After a lengthy power struggle that has pitched Haiti’s political landscape into uncertainty, the country’s acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph has agreed to step down and hand power to his rival Ariel Henry, according to a top government official.
The deal brings to a close days of negotiations between the two men over who would lead the Caribbean nation. Joseph has led the country since the shocking assassination of president Jovenel Moise on July 7, emphasizing a need for stability in the Caribbean nation. Henry, who had been nominated to the premiership days before Moise’s death but never took office, disputed Joseph’s claim.
Henry will now become prime minister and Joseph will retain his original role as Haiti’s foreign minister, current Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told CNN on Monday.
“Negotiations about the composition of the rest of government are still in course, there is no official announcement as of now,” Pierre said.
A ministers’ council will be held on Monday afternoon to make final decisions about the new government, Pierre also said. Henry is expected to be installed and the rest of his government announced on Tuesday.
Henry, a neurologist by training, was named prime minister on July 5 by Moise, but was never officially sworn in. He has been largely silent as the investigation into Moise’s death unfolds. But late on Sunday night, Henry released an audio statement addressing Haitian citizens and promising a new coalition government.
“My fellow Haitians in Haiti and in the diaspora, it is an honor for me to address you as your prime minister. I am calling for all of us to unite and to work together to stop the nation from descending into the abyss,” Henry said.
“Today, it is our responsibility as leaders to work together to faces our challenges. I know some people are scared and have questions about who is leading the country. We weren’t ready for recent events, but I can assure you that in a very short period of time I will unveil a new coalition government. This government will lead the country for a short period of time until we can hold better elections.”
Immediately after Moise’s death, Joseph vowed to lead the country until the presidential and legislative elections this fall. But on Saturday, the Core Group – a collection of foreign ambassadors and special representatives based in Haiti which includes the US – called for Henry to be the one to lead.
Henry should form a new government and organize presidential elections “as quickly as possible,” the group said in a press statement published by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH).
According to Pierre, the elections minister, elections are likely to be held 120 days after Henry is sworn in as prime minister.
A conference of activists and civil society groups also met over the weekend with the aim of releasing a plan to create a transitional governmental council that would lead the country. They argue that Haiti, which is riven with gang violence and infrastructural issues, will not be capable of holding free and fair elections this fall.