Henry told to keep promise to quit, interim government almost there

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry gives a public lecture at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday March. 1, 2024. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Friday elections in his country need to be held as soon as possible in order to bring stability to the troubled Caribbean nation facing gang violence that threatens to overran government. Henry is in Kenya trying to salvage the deployment of a foreign armed force to Haiti to help combat gangs.
AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku

With a nine-member interim government set to take its place as early as this week in Haiti, training and planning preparations for an international security force to stabilize the country’s deteriorating security situation are being stepped up with Jamaica as the base officials said this week.

Jamaican Defense Force officials announced this week that they are partnering with Canada on a readiness exercise ahead of an imminent deployment to Haiti alongside forces from other Caribbean nations, Kenya, Benin and other countries around the world which have offered to participate in the security stabilization exercise. A team of more than 50 ranks and officers from Belize arrived in Jamaica in recent days to participate in the joint exercise with local forces and those from Canada. Officers from The Bahamas are also involved.

“This initiative will see service personnel from the (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and Belize Defence Force (BDF) integrate into a CARICOM Joint Task Force (CJTF) construct, to train, plan, and conduct a wide range of scenario driven security-based activities,” the JDF said in a weekend statement.”This integrated activity is the culmination of eight months of parallel training and coordination activities that have taken place across the region with the significant support of the governments of Canada and the United States of America.”

Canada has already offered to donate close to $100 million to the force, while the US says it will pledge $300 million.Other regional countries which have pledged to have boots on the ground include Suriname and Barbados while Guyana has hinted that it may provide cash to the effort.

President of Guyana Dr. Irfaan Ali.
President of Guyana Dr. Irfaan Ali. Government of Guyana

The heightened preparations come as regional leaders have written to outgoing Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry reminding him that he needs to keep his promise to step aside once a new interim government is fully in place and ready to function. The letter was sent at the weekend by regional bloc chair and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali to Henry at his temporary exile spot in Puerto Rico. The leaders also urged him to take the necessary steps to liaise with the council as they push to get a government in place in collaboration with council members and other stakeholders.

“This entity is expected to facilitate a smooth and peaceful transition of power and ensure the continuity of governance, paving the way for free and fair elections in the shortest possible time,” Ali said.Henry has been laying low in Puerto Rico because heavily armed groups which have been terrorizing the country for almost three years have threatened to kill him if he returns. They have also blocked roads to the main airport in the capital blocking his return from overseas trips to Kenya and Guyana where he had attended a regional leaders meeting.

Henry, 74, a neurosurgeon, has been doing as much as he can from Puerto Rico while CARICOM and the local stakeholders work to put together a new government.“It is incumbent on you to take the necessary procedural formalities to facilitate the immediate installation of the transitional presidential council leading to the naming of an interim prime minister,” Ali said in the missive dated March 28.

“This is a critical and urgent first step to allow the council to commence functioning and to initiate the accelerated deployment of a multilateral security support mission authorized by the UNSCR 2699/2023. The MSS is intended to support the Haitian National Police in bringing the country to a situation of security and stability for the holding of free and fair general elections to pave the way for long term recovery, growth and development of Haiti. CARICOM will revert to you once the name of the interim prime minister is known.” The council has a single female representative.

Over the weekend as well, CARICOM has sent a number of other legal documents to Haiti including an order for the formal nomination of council members and a decree that would provide for its functioning. It also listed the names of the nominees or delegates who will eventually form part of an interim cabinet. Regional officials are dearly hoping that a local judge will be able to swear in the members as early as this week as the security situation continues to deteriorate. A government is badly needed to formally invite the international security force to Haiti and to liaise with it and the UN system. Kenya has offered to lead the force alongside officers from Benin as well as troops and police officers from various CARICOM nations.