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Haiti: Ariel Henry assumes post as prime minister

July 21, 2021

Henry has appealed for national unity as he takes office nearly two weeks after the assassination of late President Jovenel Moise.

Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry
PM Ariel Henry has called for Haitians to come togetherImage: Matias Delacroix/AP/picture alliance

Ariel Henry was formally inaugurated as Haiti's prime minister on Tuesday, almost two weeks after the assassination of late President Jovenel Moise. 

Moise had designated Henry as his successor prior to his death.

'Time for unity' 

Henry, a 71-year-old neurosurgeon and former Cabinet minister, has called for unity in the Caribbean country.

"It's time for unity and for stability," Henry said after he was sworn in. The new prime minister said the "Haitian people" are the solution to the country's political crisis after Moise's death.

Henry said one of his main goals is to restore law and order to Haiti.

"One of my priority tasks will be to reassure the people that we will do everything to restore order and security," he said.

"This is one of the main issues that the president wanted me to tackle, because he understood that it was a necessary step if we were to succeed in his other concern of organizing credible, honest, transparent and inclusive elections," he added.

Claude Joseph cedes leadership

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph had led Haiti in the days following Moise's death and declared a "state of siege" due to a lack of stability in the country. Joseph agreed to step down on Monday and hand over power to Henry.

"Your'e inheriting an exception situation characterized by the absence of a president to serve as your shield, a political crisis unprecedented in the history of the country, galloping insecurity, a morose and precarious economic situation," Joseph said in comments directed toward Henry.

Henry is backed by the US, EU and other major western countries such as Canada and France. Domestic critics of Henry claim he is a puppet of the international community.

"The United States welcomes efforts by Haiti's political leadership to come together in choosing an interim Prime Minister and a unity cabinet to chart a path forward in the wake of the heinous assassination of Jovenel Moïse," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. 

Earlier in the day, Haitians paid their respects to Moise during a solemn ceremony in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The official memorial service featured speeches and music to remember the late president.

Police officers arrested over Moise's killing 

Moise was shot multiple times during an attack at his residence in the upscale Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Petion-Ville on July 7. First Lady Martine Moise was also injured in the attack and airlifted to the US for emergency care.

A group of 28 mercenaries are suspected of having orchestrated the killing. The Columbian government says several former Columbian soldiers are believed to have played a role in the assassination.

Haitian police chief Leon Charles announced the formal arrest of four police officers on Tuesday in connection to the assassination.

"There was infiltration in the police," he said.

Moise took office in February 2017 and was a controversial figure in Haiti.

Massive protests broke out in 2018 due to high fuel prices and continued through 2021 due to economic problems and the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the demonstrators openly called for Moise's resignation, but the Haitian president refused to step down.

wd/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)