Haiti’s President, Juvenal Moïse, was murdered on 7 July 2021 when unidentified gunmen attacked his residence. The police investigation is still underway but political manoeuvring has already begun.
The former Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, Prime Minister designate Ariel Henry and Senate President Joseph Lambert all claim to be the country’s legitimate leader. A former government official explained, “We don’t know who is supposed to lead the country. Is it the former Interim Prime Minister (Joseph) who resigned just days before the assassination, is it the Prime Minister designate (Henry) who has not been sworn in yet or is it the Head of the Senate (Lambert)? It’s unclear what will happen.”
Joseph declared himself the acting Prime Minister with the support of the military and the police. “The problem,” a local political analyst explained, “is that on paper, Joseph has little legitimacy. There are many legal arguments that could be used against him: he had just resigned, he had accepted the choice of Henry as the new Prime Minister etc.”
“The problem is that on paper, Joseph has little legitimacy. There are many legal arguments that could be used against him.”
Political analyst, Haiti
The former official agreed, “Joseph’s claim is not legitimate. He was elected as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2020 and only became the interim Prime Minister in April 2021 when Joseph Jouthe resigned abruptly, leaving an office that cannot be vacant. It was always the case that Joseph would be replaced and Moïse had chosen Henry, even if the process of his appointment didn’t officially complete.”
Therefore, it was not surprising to us that the Core Group – a group of international diplomats composed of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States of America and the Special Representative of the Organisation of American States – placed its support behind Henry and encouraged him to form a “consensual and inclusive government”.
Some elements of civil society in Haiti have condemned the Core Group’s announcement as foreign interference in a process that should be run by Haiti.
The Core Group’s communiqué also called for legislative and presidential elections to be held as soon as possible. Elements of Haiti’s civil society do not agree with this either, arguing that the current situation does not guarantee free and fair elections. The former official did not expect any elections to take place quickly, “They want the Presidential elections to be held around September but we’re already in mid-July, and we don’t know who the candidates are. There are speculations but they’re not official candidates. And if anybody decides to run for president that gives them one month and one week to do a full campaign.”
“They want the Presidential elections to be held around September but we’re already in mid-July, and we don’t know who the candidates are.”
Former government official, Haiti
The collapse of the country’s institutional system has also had a severe impact on its economy. The World Bank expects Haiti’s GDP to drop 0.7% in 2021 after a 3.4% contraction for financial year 2020. The political analyst provided more context, “The Haitian economy is divided into two sectors: formal and informal. Currently the formal sector is struggling more. The informal sector still has money, and people exchange cash, the government doesn’t have any power over that.”
The economic difficulties have been compounded by the deteriorating security situation, as the former government official detailed, “Large areas are currently blocked by armed gangs who are preventing the distribution of gasoline, increasing prices. Some gang leaders have taken control of police stations, at any moment shooting and kidnappings might return.”
All this has led many to leave the country, the former official reported, “Many NGOs have left because of the political unrest. The middle-classes with US passports have left too. The border with the Dominican Republic was closed as soon as the President was assassinated so the majority of the population are trapped.”