Antigua & Barbuda PM wants Haitian interim leader to step aside

February 28, 2024 in Regional

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Monday said that Haiti’s interim leader, Dr Ariel Henry, needs to “step aside” and allow for efforts to continue unimpeded in finding a solution to the socio-economic and political situation in Haiti.

Browne is among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders attending the 46 Regular Summit of regional leaders in Guyana where the Haitian issue has so far dominated the four-day gathering.

In a telephone interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation, (CMC) Prime Minister Browne said he believes Henry’s presence in the government is “part of the problem” as various stakeholders look to find a lasting solution to Haiti’s problem that has been increased with the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021 and the emergence of criminal gangs terrorising citizens.

“With no disrespect, my dear friend Henry is part of the problem and I think there are many in Haiti who believe that the interventions that are planned by the stakeholder groups (are) intended to prop up Henry,” he said.

“Now even though that is not so, we have to deal with that perception and we are of the view that Henry has to transition and to become an honest broker and to have a power sharing agreement with the others in Haiti so it doesn’t appear as though we are trying to stabilise Haiti for his benefit for him to continue.

“At the end of the day, he barely has legitimacy and we have to be careful that perception is not seen as the reality of the Haitian people which could only serve to inflame the situation,” Browne told CMC.

Earlier, CARICOM chairman and host President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali told the opening of the plenary session that discussions on Haiti by the regional leaders started over two days ago.

“CARICOM heads met on Saturday and commenced discussions on the challenges we have with Haiti. This morning with the Friends of Haiti, an expanded grouping that included

All the stakeholders and partners working with Haiti,” Ali said.

“We are hopeful that sometime today we will be able to point the Haitian people, the region and the global community in the direction through which we believe long lasting sustainable solutions can be achieved.

“Of course this requires all stakeholders in Haiti, especially to give a bit, to compromise a bit and to express a collective willingness to achieve the outcomes that we are setting ourselves to achieve,” Ali told the meeting which is also being attended by the Haitian prime minister.

Browne told CMC that he is of the view that even before any intervention in Haiti to stabilise the French-speaking CARICOM country “the political situation with Henry has to be addressed and he has to be magnanimous as possible.

“He himself has said that he doesn’t wish to stay on. So if indeed he is an interim, let’s say president, he should not have any problems having a power sharing agreement with the other…political stakeholders in Haiti.

“So I believe Henry has a role to play and could be the one who could effect urgent changes and to help accelerate the establishment and operationalisation of this multi-national group to stabilise Haiti.

Last month, the Kenya High Court ruled against sending troops to Haiti as part of the Multinational Security Mission (MSS) to restore peace and security in Haiti.

Last October, the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of the MSS to back Haiti’s beleaguered police force, which Kenya offered to lead. A 2022 sanctions regime, targeting gang leaders and their financiers, was also renewed.

Earlier this month, President of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, urged the international community to do more to help deal with the security, political and economic situation in Haiti.

Asked what has been Henry’s position during the deliberations by regional leaders, Browne said the Haitian leader “talks a good talk, but as I said to him this morning in his presence he has to walk the walk.

“So we are not judging him now by his articulations. We are looking at his commitments in practice and it is what he would have done going forward that will make a determination as to whether he is a serious person who wants to see peace and stability within Haiti”.

Browne said he remains optimistic that the summit will end with a “positive” note on Haiti, saying “from the discussions we held this morning, I would say they were frank and at least Antigua and Barbuda went as far as calling upon the United States and France to make troops available and even to make equipment available.

“This idea that the fight should be led by the developing countries, we believe that they ought to be augmented by the US and certainly from France and Canada as well.”

He said believes that the US, Canada and France were “erroneously” told and dissuaded from having troops on the ground in Haiti.

“I will accept that no one would want to see any intervention…by the US, France or Canada. But the idea that they should not participate I certainly do not accept that. I am of the view that the US in particular with their superior artillery and their superior training, their expertise are needed on the ground”.

Browne said the last thing the region would want is for a mission to Haiti that would fail.

“This mission has to be successful and I think it should be viewed as a critical mission in restoring sustainable peace and prosperity to the Haitian people and that is why I felt that it be expanded beyond the lead of Kenya…and include officers from the United States, Canada, France and even the United Kingdom”.

Browne told CMC that the French have not committed “sufficient money” towards the MSS, adding “perhaps we need to remind them of their historical role in Haiti and the legacy they have left behind.

“The fact that they have only given between three to four US dollars, is very ridiculous. You know it is an insult to the process and the French need to step up,” Browne told CMC.