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Haiti on the brink: island nation falls into anarchy

The country no longer has any democratically elected officials as it faces a humanitarian crisis.




A protest against Haitian prime minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince in October

Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Haiti’s political and humanitarian crisis has deepened as the country’s ten remaining senators left office, leaving the country without any democratically elected officials. 

Last week, the officials reached the end of their term of office and their departure represented “the last semblance of democratic order in the beleaguered Caribbean nation”, said The Guardian. The country now has no functioning parliament with the senators being the last of 30 to remain in office after successive attempts to hold elections have failed. 

The small island nation now has no democratic representation at any state level or in any democratic institution – from its justice system to parliament – inanother sign that the country has become a “failed state”, said the paper.

Gangs fill void left by withering democracy

The withering of Haiti’s democracy has been a “gradual process”, said AFP, with functional elections not held in the country since 2019.

The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, in July 2021, by an armed commando squad only “amplified the deep political crisis” that the country found itself “mired” in due to the paralysis of its public institutions, said the news agency.

Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry is now at the helm as acting president, but having been appointed as the next PM just two days before the president’s murder “his legitimacy is widely questioned” in the country. 

The country had already been in a “fragile state” since a significant earthquake in 2010 left 300,000 people dead, said The Guardian. And just a month after the assassination of Moïse, another earthquake hit, sending the situation in the already crisis-ridden country “spiralling out of control”. 

Now, “gangs have filled the void” left by the absence of a functioning state, leaving the capital, Port-au-Prince, in the centre of a “horrific turf war” in which there have been reports of “prolific kidnappings, many civilian deaths, and gang-rape of elderly people and children”. 

The ongoing gang violence and state breakdown means conditions in the country are dire. “Close to half the population right now does not have enough to eat,” Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR, with “20,000 people facing famine-like conditions”. She said that more than 100,000 people had been displaced from their homes in the past year, while a cholera outbreak in the country has reached 15,000 cases. 

What next for Haiti?

In the wake of the “overlapping crises” currently plaguing the country, Henry has advocated for the initiation of fresh presidential and legislative elections as a means of charting a path towards recovery, said Al Jazeera

But other prominent figures within civil society have called for the establishment of a two-year transitional government before elections are called. This government would be composed of a president and prime minister selected by a coalition of political parties and civil society groups.

On Wednesday, Canada delivered armoured vehicles to the Caribbean nation as the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold, said Reuters. It follows a similar supply from Canada and the United States in October, after Henry called for the international community to send in a “specialised armed force” to restore order, as well as open humanitarian corridors.

But while the demand received support from the United Nations and the US, it also sparked new protests among the Haitian population, with many, including prominent figures within civil society, roundly rejecting the prospect of foreign intervention.


The Week

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