As Haiti rocked by chaos, what you need to know about the last 48 hours


Canada is renewing its call for stability in Haiti after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he will resign as gang violence continues to grip the country.

The unelected Henry, who took the helm after the 2021 assassination of then-president Jovenel Moïse, announced his plan to step down as the leader of the Caribbean nation on Monday.

His decision came after an urgent meeting of regional partners, including Canada, in Kingston, Jamaica, on Monday – despite facing calls within Haiti to resign for years.

So, what happened in recent days that led Henry to quit? Here is what we know.

Henry asks all Haitians to ‘remain calm’

Henry, a 74-year-old neurosurgeon by trade, said in a late-night video address his government will resign immediately once a transition council and temporary replacement have been appointed.

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“I want to thank the Haitian people for the opportunity I had been granted,” he said.

“I’m asking all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can for peace and stability to come back as fast as possible.”

Click to play video: 'Canada at emergency meeting on Haiti amid spiralling crisis'

Canada at emergency meeting on Haiti amid spiralling crisis

Videos distributed on Haitian social media appeared to show celebrations in the street, with people dancing to music in a party atmosphere and fireworks launched into the night sky.

Under his administration, armed gangs massively grew their wealth, influence and territory – eventually leading Henry to request an international security force in 2022 to stop the unrest. He initially turned to Canada and the United States to request they lead it.

Many in Haitian communities and abroad have been wary of international interventions after previous UN missions left behind a devastating cholera epidemic and sex abuse scandals, for which reparations were never made.

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Click to play video: 'Haitian Montrealers watch closely as crisis unfolds in Haiti'

Haitian Montrealers watch closely as crisis unfolds in Haiti

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in March 2023 that “outside intervention” wouldn’t lead to long-term stability in Haiti, but his government has levied sanctions against Haitian officials accused of aiding the gangs, while also giving support to help Haitian police.

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Henry eventually got an agreement to have Kenya lead a security mission, and left for the African nation in February to secure its support.

However, the conflict dramatically escalated in his absence, and he was stranded in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico while regional leaders called for a swift transition.

Canadians in Haiti warned to shelter in place

With a renewed surge in violence, Canadians in Haiti were warned by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) on Sunday night to shelter in place.

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Haiti declared a state of emergency early this month as clashes damaged communications and led to two prison breaks after Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier, a leader of an alliance of armed groups, said they would unite and overthrow Henry.

GAC told Canadians that if they cannot shelter in place, they should limit movements and maintain a low profile when going outside.

Click to play video: 'Haiti declares state of emergency after gang violence overwhelms capital'

Haiti declares state of emergency after gang violence overwhelms capital

Kidnappings have been common in Haiti; in 2021, a group of Canadian and American missionaries were kidnapped by a gang, and were held roughly two months before being released.

In addition to a nightly curfew in place, GAC also said the closure of Toussaint Louverture International Airport was added to its advisory on Sunday.

Since the closure of the Dominican Republic’s air border with Haiti on March 5, GAC said its embassy in Port-au-Prince will not be able to assist Canadians entering the country. The embassy remains temporarily closed to the public.

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Click to play video: '‘As bad as I’ve seen it’: How can Haiti emerge from years of unrest?'

‘As bad as I’ve seen it’: How can Haiti emerge from years of unrest?

GAC added the federal government is not planning assisted departures or repatriation flights for Canadians in Haiti at this time.

Henry is set to be replaced by a presidential council that will have two observers and seven voting members, including representatives from several political coalitions, the business sector and civil society and one religious leader.

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The council has been mandated to quickly appoint an interim prime minister; anyone who intends to run in Haiti’s next elections will not be able to participate.

In a statement Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly renewed Canada’s call for stability in Haiti.

“Canada looks forward to supporting the implementation of this agreement. We remain concerned about the security situation in Haiti and call on all parties to work towards a return to stability in the country,” she said.

“We will continue to support the Kenya-led Multinational Security Mission to improve the security conditions for the Haitian people.”

Haiti has lacked elected representatives since early 2023, and its next elections will be the first since 2016. Henry, whom many Haitians consider corrupt, repeatedly postponed elections, saying security must first be restored.

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Regional leaders on Monday discussed the framework for a political transition, which the U.S. had urged last week to be “expedited” as armed gangs sought to topple his government.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday the council would be tasked with meeting the “immediate needs” of Haitians, enabling the security mission’s deployment and creating security conditions necessary for free elections.

— with files from Global News’ Sean Previl, The Canadian Press and Reuters

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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