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Haiti's prime minister says he'll resign once a transitional council is created

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, speaks to students during a public lecture on bilateral engagement between Kenya and Haiti, at the United States International University (USIU) Africa, in Nairobi on March 1, 2024.
SIMON MAINA
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AFP via Getty Images
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, speaks to students during a public lecture on bilateral engagement between Kenya and Haiti, at the United States International University (USIU) Africa, in Nairobi on March 1, 2024.

Updated March 12, 2024 at 1:38 PM ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, and SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Haiti's prime minister has agreed to resign once a transitional presidential council is installed and a new interim prime minister is named.

"The government will resign immediately after the installation of this council and will remain in office to handle current affairs until the appointment of a prime minister and a new government," Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said in a video statement posted online early Tuesday.

Stranded in Puerto Rico and unable to return to Haiti, Henry had come under mounting pressure to step down from Haitian stakeholders and criminal gangs, as well as leaders of neighboring Caribbean countries, the United States and other countries.

The regional bloc known as Caricom (Caribbean Community) met in Jamaica with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss Haiti's deepening institutional, security and humanitarian crises. Caricom brokered a deal for a peaceful transition of power and announced Henry's resignation, even before he did.

The president of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, said they had agreed to a seven-voting-member transitional council made up of the major political parties in Haiti, and two observers. Ali said the gangs, which control about 80% of Haiti's capital, were not consulted in the deal.

Henry, a 74-year-old neurosurgeon, had been tapped as prime minister by late President Jovenel Moïse just days before Moïse's assassination in 2021. Henry jostled his way into the top spot with the backing of the United States — and has had a tumultuous term ever since.

Members of the G9 and Family gang speak to each other while standing guard at their roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday.
Odelyn Joseph / AP
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AP
Members of the G9 and Family gang speak to each other while standing guard at their roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday.

He promised to lead the country toward elections, but the vote was put on the back burner as gangs grew ever more powerful.

Last month, Henry announced he would delay elections until next year. Gangs in Haiti reacted by forging a federation and they began to systematically attack government facilities — the airport, the port, police stations.

Earlier this month, Henry met with Kenyan President William Ruto in Nairobi and signed an agreement allowing a Kenyan-led, U.N.-backed multinational security force to help quell growing violence in Haiti.

But on Tuesday Kenya said it had put plans to deploy the multinational force on hold until a new Haitian government is named. U.S. State department spokesman Matthew Miller said the council should be formed in the next day or two and that Kenya will wait for that to happen, before deploying.

With the prime minister still abroad, Haitian gangs attacked jails in the capital of Port-au-Prince — killing a number of police officers and releasing thousands of prisoners.

Henry has been unable to return to his country and remains in Puerto Rico.

The United Nations has welcomed the political transition agreement.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general, said in a statement the secretary-general "expresses appreciation to CARICOM, and other international partners, for facilitating a way forward to resolve Haiti's political crisis and calls on all Haitian stakeholders to act responsibly and to take steps towards the implementation of the agreement in order to restore the country's democratic institutions through peaceful, credible, participatory and inclusive elections."

On Monday in Kingston, Jamaica, Secretary of State Blinken announced the United States was increasing its approved support for a multinational security mission in Haiti to $300 million and pledged another $33 million for health and food security.

"We can help restore a foundation of security that can address the tremendous suffering that innocent Haitians are experiencing, and help create the conditions that will enable them to have that opportunity," Blinken said.

But the deal Caricom reached in Jamaica raises many questions, including whether the promise of Henry's resignation will assuage the gangs.

Haitians have become painfully accustomed to repeated crises over the years. Many remain cautious about expectations for whether the latest resolution will hold.

NPR's Eyder Peralta reported from the Dominican Republic; independent journalist Harold Isaac reported from Haiti.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Harold Isaac