Haiti president assassination: mystery thickens

Authorities in Port-au-Prince continued their investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise on Friday, July 9. According to Haitian authorities, the armed commando team that assassinated the president consisted of 28 attackers, with eight still at large. AFP said the mystery of the mastermind’s identity is growing thicker.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse shocked Haiti and the international community Tuesday night, July 6, when he was killed by a bullet in his home.

Haitian police chief Leon Charles announced at a press conference Thursday night that 17 people (15 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans) had been arrested for their involvement in the murder of President Moïse. Three Colombians accused of being members of the commandos were killed by police. Eight others are at large.

What we need to know

Activity temporarily resumed in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, which was paralyzed for several days, Friday morning as more people took to the streets and public transportation gradually resumed service, AFP quoted witnesses as saying.

The reopening of Port-au-Prince’s airport, which the government requested Thursday, should take effect Friday. However, everyone in the country is on alert, trying to understand how such a deadly attack on the head of state could have happened.

A resident of the capital told AFP that “these are foreigners who came to this country to commit this crime. We Haitians are shocked.” We need to know who is behind this, what their names are, what their backgrounds are so that justice can do its job,” he added.

Challenges abound

And Me Bed-Ford Claude, the prosecutor general of the capital, Port-au-Prince, said Thursday that some senior police officers directly responsible for the Haitian president’s security are in the limelight and have been summoned to appear in court.

The capital’s government commissioner questioned: “I have not seen any police officers harmed, except the president and his wife. If you are responsible for the safety of the president, where were you? What did you do to avoid this fate for the president? Others even questioned the possible involvement of these police officers.

“The president of the Republic, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated by his security agents,” former Haitian Senator Steven Benoit said in a radio broadcast Friday. He said, “It was not Colombians who assassinated him; the latter were simply contracted parties hired by the Haitian state.

Political chaos

The assassination attack on the president further destabilized Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas plagued by insecurity.

Two men, more than half of whom are under 20 years old, are currently vying to lead the country of 11 million people.

One of the last political gestures of President Yoweri Moise, who died at 53, was to appoint another prime minister, Ariel Henry, on Monday. But he, Ariel Henry, was not yet in office when the assassination took place.

Hours after the tragedy, Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared 15 days of national martial law to grant stronger powers to the executive branch.

The opposition accuses interim Prime Minister Joseph of monopolizing power, but UN envoy to Haiti Helen Laram argues that he represents the responsible authorities because Ariel Henry has not yet been sworn in.

The Haitian Constitution includes a provision that in the event of a vacancy in the presidency, “the Council of Ministers, under the auspices of the Prime Minister, shall exercise executive power until another president is elected.

The country is already in institutional crisis: assassinated President Jovenel Moise has not held elections since he came to power in early 2017. The country has also been without a parliament since January 2020. Haiti’s government has all run the country by decree, and while President Moise’s tenure has been controversial, he had previously initiated an institutional reform.

Calls for transparent elections

The UN Security Council, the United States and Europe all agree that free and transparent legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2021 should be a priority.

President Jovenel Moise announced on July 5 the appointment of Ariel Henry as the new prime minister, the seventh during his presidency. The new prime minister is tasked with running the elections.

The constitutional referendum, initially scheduled for April, was postponed until June 27 due to the coronavirus (Civid-19) epidemic, and then postponed again and scheduled for September 26. The aim of the reform is to strengthen the prerogatives of the executive branch.