Amid uncertainty, Haitian movements seek to build a democratic transition

While police and government authorities seem to be withholding key facts in the investigation into the assassination of de-facto President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian organizations are working to build a transition to rebuild democracy and institutions

July 22, 2021 by Jean Waltes Bien-Aime
Members of various civil society organizations and political parties met last week to find a solution to the crisis facing the country. Photo: Radio Resistance and Haitian Popular Press Agency

Two weeks have passed since the assassination of Haiti’s de-facto President Jovenel Moïse and the Haitian people still do not have clear cut answers about who was behind the crime and what motivated them. Further investigations into the assassination of Haiti’s de-facto President Jovenel Moïse reveal that the crime was planned in the neighboring country, the Dominican Republic. On July 14, in a press conference, the director of the Haitian National Police (PNH), León Charles, reported about this new development in the case.

Charles showed a picture of the meeting held in the Dominican Republic, in which the alleged mastermind of the murder, doctor and pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon -already arrested-, was seen with the director of the CTU Security company located in the United States, Antonio Emmanuel Intriago Valera, and the head of the Council Worldwide Capital Lending Group, Walter Veintemilla. Charles accused the two firms of allegedly financing Moïse’s assassination. He also reported that there is a wanted notice against the former senator John Joël Joseph, who also participated in the meeting.

The police have arrested approximately 26 suspects, which includes 18 Colombian mercenaries and three Haitian police officers.

While the police investigation continues, many people have raised questions about the investigation being led by the PNH, when the technical body responsible for the police investigations is the Central Direction of the National Police (DCPJ). Questions have also been raised regarding the potential manipulation of information that could establish the truth about the people behind the assassination. Questions raised since the assassination remain unanswered like how was it possible for individuals to breach the president’s residence so easily to assassinate him? Were the police officers assigned to provide security to Moïse involved in the crime since it would seem they did nothing to prevent it?

Furthermore, the chief of the Unity of General Security of National Palace, Dimitri Hérard and the police assistant manager, Jean Laguel Civil, responsible for the president’s security, did not respond to the summons of the government commissioner of Port-au-Prince, Bed-ford Claude, on July 14. They were called to appear before the public ministry to give information about Moïse’s death. They justified themselves by saying that they have already been under conservatory measures of the General Inspection of the National Police. The inconsistencies in the investigation have led many to believe that the police and government authorities are deliberately trying to create confusion.

Long-standing problems remain

Prior to Moïse’s assassination, Haiti was facing a delicate situation of growing violence and insecurity with a large number of reported kidnappings, assassinations and forced displacements in poor neighborhoods in the capital. This situation has not subsided following the assassination and some believe it has gotten worse.

In one incident on July 15, a group of unidentified armed individuals attacked a bus of “Sans Souci” company, going from Saint-Louis du Nord to Port-au-Prince, and kidnapped 10 of the 40 passengers and robbed them. According to reports some of those kidnapped were released but it is still unclear how and what happened to the rest of those kidnapped.

In addition to violence, the people of Haiti also continue to suffer a severe fuel shortage which has been afflicting the people for over a month. In the beginning, the authorities had said that there was gas in the tanks, but they could not distribute it because of the paramilitary operations in several determinant strategic places of distribution. However, they have been silent on the situation since then. Across the country, people are forced to wait in long lines outside of gas stations or buy it from unofficial distributors at extremely inflated prices.

Uneasy political transition

Moïse’s assassination opened up an unprecedented constitutional gap as there is no legal provision in the constitution itself with regards to how to replace a de-facto president. Added to this, is the already existing institutional crisis due to the undermining by Moïse and his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) of the different branches of power. Parliament has been suspended since January 2020 and there was direct intervention in the judiciary by the executive branch.

Haiti’s ruling class has come up with a temporary solution to Haiti’s political constitutional crisis. On July 19, former interior minister Ariel Henry assumed the responsibility of leading the country and became the new interim president of Haiti. The self-proclaimed president Claude Joseph, who assumed power since Moïse’s assassination on July 7, submitted his resignation and handed over power to Henry. The same day, Henry appointed new members of his cabinet and retained Joseph as his foreign affairs minister.

Moïse had replaced Joseph with Henry just two day before his assassination. On July 17, in an unexpected move, the Core Group which had supported Joseph’s presidency since his illegitimate proclamation, expressed its support for Henry. The Core Group is composed of the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States of America, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and is widely denounced by Haitian movements for playing an active role in Haiti’s domestic politics.

For Haitian civil society organizations and progressive leaning political parties, this ‘resolution’ does not resolve the deeper problems. They have begun presenting their proposals for a people-centric democratic transition and are searching for the possibility to find a consensus among diverse forces of the country for a transition that can reinvigorate and rebuild Haitian society and institutions.

The Commission to Search a Solution to the Crisis (CRSC), composed of several social organizations and political parties, have called on all the sectors that are struggling, to unite to find an Haitian solution to the crisis. They also emphasize the importance that the ‘international community’ not meddle in Haiti’s affairs and impose measures that would generate deeper crises in the country.

The Democratic and Popular Sector party has called on all the political actors to forget their personal interests and unite to propose an alternative for the nation. An Independent Council of Moral Authority (AMI) has been set up, which will analyze the different propositions made on the crisis of the country, in order to find a solution with the participation of all the sectors without exception.

Jean Waltes Bien-Aime is a Haitian journalist and translator with Radio Resistance and Haitian Popular Press Agency.