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Haiti’s newsreel : Good bye President!

After funeral services for assassinated President Jovenel Moïse were completed, the leadership of the new government in place, the US Ambassador to Haiti, Michael Sison and President Joe Biden’s Special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote doubled their efforts to meet various leadership factions in the country. Discussions were held with the Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, Senate President Joseph Lambert, the national police commissioner, as well as with several ministers and members of civil society leaders. In a tweet sent out by the US ambassador on Monday, the goal of the various meetings was to clarify the needs of the country and to best direct American support. In what seem like a torrent of tweets, the US embassy noted that special envoy Foote is in the country to listen to the various points of view, and ideas from civil society, intense conversations on the creation of conditions for organizing free, fair and transparent elections, with Claude Joseph (ex interim Prime Minister). Another tweet claims that the meeting groups are working on the rule of law, accountability, and the fight against corruption for the benefit of the people, with Rockefeller Vincent. These tweets highlight US priorities in the country. Each of the high-ranking officials who met with the US delegation added their own version of the discussions which by and large reflect the need for political recourse to the ills that plagued the country during recent years. The national police for their part sent out a communique stating that following the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, PM Claude Joseph asked the UN for help, the US envoy and ambassadors and the head of INI Ms. Jeniffer Mergy met with the police commissioner to discuss issues relating to providing assistance in the fight against the gangs, to restore public order and safety for the people.

While on the topic of security and gang activity, judges who have been selected to investigate the assassination of President Moïse have themselves been targets of menacing and death threats since they began their duty. The Deputy Justice of the Peace in Petionville, Clément Noël indicated that he has been receiving death threats since his selection to hold hearings and provide reports in the judicial file regarding the assassination dossier. Judge Noël has moved out of his home and sought refuge in another location for the past two weeks, but claims to continue receiving anonymous calls threatening his life. The Justice states that anonymous callers go as far as asking him to change the facts of the case in the minutes he wrote on the evening of July 7, 2021. The justice is said to be in a frightened state as the threats are increasing. Given the security situation in the country, one cannot take such threats lightly. Another justice, Carl Henry Destin, who identified President Moïse’s corpse and took statements from several people at the president’s residence after the assassination is also in hiding, fearing for his life. On July 12, the court clerks’ association, ANAGH, reported that two of their members, Marcelin Valentin, and Waky Philostene of the Peace court in Petionville, who assisted the Judges in gathering evidence and taking statements from the alleged assassins have also been threatened.

While some jurists are threatened with death and have to seek cover, Judge Wendelle Coq Thélot has been subpoenaed to appear before the court of administrative disputes (CSCCA) to answer questions related to the assassination of President Moïse. Judge Thélot was one of the legal scholars forced into retirement following a presidential decree on February 8, 2021 signed by Jovenel Moïse. Her lawyer and brother Edwin Coq, who said that he heard about the subpoena on the radio said it was a political move to taint her reputation. According to Mr. Coq, there has been a manipulation of both international and national public opinion to dirty the image of the only female judge in the court. Though no judge has been assigned the case into the assassination of the President, several depositions have been made. Two key security operatives have been arrested thus far. This includes two of the people responsible for the president’s safety at the time of the assassination, Commissioner Dimitri Hérard of the USGPN, and head of the President’s security detail, Jean Laguel Civil.

At the same time these arrests are being made, several people joined Jimmy Cherizier, a notorious gang leader also known on the street as Barbecue, to demand justice for the assassinated President Jovenel Moïse. At a rally in La Saline, gang members wore hoods to cover their faces as they rallied for justice for the president. Cherizier, a former police officer turned gang leader knelt down before a large portrait of the president and lit a candle as a truck nearby played music. The leader of the G9 gang railed against human rights advocates, journalists and business owners whom he accused of colluding to kill Moïse. The crowd of gang members also dressed in white and sang as they circled a bonfire and threw salt into the flames as part of a ceremony to honor the late president. Mr. Cherizier said to those he suspected as the masterminds of the assassination that just as they invested their money to kill the President, they (the gangs) will invest themselves with all their strength to rid them off the land (Haiti). To avenge what he sees as another attack on the poor, Mr. Cherizier invite all other gang leaders in the capital to join his group, the G9 to fight against the beneficiaries of the system.

Finally, there was the sad incidence in Cap-Haïtien on Friday July 23, 2021 same day the President’s funeral was held, when the store, Valerio Canez in Quartier-Morin in Cap-Haïtien was vandalized and set ablaze. Store manager, René Max Auguste said the damages were in the amount of more than US2m, as the stock was stolen by people accompanied by heavily armed gangs and as the ceiling fell, the police who were near at Madeline did not do anything to secure the area or protect the building and stock. Mr. Auguste, however plans to rebuild as he is committed to serving their public.

Dela Harlley

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