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The Haitian Crisis – Searching for Stability

Updated: Jun 17

The Situation

Haitian Flag

It has been 8 years without an election in Haiti. As political violence and corruption spread across the state, the citizens have been left without a democratic voice. Further, the government has only passed a single bill in this time, a budget act that served to fund public infrastructure, most of which is unused due to the protests and riots. Today, Haiti is amid a growing humanitarian crisis, sparked by large-scale protests across the nation.


Assassination and Appointment


Former President Jovenel Moïse

In July of 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home by state officials; this assassination imitated a downward spiral in Haiti that threatened the state’s stability. Shortly after the assassination, the Haitian government tried to regain control of the nation by appointing Ariel Henry as acting president. 


Many Haitians saw Henry’s reign as illegitimate and authoritarian, especially as he sought to extend his term beyond this year. On February 7th, the day on which Henry was supposed to step down, protests sparked across Haiti when the President refused to hold elections. Later that month, Henry went on an international trip to Guyana and Kenya. During his stay in Guyana, he made an announcement that the elections originally slated for January would instead be held in August of 2025, a delay of over 18 months. 


Former Acting President Ariel Henry

Henry’s Responses

Jimmy Chérizier (aka “Barbeque”)

February 29th, following Henry’s announcement of the delay, a gang-led protest coordinated attacks across Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Police stations were burnt, the airport was shut down, and the two largest prisons in the city were stormed, releasing thousands of people. Ultimately, the government declared a state of emergency on March 3rd. Two days later, gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (aka “Barbeque”) claimed to be responsible for the attacks. In an interview with CBS News, he proclaimed that “if Ariel Henry doesn’t resign, if the international community continues to support him, we’ll be heading straight for civil war...”

 

Throughout these events, Henry remained in Puerto Rico, unable to return to the capital. The neighboring country of the Dominican Republic also refused to allow Henry to land at their airport. On March 12th, Henry officially announced his resignation on X. Per Henry’s announcement, a transitional presidential council has started to form. As of March 15th, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has claimed that almost all members were appointed. 


Humanitarian Crisis

All this political turmoil has occurred in the context of an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Haiti. In 2010, an earthquake in the nation’s capital killed over 220,000 people. In addition, 1.5 million citizens were left homeless. In these 14 years, Haiti has still not recovered from the devastating losses of the natural disaster. With billions of dollars flooding into Haiti for rebuilding projects, corruption and violence began to rise as individual gangs and leaders sought to control the process of rebuilding. 

2010 Earthquake in Port-au-Prince

Even the political tensions in Haiti have been long withstanding. In the 1960s and 70s, many Haitians fled to the United States to escape the Duvalier dictatorship that ruled over the nation. Haiti’s democracy since then has gone through spurts, sometimes looking promising and other times seeming concerningly fragile.


International Aid

Since Henry stepped down, several Caribbean nations and Kenya have offered to deploy security forces. The Kenyan forces are currently in limbo, as they are an extension of a previous deal from 2021 which the Kenyan courts declared to be unconstitutional. The UN has also advocated for launching a restorative peacekeeping mission in the state. In the US, the Biden administration has pledged $58 million in humanitarian aid while launching a team of Marines to provide security around the embassy as US citizens are evacuated. Some Haitian citizens, however, are critical of the influence of international groups on their country. Many fear that these international organizations won’t respect the linguistic background of Haiti (Kreyòl and French), nor will they steer free of human rights abuses. Overall, however, the Haitian community seems to welcome the presence of humanitarian support in this time of need.



A Note for the Haitian Diaspora 

For the Haitian community in the United States, this outbreak of violence may be devastating to hear of. As the situation continues to unravel, we encourage you to use the resources available to you in times of need. A few have been linked below. The FAC supports all people of the Francophone diaspora and encourages Haitians around the world to remain resilient in these times. We also encourage you to read more on the crisis and capture a broader understanding, including the potential future. 


Additional Readings on the Crisis: 


Resources for Haitians: 



Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence

University Intern

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