Diaspora Stories

Haiti: Tumbling Down The Cliff

Jovenel Moïse, the President of Haiti, was assassinated on July 7th, 2021 at his residence. According to Haitian authorities, an armed commando of 28 men, comprising 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans attacked the President at his residence. They opened fire on the President and his wife at their home in Porte-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Moise was shot twelve times and left dead at the scene. The First Lady, Martine Moïse was also shot multiple times in the attack and suffered fatal injuries. She was airlifted to the United States for emergency treatments. Later that day, police killed three of the suspected assassins and arrested twenty more. A manhunt is still ongoing for five other gunmen as well as the masterminds of the attack, one of whom was said to have been arrested on July 11, 2021.

Haitian chief prosecutor Bedford Claude confirmed plans to bring Moïse’s top bodyguards in for questioning, as none of the President’s security guards were killed or injured in the attack. Haitian authorities also arrested and identified a suspect named, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, who once expressed a desire to lead his country in a YouTube video.

However, he is unknown in Haitian political circles, and associates suggested he was duped by those really behind the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The Police said Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, planned to assume the presidency and had hired some of the men involved in the attack, as his security team.

Sanon, who reportedly has lived on and off in Florida for about two decades, landed in Haiti on a private plane in early June with political objectives, according to Haiti’s Police Chief, Léon Charles. A Florida friend of Sanon told The Associated Press that the suspect is an evangelical Christian Pastor and a licensed physician in Haiti.

The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns, said Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the US State and Justice departments and wanted to install him as President. He said the plan was for Moïse to be arrested, not killed, and Sanon would not have participated if he knew Moïse would be assassinated.

President Jovenel Moïse was the chosen successor to President Michel Martelly, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election in 2015. According to official results, Moïse received 33% of ballots cast in the first round, more than any other candidate but short of the majority required to avoid a second run-off election. These results were disputed by second-place finisher, Jude Célestin and others, whose supporters protested.

The mandated run-off was repeatedly delayed, prompting further violent protests. The 2015 election results were eventually cancelled. When incumbent Martelly’s term expired, the legislature appointed Jocelerme Privert as interim President before another election in November 2016.

 In these elections, Moïse received 56% of the official count, good enough to avoid a rerun. Moïse assumed office on February 7, 2017.

Shortly before his death, Moise had selected Ariel Henry was to replace Joseph as the prime minister, but Henry has not assumed the role before the assassination. Henry declared himself to be the rightful Prime Minister after Moïse’s death. As the United States chose to recognise Joseph as the Interim President, Henry stated that they had made a mistake. He however stated that he wants to avoid a conflict over the issue, to avoid worsening the situation in the country The Interim President has declared a state of siege in the entire country

Political instability since 2019 continued to hinder the Haitian government’s ability to meet the basic needs of its people, resolve long-standing human rights problems, and address humanitarian crises. In July 2018, the government’s announced that it would eliminate subsidies, allowing fuel prices to increase by up to 50 percent, which led to widespread protests and the worst civil unrest the country has seen in years.

In February 2019, demonstrations escalated after the government declared a state of economic emergency, with opposition groups demanding President Jovenel Moïse’s resignation amid allegations that he had mismanaged government funds designated for social programs.

In February this year, opposition leaders disputed the mandate of President Jovenel Moise, whose term most legal experts and civil society groups said ended on February 7. However, the President and his supporters say his five-year term only expires in 2022.

This led to a failed coup where nearly two dozen people were arrested, including a Supreme Court judge and a senior police official.

Haiti’s electoral council postponed legislative elections indefinitely in October 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Moise has been governing by decree since January 2020, when the legislature’s mandate expired.

Plagued by chronic political instability and frequent natural disasters, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest countries in the world. Haiti’s poverty is massive and deep. Almost 60% of the population lives under the national poverty line of $2.41 per day.

Almost a quarter of the population lives under the national extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day. In addition, Haiti has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.

To help the country out of all these political crisis and upheavals, the United States has insisted that the president of Haiti set elections as quickly as possible.

Marcelin noted that Moïse has lost the respect of the people and what the country needs is a transitional government that can organize fair and free elections.

In addition, the Security Council stresses that the democratic will of the Haitian people must be respected which underscores the need to address essential security, transparency, and logistical considerations in connection with upcoming electoral processes. The Security Council reiterates the urgent need to hold free, fair, transparent, and credible legislative elections that have been overdue since October 2019.

There is also the need for an immediate and coordinated response by Haitian authorities to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the deteriorating security situation in the country. This includes gang-related criminal activities, increases in kidnappings, homicides, and rape. There should be provision of adequate resources to the Haitian National Police, for the adoption of a sustainable long-term strategy to address the root causes of violence and for concrete measures to address and eradicate violence.

Moïse was a man with many enemies hated by a group of families including the powerful Vorbe dynasty, which controls the country’s electricity supply. In one of the most notable achievements of his time in office, the President had cut them out of the profitable business of supplying electricity.

On July 11, Martine Moïse posted an audio message to her Twitter account, calling on Haiti to “not lose its way” and accusing unnamed people of assassinating her husband to stall the democratic transition of power. She also suggested that her husband was targeted for political reasons, mentioning an upcoming referendum that would have made changes to the constitution and given more powers to the President.  Beyond the issues and powerplays, it is most important that Haiti does “not lose its way.” That way should serve the common good, and bring peace and prosperity to the troubled country.