preparations continue, so does the investigation into Moise’s slaying. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is aiding local police.
So far, more than 20 people, many of them retired Colombian military personnel, have been arrested in connection with the killing, but the motive remains murky.
Haitian police have accused a 63-year-old Haitian doctor with strong ties to Florida, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, of being a mastermind of the plot and having “political objectives.”
Colombia’s police chief Jorge Vargas has said that a former Haitian justice ministry official, Joseph Felix Badio, gave two of the Colombian mercenaries the order to kill the president. But it is not clear if Badio in turn was following orders from someone else.
© Agence France-Presse