Twenty-eight people have been arrested by the Haitian National Police for involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse - including 2 Haitian Americans and 26 men from Colombia, some identified as former military by Colombia’s government. The arrests followed two days of confusing reports about gunfights, attackers taking shelter in the Taiwanese embassy (which is in Petionville, near Moïse’s private residence), and the burning of vehicles thought to have been used in the attack. Colombian police have been present in Haiti for some time. In terms of an official mission, at least, some were brought in to work with the Haitian National Police to assist with confronting the recent wave of kidnappings - a program coordinated by the United States International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) .
Details of the attack itself have begun to come out. Maria Abi-Habib, bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for The New York Times covered many of these details on The Daily podcast this morning. As with everything else, these details leave more questions than answers. The fact that the attackers encountered no resistance in entering Moïse’s residences is of huge concern. Former Senator Steven Benoît appeared on the radio program in Haiti on Friday, and said that Moïse had been killed by his own security people, and that the Colombians had been set up. Le Noveulliste reports that the two Haitian Americans arrested claimed to have been translators, and that the units had gone to the presidential palace to arrest Moïse, not to kill him.
Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the quick arrests conducted by Haitian National Police have not settled the question. As Woy magazine noted on Friday,
Many Haitians were quick to call out the irony of the Haitian National Police (PNH) being so quick to find those allegedly responsible for Moïse’s death as many previous high-profile killings, including that of Mèt Monferrier Dorval (who was shot and killed in his home which is in the same neighborhood as Moïse’s home), Evelyne Sincere, Gregory St. Hilaire, and even that of their very own colleagues who died during the Vilaj de Dye mission remain unsolved. There’s also the case of Matisan, Site Solèy and other parts of the greater Port-au-Prince region are still under the complete control of gangs, crippling parts of the capital and displacing thousands of men, women and children in the process.
Meanwhile, the international response has consisted largely of statements of shock and concern, alongside appeals for calm and condemnations of Moïse’s murder. The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday to discuss Haiti in a closed session. Following the session, Helen La Lime, who heads the UN office in Haiti, said that the government has requested more security support.
The United States Department of State held a press briefing on the situation in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon. The DOS spokesperson indicated that the US still supports Haiti sticking with the elections timeline - a position that was reiterated by Mathias Pierre, Haiti's Minister for Elections, to The Guardian,
Pierre, the elections minister, said on Thursday night that a presidential vote as well as a constitutional referendum that had been slated for 26 September before the assassination of Moïse would go ahead as planned.
“It [the vote] was not for Jovenel Moïse as president – it was a requirement to get a more stable country, a more stable political system, so I think we will continue with that,” Pierre said. He added that preparations had long been under way and millions of dollars disbursed to carry out the votes.
The Washington Post’s editorial board, which had been increasingly militant in its call for foreign intervention in Haiti - even prior to Moïse’s assassination - is now arguing for a military intervention under UN or other auspices. It is not clear how influential this line of argument will be; however, the prospect of a military intervention is clearly a concern.
A Haitian led solution
As Brian Concannon makes clear in his interview with Ian Masters, within Haiti, most people do not want to see a foreign intervention. There were more guns on the street and a severely weakened institutional framework for government when the last UN peacekeeping mission left, relative to the situation before they arrived. The UN mission also introduced cholera through carelessness, and its soldiers were involved in sexual exploitation of young people in the communities they operated in.
There is a broad consensus within Haiti that there should be no foreign military intervention. There should also be no rush to hold elections; rather, an interim authority composed of a wide range of political and civil society actors must be empowered to create the conditions for elections. A statement issued from multiple sectors, including representatives of political parties, and social movement organizations, issued a call for a conference of organizations, “to find a national compromise to resolve the crisis.” They “ask the international sector to recognize that it is Haitians who must solve Haiti's problems in order to bring their true solidarity to this Haitian solution.”
Pierre Esperance, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Defense Network in Haiti, echoes this position in Just Security, writing,
Supporting Haitian solutions for Haiti is not as difficult as it sounds: civil society has known a transitional government would be necessary for quite some time. Civil society has developed a roadmap for a transition. The plan would include, among other things, the need for a transition period of sufficient length to restore electoral infrastructure, to strengthen the judiciary to credibly rule on elections, and to reinforce police capacity to counter gang violence and ensure a safe environment for elections. The Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis – a body created in January 2021 with the support of more than 300 notable Haitian organizations and institutions, including the Episcopal and Protestant churches (as well as my own organization, the National Human Rights Defense Network) – is the latest iteration of this effort. This commission has already met with Haitian political parties, civil society organizations, and the private sector to build out a plan for a feasible political transition.
In short, there is a clear need for an investigation in to assassination of the president - as called for in a statement by the Coalition of Civil Society Actors on Friday, and international support for a Haitian-led solution. No intervention.
As Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper and Mark Schuller argue in an excellent analysis published by NACLA,
Activists in Haiti are clear that they do not want a foreign invasion or an occupation force. Not only woefully failing at its mission of disarmament, the 15-year UN mission that introduced cholera to Haiti and a wave of sexual violence also provided stability for foreign extractivism and profiteering in tourism, agribusiness, textile, and mining sectors.
It is clear that we do not have the answers today. We may never know who was in on the plot to assassinate Haiti’s president. We need to be asking different questions. Or rather, we need to take on different actions that concretely contribute to a people’s agenda. What if instead of scrambling for news on Haiti and deciphering the real issues from the analyses and opinions of international Haiti experts, we supported the Haitian people’s efforts to tell their own stories and share their own dreams directly with us?
We will be sharing more statements from Haitian civil society organizations in the coming days. You can also check Haiti Watch’s website, which includes statements from Haitian organizations on the crisis over the past several months - most have been translated.