Haiti to hold inauguration event for transition council amid reparations push

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - A formal ceremony to install Haiti's transitional ruling council will be held early Thursday, the prime minister's office said, amid growing calls for reparations from Western colonial powers.

Unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to step down as a transitional ruling council looks toward new presidential elections.
Unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to step down as a transitional ruling council looks toward new presidential elections.  © SIMON MAINA / AFP

The event will be held at the prime minister's office, known as Villa d'Accueil, in the Musseau neighborhood of the capital, according to a press invitation from the office.

With the installation of the new nine-member body, formally known as the Presidential Transition Council, Haiti moves a step closer to filling the leadership vacuum.

The Caribbean nation has been rocked by an explosion of violence since late February, when powerful gangs launched a wave of attacks in the capital and demanded Prime Minister Ariel Henry's resignation.

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The United Nations says that out of a population of about 11.6 million, some 360,000 Haitians are internally displaced. The gang violence, according to UN experts, has forced 95,000 people to flee the capital and pushed five million into "acute hunger."

Henry, the country's unelected leader since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moïse, agreed in mid-March to step aside and be replaced by the council, which is made up of seven voting members selected across Haiti's political spectrum and two non-voting observers.

Weeks of political infighting ensued, and it was not until April 12 that the body was formally decreed in the official gazette Le Moniteur.

It remains to be seen if the council will be able to reach a consensus on naming an interim prime minister and government, and questions have been raised over actions taken by outgoing officials viewed as delaying the transition.

The council has additionally been tasked with getting Haiti ready to hold elections for a new president by February 2026. The country has not held elections since 2016.

It is also unknown how the country's powerful gangs will respond to the new council, after voicing anger at their exclusion from transitional talks.

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Haiti's reparations push is growing as the country's infrastructure collapses amid generations of colonial abuse.
Haiti's reparations push is growing as the country's infrastructure collapses amid generations of colonial abuse.  © Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP

The installation of the council comes amid a growing international push for reparations for Haiti.

Haiti faces extreme repression from colonizer nations due to its symbolic status as the first Black Republic established by formerly enslaved people.

After Haiti won its independence in 1804, France used military force to demand the fledgling country pay 150 million francs in regular installments. A 2022 New York Times analysis found that the money Haiti gave France would have added at least $21 billion to the country's economy over the last two centuries.

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The United States was also complicit. US Marines invaded and looted Haiti's National Bank in December 1914, transferring $500,000 in gold reserves to New York. The next summer, the US launched a 19-year occupation of the country.

The colonial abuse spurred a cycle of debt and transgenerational trauma which Haitians and their allies are now fighting to reverse.

Following powerful testimonies from civil society representatives, the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent last week named reparations for Haiti as a top priority in its preliminary recommendations.

The need to tackle the ongoing harms of colonialism was upheld by UN Human Rights chief Volker Türk. "Governments must step up to show true leadership with a genuine commitment to move swiftly from words to action to adequately address the wrongs of the past," he told the forum on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has resumed deportation flights to Haiti, dooming dozens of people to an uncertain fate.

Cover photo: Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP

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