News that President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was assassinated on Wednesday induced feelings of uncertainty, anguish, and fear among natives after enduring political and environmental turmoil, especially over the last 11 years.
While Moïse’s presidential term was riddled with criticism and controversy, the loss of the nation’s leader invites valid questions regarding the country’s future amid fears of rising gang and police violence as well as political instability.
“The Haitian diaspora is upset and searching for answers. Although Jovenel Moïse was wildly unpopular with several calls for him to step down, there’s still a feeling of disappointment given what this indicates for the state of the country,” Haitian Times Publisher Vania Andre said in a statement sent to NewsOne. ” Folks are scared about what’s to come next, and there are very real fears about whether or not violence in the streets will ensue.”
The country’s prime minister Claude Joseph revealed the news, stating that Moïse was targeted in an attack at his home early Wednesday outside of the nation’s capital located in Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately, First Lady Martine Moïse was also shot and wounded, but her condition remains unclear.
“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” Joseph said in a statement, but there are little details regarding who carried out the attack.
In addition, Bocchit Edmond, the ambassador to the U.S. described the gunmen as “well trained professional commandos” and “foreign mercenaries” who were cosplaying as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Haiti’s current political state can not be explained in one paragraph due to the historical fact of colonization and chattel slavery, but modern-day Haiti’s political and social uprisings escalated due to the brutal regime of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier from 1957 to 1986, which confidently also caused a large exodus of Haitian immigrants, with a large portion arriving in America.
Moïse, a successful banana exporter initially ran and won in 2015, but the election was voided after election fraud claims.
Moïse was sworn in on Feb. 7, 2017, and was staring down a barrel of a country where its citizens had endured a long journey of hardships, pledging to turn the country into an economic haven, while also outsing corruption and violence.
Instead, Moïse’s presidency grew more authoritarian and contentions arose last year when he dissolved a majority of the country’s Parliament in reaction to a dispute over the constitutional term limitations around the 2018 elections. Since that time Moïse has ruled by decree. Earlier this year he told the UN Security Council that seven attempts had been made to overthrow him by powerful oligarchs.
In Feb. 2021, his critics claimed his tenure was illegitimate as his term legally expired the same month, but Moïse and his supporters argued that because he was not sworn in until 2017, his term ends in 2022.
Since April the country has also gone without formally appointing a prime minister after Joseph Jouthe resigned amid a spike in killings and kidnappings.
Presidential, legislative and local elections are expected to take place in September with a tentative runoff election scheduled for November.
The country declared a state of siege and closed the airport as Joseph, the interim minister, will take over most of the presidential duties. In terms of an assassination, the president of the Supreme Court would step in to the role, however, he died from COVID-19. The legislative powers would then appoint but have been disbanded under Moïse’s leadership. Moïse’s death comes one day after nominating Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as Haiti’s new prime minister.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley who serves as co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus called for a full investigation into Moïse’s assassination.
“We also call for full transparency and an independent investigation into this criminal act,” the caucus said. “We remain committed, more than ever, to working diligently alongside the Biden Administration in support of ushering in an equitable, inclusive Haitian-led democracy. One that reestablishes rule of law, reinforces institutions of Haitian-led governance, and centers the safety and human rights of every Haitian citizen.”
But fear and uncertainty remain real for people on the ground in Haiti and for Haitians who have migrated to other countries.
“This generation of Haitians in the Diaspora is living in two worlds, where they are confronted with the challenges of being Black in America, championing Black Lives Matter, fighting against gun violence, and impacted by what they see happening with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black Americans that have died at the hands of police, while also dealing with the persistent political and social problems in Haiti that also have racial and class undertones,” Andre continued.
“For a while, Haitians in the Diaspora were hopeful about Haiti’s future, especially given the outpouring of support for the country in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. There was a sense that Haiti was going to build back bigger and better. Folks left their corporate jobs and stability in the U.S. to be a part of that reawakening for Haiti, and sadly the reality has been the complete opposite, and Moïse’s assassination is the final nail in the coffin for them.”