Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry resigns as law and order collapses

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Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has agreed to resign following weeks of mounting pressure and increasing violence in the impoverished country.

It comes after regional leaders met in Jamaica on Monday to discuss a political transition in the country.

Mr Henry is currently stranded in Puerto Rico after being prevented by armed gangs from returning home.

He said his government would resign following the “installation of [a transition] council.”

“I’m asking all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can for peace and stability to come back as fast as possible,” Mr Henry said in a video address announcing his resignation.

He has not been allowed back into Haiti after leaving in late January for visits to Guyana and Kenya, where he signed a deal on the deployment of an international security force to help tackle violence.

Mr Henry had led the country on a supposedly interim basis since July 2021, following former President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, but had repeatedly postponed elections – saying security had to be restored first.

Many Haitians questioned the length of his unelected governance and Mr Henry’s resignation had been one of the key demands of the heavily armed gangs that have recently tighten their grip on the capital, Port-au-Prince.

These gangs have attacked the main prison to help thousands of inmates escape, as well as targeting police stations, the capital’s international airport and its port.

Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region is under a month-long state of emergency, while a curfew has been extended.

The head of the UN’s World Food Programme in Haiti, Jean-Martin Bauer, said on Monday that more than 360,000 people had now been displaced.

“We’re also seeing an interruption in the flow of goods, and this has huge impacts on food markets in Port-au-Prince,” said Mr Bauer, adding that goods were currently unable to get into Haiti by land, sea or air.

The country was already dealing with malnutrition and there are serious concerns that the problem will soon become significantly worse.

Matthias Pierre, a former elections minister in Haiti, described the current situation in the country as “very precarious” with an army and police force that is unequipped to deal with the unrest.

Mr Pierre, who broke the news of Mr Henry’s resignation to the BBC’s Newsday programme before it was publicly confirmed, said the gangs were now pushing to be part of any new power-sharing deal.

He added that such a political settlement was impossible without the “support” of an international armed force.

There are now questions over what will happen to the 1,000-strong UN-backed security force Kenya is expected to lead in Haiti to try and restore order there.

The top civil servant in Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry has told the BBC that its deployment of police to Haiti has been put on hold following Mr Henry’s resignation.

Korir Sing’oei added that Kenya would wait for the installation of a new constitutional authority before further decisions were made.

The US said it saw no need to delay the mission.

Its proposed contribution to this security force now stands at $300m (£234m) after Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged a further $100m to it.

Another $33m has been allocated for humanitarian aid.

The Caricom group of Caribbean nations, which has been meeting in Jamaica to discuss the crisis in Haiti, has outlined what it wants a transitional council to look like.

It would be made up of seven voting members and two observers and include representatives from several coalitions, the private sector and civil society, and one religious leader.

Anyone intending to run in Haiti’s next elections will not be able to participate.

The US said it expects the council will be appointed within the next two days, which will then appoint an interim prime minister.

It is hoped the council will pave the way for the first elections in Haiti since 2016.

Haiti: The basics

  • The Caribbean country shares a border with the Dominican Republic and has an estimated population of 11.5 million
  • It has a land area of 27,800 sq km, which is slightly smaller than Belgium and about the same size as the US state of Maryland
  • Chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters in recent decades have left Haiti the poorest nation in the Americas
  • An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy
  • A UN peacekeeping force was put in place in 2004 to help stabilise the country and only withdrew in 2017
  • In July 2021, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in Port-au-Prince. Amid political stalemate, the country continues to be wracked by unrest and gang violence
Haiti map

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