Since gaining independence in 1804, Haiti has experienced almost 217 years of tragedy after tragedy. Its original inception made history; being the world’s oldest black republic, and the first to abolish slavery. Despite historic beginnings, the country has endured decades of poverty, occupation, and authoritarianism, whilst being one of the poorest countries. This year has seen no improvement for the country. In July, foreign mercenaries thought to be hired in Florida, by a Presidential candidate, assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Despite arresting the perpetrators, the event has caused chaos in Haiti. Since the assassination, an acting President has been installed, however that hasn’t stopped armed gangs from taking control of parts of the country. Whilst it may be that President Moïse’s assassination started this democratic deterioration, these events are just a symptom of a larger issue for the country; possibly leading to governmental collapse.
The aftermath of President Moïse’s assassination was one of uproar. To restore stability, politician and neurosurgeon, Ariel Henry was named the acting President and Prime Minister of the country. Upon entering office, Henry pledged to restore order to Haiti. That optimism didn’t last long however, as two months into his term, Henry was banned from leaving the country under suspicion of being involved in President Moïse’s assassination. Henry called these “diversionary tactics” used to “sow confusion.” Whilst the only evidence of his involvement was an interaction with one of the suspects, it has done irreparable damage to Haitians’ confidence in his ability to lead. Jovenel Moïse’s tenure as President of Haiti was marred by claims of corruption. As such, he wasn’t a popular figure in the country. Despite this, his assassination has unified the citizens, all of whom think that this is a worrying sign for Haiti and it’s stability. Not only do citizens worry that this could be the collapse of society in the country, but many are upset that they have been “robbed of the right to find justice and closure,” and that they “will never have answers from [President Moïse].”
Whilst the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was devastating for the country, this current situation is different. It was no act of nature that assassinated the president and allowed armed gangs to take control of parts of the country. There are people and movements who are at fault. When looking at the macro, one could argue that imperialism and French colonists from the 1700’s and 1800’s are to blame for subjugating the Haitian people, and leaving Haiti without providing the tools to properly create stability. However, looking closer at the modern-day actors, there are those who must take responsibility for this instability: Jovenel Moïse, for not doing enough to fight corruption in Haiti; The United States, for being where the assassination was planned; and also the international community, who abandoned Haiti shortly after the earthquake, without giving the nation the tools needed to rebuild. These actors are not the only responsible for the instability, if they had done more, then the country would be in a better place than currently.
To understand the current instability, it is worth giving some background on Haiti’s history. After being a slave state for France, they gained independence in 1804, yet were forced to pay reparations to France, which lasted until 1947, and wrecked their economy. 10 years later, the country experienced one of the most repressive dictatorships, lasting for 28 years. The subsequent fight for democracy was fraught with setbacks, as Haiti didn’t have the sufficient infrastructure to support it. In 2010, Haiti suffered one of the worst recorded earthquakes, destroying what little infrastructure they had left. Despite getting aid from the international community, this aid wasn’t properly invested, and Haiti never fully recovered; thus allowing events such as the assassination of a president possible.
Haiti is in a state of crisis not seen since the 2010 earthquake. Jovenel Moïse’s assassination has set off a string of events, which has just this week, led to the current Prime Minister evacuating a ceremony when armed gang members arrived, and the kidnapping of a group of 17 North American missionaries. Without further aid and assistance from the international community, Haitian society is threatening to collapse entirely.