Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said immediate action is needed to fix the security situation in Haiti and that additional aid is a central topic of a virtual meeting Friday that includes cabinet officials from Canada, the United States, France and other countries.
Trudeau spoke at the start of the meeting hosted by Canada, which is home to 165,000 people of Haitian origin. There is a deepening constitutional crisis in Haiti following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, as well as a climate of violence in neighbourhoods dominated by criminal gangs.
Trudeau said Haiti’s allies must act immediately to help tackle a spike in violence that is worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation.
“In order to address Haiti’s humanitarian needs, we must also address the challenging security situation. The increase in violence is only worsening the already precarious humanitarian situation,” Trudeau said.
“This will require immediate action to mitigate violence … we must also address the deep governance problems that are fuelling the current political and security crisis. That includes taking action against corruption.”
The meeting comes as Haiti faces multipronged crises with economic, humanitarian and security aspects and a looming leadership deadline. Moise’s killing last year complicated an already fragile political situation in Haiti, heaping more uncertainty in a nation already struggling with widespread poverty and natural disasters.
Moise had been ruling by decree for more than a year, since January 2020, and his opponents said his presidency should end in February 2021.
He had controversially claimed that his term would end on February 7, 2022. Two days before his death, he had named Ariel Henry as the next prime minister. Henry now serves in an acting capacity and many observers think that his term should end on February 7 as well.
Moise was assassinated in his residence in Port-au-Prince by a group of armed gunmen. The group involved in the killing allegedly included 20 Colombian citizens and several dual Haitian-American nationals, according to the US Department of Justice. More than 40 people have been arrested so far in Haiti, the US and Jamaica in connection with the killing. On Thursday, the US charged a second man for alleged involvement in the assassination. The first US charge came earlier this month.
Gangs have extended their control of territory in Haiti since the assassination. One gang coalition in October created a nationwide fuel shortage by blocking access to storage terminals, and kidnappings are rife.
Meanwhile, Canada views elections as inevitable in Haiti given the institutional collapse, but no date has yet been set.
To make the matter worse, Haiti’s legislative and the judiciary branches also face legitimacy crises, along with the executive branch.
Many parts of Haitian civil society are calling for “accords” that would allow for a consensual leadership of the country while it waits to renew its institutions through elections – though various factions differ on what the accord should contain.
Henry himself claims to be spearheading one such accord, called the “September 11th accord”. Competing accords have also been developed in recent months. The main rival to Henry’s accord is known as the “Montana Accord”.
With a showdown looming between the Henry government and parts of civil society, Canada’s Ambassador to Haiti Sebastien Carriere said Canada will take no sides.
Canada wants an accord to be reached preferably before February 7. Henry’s frail legitimacy risks being challenged even further after that date.
Citing United Nations numbers, Carriere said “4.6 million Haitians live in a state of humanitarian emergency.”
For him, security remains the top issue. “I am seeing a population that’s being held hostage by the insecurity,” he told The Associated Press.
“Canada believes that the security must be re-established before elections are held … In the current context it would be very difficult to have elections, in particular with competing political accords,” he said.
Ottawa says the meeting will also include representatives of the UN, the Caribbean Community and the Organization of American States.
Henry tweeted on Friday that he wants democratic institutions to return to normal functioning and will hand over power to elected officials as soon as possible, adding that transitional bodies will be formally installed in upcoming days, including the provisional electoral council.
He also acknowledged Haiti’s dire situation.
“There is an urgent need to address these problems and find lasting solutions,” he wrote. “I am convinced that the root cause of such a situation lies mainly in the abject poverty in which a significant part of our population lives.”