New Haiti PM tasked with stabilising violence-racked country

Fritz Belizaire put in place as authorities battle gangs for control of the crisis-ridden country.

People look at the body of a dead man as rival gangs are vying for control of turf in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 1, 2024
People look at the body of a man as rival gangs vie for control in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 1, 2024 [Reuters]

Haiti’s transitional council has nominated Fritz Belizaire as the new prime minister of the crisis-ridden Caribbean country.

The council on Tuesday tapped the former sports minister to take over from interim prime minister Michel Patrick Boisvert. The previously low-profile new premier faces a daunting task of trying to stabilise the island nation, which is mired in chaos as it battles violent armed gangs that have taken control of many areas.

The council had earlier named Edgard Leblanc Fils, a former senate president, as president of the panel. The appointments follow weeks of political deadlock and in-fighting on the council, which was convened last month after former Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned.

Belizaire’s nomination was supported by four of the seven voting members on the nine-member panel. Other members noted that they were unfamiliar with him.

The council is also tasked with appointing a cabinet and an electoral council, which should pave the way for Haiti’s first general elections since 2016.

However, internal squabbles on the panel have delayed the process. Tensions concerning Tuesday’s selections are reported to be threatening to dissolve the council.

“This is a very good choice for prime minister,” Fils said of Belizaire according to AP. “The important thing for us is this will, this determination to go beyond divisions, to overcome conflicts and to reach a consensus.”

Violence continues

Gunfire was heard across the capital Port-au-Prince during the council meeting, illustrating the challenge the new prime minister faces to end the chaotic violence plaguing Haiti.

Some 4,000 inmates were released in raids on Haiti’s two biggest prisons in February. Amid an orgy of violence, the gangs have since wrested control from authorities in many areas and attacked infrastructure.

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured across Haiti from January to March, according to the United Nations. Nearly 95,000 people have fled Port-au-Prince. People are struggling to find food and access healthcare with Haiti’s ports and airport closed.

“The Haitian population can no longer wait,” Louis Gerald Gilles, a member of the transitional council who supported Belizaire’s appointment, told AP. “The security issue is essential for societal calm.”

Midnight conspiracy

However, desperately needed political stability looks some way off.

The Caribbean country has not held elections for eight years and has been without a president since Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021.

Henry, who was not elected, was removed after the armed gangs launched a coordinated attack in February, demanding that he step down.

Having been in Kenya seeking international help to quell the violence at the time, he remains locked out of Haiti. He submitted his resignation last week.

The transitional council will act as the country’s presidency until it can arrange an election, which must be held by February 2026.

The announcement of Belizaire as the new prime minister may not help.

Although he served as sports minister between 2006 and 2011, he is not well known in the country, and the appointment, which appears to have been arranged in a backroom deal, shocked some transitional council members.

The Montana Accord, a civil society group opposed to the selection, said in a statement that the announcement was a “conspiracy” hatched by four council members against the Haitian people “in the middle of the night”.

The next challenge for the transitional council will be to decide on support for a UN-backed deployment of a Kenyan police force to help fight the gangs. However, it is unclear when that might happen.

Source: News Agencies