New Haiti government to be formed on Tuesday with new prime minister

Country still has no president but elections expected 'as soon as possible'

Haiti's interim prime minister Claude Joseph will serve as foreign minister in the new government. AFP
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Haiti's interim prime minister Claude Joseph, who has run the country since the assassination of president Jovenel Moise, will step down to make way for a new government headed by the man Moise hand-picked days before his killing, a government official said on Monday.

The new government, due to take over on Tuesday, will not have a president, and will be tasked with organising fresh elections “as soon as possible”, said the official, who is close to the prime minister's office.

Moise had tapped Ariel Henry to replace Mr Joseph as prime minister just days before the controversial Haitian president was shot dead in his home in Port-au-Prince in the early hours of July 7. Mr Henry will now assume that post.

But in the hours after the assassination, Mr Joseph declared a “state of siege” and said he was in charge, launching a power tussle in the violence-wracked, impoverished Caribbean nation.

Monday's announcement would seem to put an end to that uncertainty.

Haiti has no working parliament and no workable succession process, and was already mired deep in a political and security crisis when the 53-year-old Moise was killed.

“For several days, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry have been holding a number of working meetings that will lead to the formation of an inclusive government with Ariel Henry as prime minister,” said the official.

“There will be no president of the Republic. The mission of this new government will be to organise general elections as soon as possible,” he added.

Mr Joseph will return to his former post as foreign minister in the new government.

Moise had ruled Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed after multiple disputes, including on when his own term ended.

As well as presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti had been due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The official did not give a timeline on Monday for when new elections would be held.

A man walks through a Petion-Ville street market in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Reuters

It would seem that the balance tipped in Mr Henry's favour at the weekend when an informal group of ambassadors known as the “Core Group” — representing Brazil, Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Spain, the UN special envoy, the US and the representative of the Organisation of American States — threw their support behind him.

The group called for the formation of a “consensual and inclusive government”, and “strongly encouraged” Mr Henry to “fulfil the mission that was given to him to form such a government".

Mr Henry, a 71-year-old neurosurgeon, has previously served as interior minister and labour minister. He also served as a senior aide to Haiti's health minister for five years.

Moise will be laid to rest on Friday in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

His widow Martine, who was seriously wounded in the attack on their home, was treated in a Miami hospital before returning home on Saturday to attend her husband's funeral.

She had her right arm in a sling and wore a bulletproof vest on the tarmac at the airport in Port-au-Prince, where she was greeted by Mr Joseph.

As funeral preparations continue, so does the investigation into Moise's killing. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is aiding local police.

So far, more than 20 people, many of them retired Colombian military personnel, have been arrested in connection with the killing, but the motive remains murky.

Haitian police have accused a 63-year-old Haitian doctor with strong ties to Florida, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, of being behind the plot and having “political objectives".

Colombia's police chief Jorge Vargas has said that a former Haitian justice ministry official, Joseph Felix Badio, gave two of the Colombian mercenaries the order to kill the president. But it is not clear whether Mr Badio in turn was following orders from someone else.

Updated: July 19, 2021, 6:46 PM