Haiti’s prime minister resigns as council sworn in to lead political transition in violence-ravaged nation

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Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his resignation on Thursday, handing power over to a transitional council that will seek to gain control of the violence-ravaged nation.

Henry wrote in his resignation letter dated Wednesday that, “given the current state of affairs,” the time was right for him to step down. “We have served the nation in difficult times. I thank everyone who had the courage to face such challenges with me,” he said.

Haiti has been overrun by chaos and gang violence in recent weeks, with criminal groups attacking government structures and social order on the brink of collapse.

The Caribbean nation’s finance minister Michael Patrick Boisvert has been appointed as interim prime minister until a new government is formed, according to an X post from Henry’s office on Thursday.

“Haiti, our country, is at a crossroads in the search for solutions to overcome this multidimensional political crisis, that has lasted for so long, and the consequences of which are detrimental to the population, to property, and both public and private infrastructures,” Boisvert said at the swearing-in ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office, Villa d’Accueil.

FILE PHOTO: Police patrol a street after authorities extended the state of emergency amid gang violence that has threatened to bring down the government, forcing thousands to flee their homes, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti March 8, 2024. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol/File Photo

Police patrolling a street in Port-au-Prince in March. The city has been essentially cut off from the outside world, amid months of gang violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis. Ralph Tedy Ero/Reuters/File

A transitional council, composed of seven voting members and two non-voting observers, has been tasked with the responsibility of naming a new prime minister and cabinet. The committee will exercise certain presidential powers until a new president-elect is inaugurated, which must take place no later than February 7, 2026.

Henry announced in March his plans to step down once a decision on the country’s future leadership was made, and the transitional council was set up soon after.

The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) welcomed the council’s formation in a statement earlier this month, hoping it would mark “a new beginning for Haiti.”

The United Nations Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric also welcomed the news and called for the swift deployment of a multinational security mission to support Haiti’s police.

Since February, attacks by an insurgent alliance of gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince mean the city’s international airport and seaport have ceased to function, breaking vital supply lines of food and aid and triggering an exodus of evacuation flights for foreign nationals.

With the city virtually cut off from the outside world, hospitals have been vandalized while warehouses and containers storing food and essential supplies have been broken into as the social fabric frays.

According to the UN, nearly 5 million people in Haiti are suffering from acute food insecurity – defined as when a person’s inability to consume adequate food poses immediate danger to their lives or livelihoods.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. I don’t think that’s sunk in,” Jean-Martin Bauer, the World Food Programme’s country director for Haiti, told CNN last month.

The UN human rights office meanwhile described sexual violence in Haiti as “severely underreported and largely unpunished,” in a harrowing report that documented cases of rape and forced sexual relations with gang members, as well surging levels of gang violence in the country.

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