On Saturday, January 1st, gunmen attempted to assassinate Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The assassination attempt took place in a church in the northern city of Gonaïves as Prime Minister Henry attended an event that was commemorating the 218th anniversary of Haitian independence from colonial rule. The attempted assassins have not been identified or apprehended, despite video footage capturing an armed group beginning to shoot at Prime Minister Henry and his entourage running to their cars.
In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s office, the gunmen were referred to as “bandits and terrorists,” and the office stated that arrests warrants have been issued for those involved. Haitian media suggested that the assassination attempt was carried out by a gang, a suggestion seemingly bolstered by the fact that a local gang boss had made threats against Prime Minister Henry in the days before the attempted assassination, but Haitian police did not confirm gang involvement, instead of calling the shooters part of an “armed group.” Police were also unable to confirm if there were any casualties, but Haitian media has stated that one person was killed and two others were injured.
The assassination attempt renewed worries about the safety of Haitian public officials, especially because it comes less than six months after the president was assassinated in his home. The lack of respect for human life is disturbing, as are the consequences that would have befallen the nation’s people had the country been once again left leaderless due to an act of violence.
Prime Minister Henry was sworn into office in July 2021, two weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by gunmen. Prime Minister Henry was not elected to office as President Moïse’s replacement: rather, he is serving as interim Prime Minister until a replacement can be elected. This has led to the legitimacy of him and his administration being questioned. No date has been set for elections yet, and this is due in part to the uptick of violence since President Moïse’s assassination, especially violence carried out by gangs.
The attempted assassination of Prime Minister Henry shows the continuance of a disturbing trend of government officials being subjected to acts of violence. The disregard for human life, as well as the disregard for the turmoil this would plunge the nation into, does not bode well for the island nation, especially during this time of global uncertainty.
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