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Haiti's interim PM Joseph says he will step down

July 19, 2021

Claude Joseph has said he will stand down to let Ariel Henry, the man designated as his successor by the assassinated president, take over as interim prime minister.

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph addresses the audience after suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, who was shot dead early Wednesday at his home, were shown to the media, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 8, 2021.
Claude Joseph (pictured) said he would return to his previous position as foreign minister after talks with Ariel HenryImage: Estailove St-Val/REUTERS

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has said he will step down from the top post to make way for Ariel Henry. 

Joseph made the comments in an interview with the Washington Post newspaper, with his offices soon issuing similar statements to other media.

Joseph told The Washington Post that he would step down "for the good of the nation."

The acting prime minister's comments follow soon after an international group of ambassadors appeared to snub him in a statement calling for the creation of "a consensual and inclusive government" in Haiti following President Jovenel Moise's assassination. 

The so-called Core Group of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, France, Canada, the US, Spain, the EU, the UN and the Organization of American States made no mention of Joseph and instead called on Henry to lead the country toward elections.

"To this end, it strongly encourages the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,'' the weekend statement from the Core Group said.

What did Claude Joseph say?

Joseph said in the Washington Post interview that he would allow 71-year-old neurosurgeon Ariel Henry to take his place as prime minister after weeks of uncertainty in the Caribbean country.

Moise had appointed Henry before his death at the hands of automatic weapon-wielding mercenaries on July 7.

Joseph said he had talked to Henry privately and was willing to give him the mandate "as quickly as possible."

Joseph, who would return to being foreign minister, said he was not looking for "any kind of power grab" but was just "interested in seeing justice" for his former "friend" Moise.

Joseph's office said the new government's mission would be "to organize general elections as soon as possible" in line with international appeals. It added that no replacement president would be appointed in the interim period.

What has happened since Moiseꞌs death?

The authorities tracked down and arrested most of the mercenaries alleged to have killed Moise after a firefight.

Most of them were from Colombia and had been working in Haiti as bodyguards, with some having being trained by the US military.

Colombia's chief of police, General Jorge Vargas, said former Haitian official Joseph Felix Badio could have ordered Moiseꞌs assassination.

Authorities arrested a Florida-based doctor and Moise's head of security, Dimitri Herard, for being prime suspects in the plot.

Martine Moise, who was critically injured in the attack on her husband, arrived back in the country from being treated in Miami on Saturday for the president's funeral.

Henry praises Haitians for keeping calm

Ariel Henry issued an audio recording on Monday in which he praised Haitians for their restraint during a chaotic two weeks. He said he would soon announce the new members of what he called a provisional consensus government. 

"I present my compliments to the Haitian people who have shown political maturity in the face of what can be considered a coup," Henry said. "Our Haitian brothers gave peace a chance, while leaving the possibility that the truth could one day be restored." 

But not all voices are in agreement with the decision.

Monique Clesca, a Haitian writer, told The Associated Press that Henry, who is expected to carry on Moiseꞌs legacy, might have to have to shoulder the "burden" of being perceived as being "put there by the international community."

"What we're calling for is for Haitians to really say this is unacceptable," Clesca added. "We do not want the international community stating who ought to be in power and what ought to be done. It is up to us,'' she said.

jc/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)