Fall of Ariel Henry, disputed prime minister of Haiti

Ariel Henry, a renowned doctor but controversial political leader who resigned on Monday, became prime minister of Haiti after the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, but never managed to put an end to the violence and chaos in his country.

Moise selected Henry for the post just two days before he was killed by a group of mostly Colombian mercenaries.

Henry, 74, studied medicine in France and made a name for himself in Haiti as a neurologist.

During his medical career, he headed the neurosurgery department of one of Haiti’s most renowned private hospitals and taught in state universities in Port-au-Prince, only entering politics late in life.

In January 2015, president Michel Martelly named him interior minister, a position he held for less than eight months.

After a change in the head of government in September 2015, he was appointed minister of social affairs and labor for six months, before leaving the political scene for more than five years.

In July 2021, president Moise chose him as his seventh prime minister.

But just two days later, on July 7, Moise was assassinated in his residence.

The attack plunged the already fragile country into chaos and Henry did not even have time to officially take office.

After two weeks of uncertainty and under pressure from foreign embassies, he was finally installed as head of a government already suffering from a legitimacy deficit.

The investigation into the president’s assassination only increased distrust of him: the night of the murder, Henry had several telephone conversations with one of the main suspects.

And in early 2022, CNN broadcast a recording attributed to a judge accusing Henry of having planned and financed the attack.

Henry dismissed the allegations as a “distraction” and said it was difficult to recall the names of everyone who called him that day and the nature of the conversations they had.

– Gangs extend control –

As civil society and part of the political opposition struggled to agree on offering an alternative, the prime minister retained control of the state, but without much impact in the face of the repeated and growing crises shaking the country.

Well before the death of Moise, criminal gangs had already extended their control over the country.

With gangs controlling a large part of the capital Port-au-Prince, preventing access to the offices of the prime minister, Henry had to organize ministerial meetings from his official residence.

On January 1, 2022, Henry was forced to flee under bursts of gunfire from a national ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of Haiti’s independence in the city of Gonaives, which he said was an attempt on his life.

According to an agreement concluded in December 2022, Henry was to hold elections sometime in 2023 and then cede power to newly elected officials on February 7, 2024.

However, elections have not been held and Henry refused to step down, exacerbating the crisis and increasing questions over his legitimacy.

The country was without a president — Moise was not replaced — or parliament as all its lawmakers’ terms had run out and national polls had not been held since 2016.

As the gangs extended their control, they formed an alliance with the declared aim of overthrowing the prime minister.

They attacked police stations, Port-au-Prince’s airport and even prisons, freeing thousands of inmates.

On March 5, powerful gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, a former policeman, warned the country was headed for “civil war” if Henry did not resign.

As the gangs launched their coordinated campaign of violence, Henry was on a visit to Kenya to sign an agreement for the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti as part of a multinational mission supported by the United Nations and the United States.

His plane, prevented from landing back in Haiti, finally took him to the US island of Puerto Rico, from where he announced his resignation on Monday.

The United States, which was pushing with other countries for a political transition in Haiti, said he was welcome to remain if he wished to stay there.


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