Claude Joseph, who has nominally led Haiti as acting prime minister since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, will hand power to a challenger backed by the international community possibly as soon as Tuesday, a Haitian official said.
The announcement appears to end a power struggle between Joseph and Ariel Henry, the 71-year old neurosurgeon who was appointed prime minister by Moïse two days before the killing but has yet to be sworn in.
Haiti Foreign Affairs Ministry senior official Israel Jacky Cantave said that Joseph took charge following Moïse’s assassination to help ensure continuity of state, but he would hand over power to Henry now that there is a consensus on the future of the country and protests have calmed.
Cantave said that Haiti’s Council of Ministers would meet on Monday and that if all goes well, Joseph could hand over power to Henry in a ceremony on Tuesday.
In an audio recording, Henry referred to himself as prime minister and called for unity, saying he would soon announce the members of what he called a provisional consensus government to lead the country until elections are held.
“I present my compliments to the Haitian people who have shown political maturity in the face of what can be considered a coup. … Our Haitian brothers gave peace a chance, while leaving the possibility that the truth could one day be restored,” Henry said.
“Now it is up to all the national leaders to walk together in unity, towards the same goal, to show that they are responsible.”
Reuters was unable to immediately reach Joseph by phone for comment, but in an interview with the Washington Post published Monday, he said he had agreed to step down.
Moïse was fatally shot when assassins armed with assault rifles stormed his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince on July 7. The assassination has pitched the already troubled nation into chaos, coming amid a surge in gang violence that has displaced thousands of people and hampered economic activity in the poorest country in the Americas.
Joseph told the Washington Post that he and Henry had met privately over the past week, adding that he agreed to step down on Sunday “for the good of the nation” and is willing to transfer power “as quickly as possible.”
“Everyone who knows me knows that I am not interested in this battle, or in any kind of power grab,” Joseph said.
“The president was a friend to me. I am just interested in seeing justice for him.”
Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions.
On Saturday, the important Core Group of international ambassadors and representatives urged “the formation of a consensual and inclusive government.”
“To this end, we strongly encourage the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the group said.