Ariel Henry resigns as PM of Haiti; transitional council sworn in

Home*Cover Story*World

Ariel Henry resigns as PM of Haiti; transitional council sworn in

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned on Thursday as a new council was sworn in to lead the country gripped by deadly gang violence.

An recent outbreak of violence forced officials to move the ceremony from the capital’s National Palace to the outgoing prime minister’s office.

Mr Henry agreed to step down last month after armed groups blocked his return to the country.

Gangs are now in control of most of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

They have capitalised on the power vacuum left by the prime minister’s exit and expanded their control over swathes of the country, which has effectively become lawless in places.

Ariel Henry said he would resign after being prevented from returning from Kenya, where he had signed a deal to import a multinational security force in a bid to restore law and order.

A newly formed transitional council scrambled to impose tight security measures ahead of Thursday’s ceremony which saw its nine members sworn in.

It has been established to draw up a plan to restore order and return Haiti to democratic rule, and is backed by other Caribbean nations and the US.

Gunfire heard near the National Palace, where the ceremony was due to take place, forced a change of venue to the prime minister’s office, known as Villa d’Accueil.

On Wednesday, police used tear gas to disperse crowds surrounding the streets near palace.

Gangs who have previously attacked the palace had promised to derail the ceremony, with one of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders issuing a threat in a social media video that appeared to be aimed at the council.

“Whether or not you’re installed, this message is for you: Brace yourselves,” Jimmy Chérizier warned.

Mr Chérizier, also known as Barbecue, is the most prominent figure in a loose alliance of gangs known as Viv Ansanm (Live Together), which is in control of around 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Last month, he said he would consider laying down weapons if armed groups were allowed to take part in talks to establish the new government.

He said he was “not proud” of the spiralling violence in Haiti, and warned the crisis could continue if groups like his – which rail against “corrupt politicians” – are not part of a future government.

The situation in Haiti has been described as “cataclysmic” by the United Nations in a report published last month.

It said there had been more than 1,500 people killed and 800 injured in the first three months of 2024.

The report detailed the “harrowing practices” of the gangs, which are accused of using extreme violence and sexual abuse as a means of punishment and control.

Aid groups have reported difficulty in getting food and water into the capital, warning that millions are unable to find sustenance, with some on the verge of famine.