Haiti's Leader to Resign amid Gang Violence

    12 March 2024

    Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced early Tuesday that he would resign once a transitional council is created. The move followed international pressure to save the country from violent criminal groups.

    Henry announced the decision hours after meeting with leaders of neighboring Caribbean nations and American Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The group met in Jamaica to discuss a solution to Haiti's crisis. They agreed to a joint proposal to establish a transitional council.

    "The government that I'm running cannot remain insensitive in front of this situation. There is no sacrifice that is too big for our country," Henry said in a videotaped statement. "The government I'm running will remove itself immediately after the installation of the council."

    FILE - Women take cover during a gun battle between police and gang members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
    FILE - Women take cover during a gun battle between police and gang members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

    After the announcement, Haitians celebrated in the streets in the capital Port-au-Prince, dancing and playing music, Reuters news agency reported, based on videos posted on Haitian social media.

    Haiti under Henry

    Henry took power in 2021 following the murder of President Jovenel Moise. Under his administration, armed criminal groups, called gangs, grew in wealth and power.

    In late February, Henry traveled to Kenya to secure its support for a United Nations-backed security mission to help Haitian police. However, the violence greatly increased in his absence. It led to the closing of the country's main international airports.

    Armed gangs have burned police stations and raided two of the country's biggest prisons. The raids resulted in the release of more than 4,000 prisoners.

    Many Haitians have been killed and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs. Stores are running out of goods. Food and water are lacking. The main port in the capital city is closed, keeping supplies away.

    Henry arrived in Puerto Rico a week ago, after being barred from landing in the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor. Dominican officials also closed the airspace to flights to and from Haiti.

    International force

    On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the new council would be responsible for meeting the "immediate needs" of Haitians. They include the deployment of an international security mission to help police fight armed criminals.

    The U.S. would also provide an additional $100 million to this mission and $33 million in humanitarian aid, bringing the U.S. total promise to $300 million.

    A U.N. spokesperson said that, as of Monday, less than $11 million had been provided to the U.N.'s account for the mission. No financial contributions have arrived since Haiti declared its state of emergency on March 3.

    As Haiti prepares for new leadership, some experts question the role of armed gangs that control 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.

    "Even if you have a different kind of government, the reality is that you need to talk to the gangs," said Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia.

    Fatton said officials will still have to deal with the armed groups and try to convince them to give up their weapons, "but what would be their concessions?"

    The United Nations estimates over 362,000 people have been internally displaced in Haiti. The organization says thousands have been killed in the conflict overall, with widespread reports of rape, torture and kidnappings since 2021.

    I'm Caty Weaver.

    Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters.


    Words in This Story

    transitional - adj. relating to a change from one to another

    installation - n. the act of putting someone in an important job

    mission - n. a special military task

    contribution - n. the act of giving something