Haiti announces transition council to establish new political leaders

A transitional council tasked with choosing Haiti’s next prime minister and Cabinet has been formally established, as gangs continue to tighten their grip on the troubled Caribbean country.

The existence of the council, announced in a decree published Friday in a Haitian government outlet, was expected to trigger the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who promised to step down once the council was created.

Henry did not immediately issue a comment following the publication of the decree.

The council’s creation comes exactly a month after Caribbean leaders announced plans to help form the nine-member panel, with seven members awarded voting powers.

The decree does not name the members of the council, according to Reuters, but one group of people who were on the council as of last month signed a joint statement. They are Fritz Alphonse Jean, with the Montana Accord group; Leslie Voltaire with Fanmi Lavalas; Louis Gérald Gilles with the December 21 Agreement political group, which is allied with Henry; Laurent Saint-Cyr with the private sector; Edgard Leblanc Fils with the January 30 political group; Emmanuel Vertilaire with the Pitit Desalin party; Augustin Smith with the EDE/RED political party; and Frinel Joseph as one of two nonvoting observers.

Smith had replaced former nominee Dominique Dupuy, a UNESCO ambassador, who announced Sunday that she was resigning following political attacks and death threats.

The council of Haitian political, private sector, civil society and faith-based stakeholders began to form in March. The members created a set of guidelines for governance. CARICOM, the consortium of Caribbean governments, assisted in forming the council. In a Friday statement, CARICOM heralded the announcement of the transitional council, highlighting that “the mission of the Presidential Council is to put Haiti back on the road to dignity, democratic legitimacy, stability and sovereignty and to ensure the proper functioning of the State’s institutions.”

Friday’s development was cheered by those who believe the council could help steer Haiti in a new direction and help quell widespread gang violence that has paralyzed swaths of the capital of Port-au-Prince for more than a month.

The creation of such a government would come after years of democratic disruption and the crumbling of Haiti’s political leadership. The country hasn’t held an election in eight years.

Amid the gang violence, scores of people have been killed and more than 300,000 people have been displaced. In the country of 11 million people, about 1 million are on the brink of famine, according to the U.N.