South Asia and Beyond

As Barbeque Besieges Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henry Can’t Be Found

 As Barbeque Besieges Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henry Can’t Be Found

A Video grab of Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry (left) addressing a joint press conference with President William Ruto of Kenya in Nairobi March 3, after signing an agreement for Kenyan support for a multinational force to restore peace in his troubled country.

As security forces and violent gangs battle for control of capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry can’t be found, reports Voice of America.

In a report Monday from Nairobi, Kenya, where Henry was last seen signing a bilateral deal for a possible multinational force to secure the troubled Caribbean nation, VoA said despite repeated inquiries, the Kenyan government has not commented on Henry’s whereabouts since the Friday signing ceremony.

In Haiti, gangs led by Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer better known as Barbeque, stormed two major prisons in the capital over the weekend freeing thousands of prisoners, and pledged to prevent Henry from returning to the country despite the state of emergency imposed by the government late Sunday. Gang leaders and protesters have called for the resignation of Henry, who is not elected and has repeatedly postponed elections since he assumed power in 2022.

Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister Patrick Boivert declared a state of emergency and imposed an evening curfew on Sunday to “take appropriate measures in order to regain control of the situation.” The three-day curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. began Monday morning.
Macharia Munene, a professor of history and international relations at USIA-Africa in Nairobi, told VOA the upheaval is concerning, and Henry should try and return to Haiti to show he’s in charge. However, ”We don’t know whether he is still in the country or has gone to another country. We don’t know for now where he is but it’s clear that in Port-au-Prince, the Barbecue has said he wants to barbecue the prime minister once he gets there. That may not be a good indicator.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, (which has urged its citizens to leave Haiti “as soon as possible”) said he believed Henry was returning to Haiti. “We think it’s important that he do so and he be allowed to do so,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the jailbreaks and escalating clashes across Haiti have led to its neighbours reviewing security arrangements at their missions in Port-au-Prince. While the U.S. has urged its citizens to leave, the defence minister of the Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is said to be touring the border, shoring up border fencing and military preparedness. The Bahamas and Mexico too are reportedly mulling the withdrawal of staff till the situation is brought under control.

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