THE ASSASSINATION of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, 53, in the bedroom of his home on Wednesday has created a power vacuum which now threatens to throw the country into further turmoil.
The horrendous situation has repercussions not only for Haiti and its millions of inhabitants but also constitutes a regional security issue of the highest order.
The long presence of the United Nations, as well as US$2 trillion in foreign aid since 2001, failed to forestall this week’s dramatic escalation. It remains to be seen who is behind the killing or how a breach of this magnitude could have occurred.
What is clear is that the political situation had already been dangerous before Wednesday. But M Moise’s assassination now throws fuel on the flames. No one knows whether elections due later this year will take place. There is no functioning Parliament.
The term of the Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, has reportedly ended, though M Joseph has declared himself in charge of the police and army as efforts to apprehend the killers continued.
At the same time, M Moise’s recent appointee to the post of prime minister – Ariel Henry – has stated M Joseph is no longer in office. M Henry’s appointment was among the last actions of M Moise, taken mere hours before the assassination.
Meanwhile, M Joseph has pressed ahead and placed the country in a “state of siege” – in Haiti, one tier above a state of emergency – but there is no Parliament to ratify it formally.
Police officials have reported killing several members of the convoy that drove up to M Moise’s home in Pelerin, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, in order to kill him. Officials offered little evidence linking those killed and detained with Wednesday’s events, in the rapidly unfolding circumstances which have left the country in shock and on edge.
The president was shot at least 12 times, according to reports. His wife Martine suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
M Moise was known as “the Banana Man” because before entering office in 2016 he was a banana exporter with little political experience. But soon the Banana Man had to fend off accusations that he was a strongman.
The president placed increasing reliance on ruling by decree to effect governance. He allowed the Parliament’s term to expire last year, leaving only 11 elected representatives in place, in a country of 11 million.
International watchdogs also expressed concern over his government’s involvement in gang violence, sometimes to attack civilians. There were protests in Port-au-Prince earlier this year calling on M Moise to step down, as the Opposition said his term ended on February 7. Corruption concerns were rampant.
Yet, shamefully, little attention was paid to M Moise and this situation, regionally or internationally, before Wednesday. The international community, which has often been complicit with Haiti’s woes, seems to only care about or even notice Haiti whenever it is on the brink or under siege.