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Guyana’s President and CARICOM, Irfaan Ali speaking in Jamaica on Monday, March 11, 2024.
Guyana’s President and CARICOM, Irfaan Ali speaking in Jamaica on Monday, March 11, 2024.
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KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) — Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali has defended the role played by the CARICOM grouping in brokering a deal in Haiti paving the way for a “peaceful transition of power” in the French-speaking CARICOM country.

“For those who question the relevance of CARICOM once again, CARICOM has delivered and delivered well for the people of this region and kept our region as a zone of peace,” said Ali, who is also chairman of the 15-member regional integration movement.

CARICOM had played a key role in organising a high-level meeting on Haiti held here on Monday and the regional leaders had over the past years been at the forefront of trying to get a solution to the political and socio-economic situation in that country.

Speaking at the end of the high-level meeting on Monday night, Ali told reporters that an agreement had been reached that would allow for Prime Minister Ariel Henry to step down and for a transitional governance arrangement “which paves the way for a peaceful transition of power, continuity of governance and action plan for near term security and the road to free and fair elections…

“It further seeks to assure that Haiti will be governed by the rule of law. This commitment reflects hard compromises among a diverse coalition of actors who have put their country above all differences.

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“To that end, we acknowledged the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, upon the establishment of a transitional presidential council, and the naming of an interim prime minister.”

Ali said he wanted to thank Henry, who came to power following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, “for his service to Haiti, his service to the Haitian people and for his personal commitment to the furtherance of the development of Haiti and the advancement of the people of Haiti and I ask us  to give him an applause”

Henry has been in Puerto Rico since last week, unable to enter his country after having travelled from Kenya where he signed an agreement allowing for a United Nations Security Council-sanctioned international force led by the African country to restore peace and security in his troubled country.

Heavily armed gangs, under the leadership of former elite policeman Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, had for several weeks been pushing for Henry to step down and had even blocked him from returning to the country. Henry did not attend the high-level meeting here that was attended by top officials from the United States, France, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Benin, Kenya as well as the United Nations.

Ali said that it was also agreed that there would be the creation of a transitional presidential council comprised of seven voting members and two voting observers.

He said that the seven voting members will comprise one representative from each of the following groups, including the Collective December 21, EDE/RED, Lavalas, and the private sector.

The non-voting members will be represented by one member from civil society and one member of the interfaith community.

Ali told reporters that even though Henry had decided to step down “there’s a number of steps that still must take place”

“.… remember, always, this is Haitian-led, and whatever we do, must be what the Haitian people want of us. That is the important point. It is not what we want. It is what the Haitian people want of us. But we exercise leadership as a region in being proactive,” Ali said.

“One of the good things about this process, you would have noticed that in the last few weeks, you, members of the media had to be patient with us. We had a number of calls and pressure from the media.

“But it was extremely important that we remain patient and remain deep in our conversations and discussions. While not pre-empting or looking for media moments. That is not what we want. For this to be successful. We cannot be looking for media moments. We have to be very strategic and careful in what we do and that is what we’re going to do. On the security matter, even more careful on that matter.”

Asked whether the meeting had agreed on CARICOM member states accepting Haitian migrants in the interim, Ali replied “that was not for discussion at these meetings.

“We are focused on the stability of Haiti, stabilizing Haiti, working towards putting Haiti on a path of prosperity, development, on a path of political stability and leading to free and fair election. That is a priority and the security of the Haitian people and having humanitarian aid in there. That is where our focus was,” he added.

Ali acknowledged that there is still much more to do in stablising Haiti where criminal gangs have taken control of a significant position of the country including the capital, Port-au-Prince, and who have been demanding Henry’s resignation.

“In the interim, we have to act faster and that is what we’re focusing on. The people of Haiti and Haiti; how fast and dynamic we can work in Haiti to bring a resolution and solution and to bring comfort to the people of Haiti. That is where our focus and minds are occupied at this moment.”

Ali said that the gangs make up part of the Haitian society and “that is part of the challenge we have on the ground.

Caricom leaders in Jamaica
Guyana’s President and CARICOM, Irfaan Ali and other CARICOM leaders in Jamaica on Monday, March 11, 2024.

“Now, the idea of having normalcy is to allow the institutions to function, that room to breathe and to grow and to function and to deal with some of the situations on the ground, which include the gangs.

“Of course, the present capacity and capability is compromised, because they don’t have the human resource assets, neither the physical assets, the equipment, and so on. And that is what we are working on, to support the transition mechanism to deal with the issue of crime and gangs. So that is part of this journey that I’m defining, and, and the phases of the journey, this is an important phase in this journey.

“Now, we have to ensure that all of us work together to make this phase successful, to lead into the next phase. So that is how we have to work on this. This is a work in progress

“We definitely did not come here to shout on top of the mountain that we have arrived at the promised land. We are here just to say that we have made one leap forward, but many many huge steps lie ahead of us.”

Asked whether gangs were represented at the meetings here, the CARICOM chairman said “that’s a difficult question.

“I can’t tell you to the extent of the broadness of stakeholders’ representation, but we didn’t engage with any gangs, of course. The clearances that we had no engagement with any gang, or gang leader, or anything like that to our knowledge,” he said.

Ali said he would not also comment on the security arrangements now being put in place in Haiti, including the deployment of the Kenya-led Multinational Security System (MSS), saying “the security matters a very sensitive matter

He said that the security matter which included the deployment of troops as well as financing had been discussed during the parallel meetings here on Monday.

“I would go, as far as saying, we are in discussion with many stakeholders, many partners on what their contribution and role will be. But I will not go further than that at this stage, to go further than that, at this stage, will be doing an injustice to the conversation that is ongoing.

The United States has announced a doubling of its contribution to the MSS and Ali said “we had an increase from Canada.

“And we also are in conversations. And I can’t go beyond that at this stage. We are in conversations. You know, one of the things about this region, if you look at per capita, the contribution that this region makes to international humanity in times of crisis and times of need, you’ll be shocked to see on a per capita basis, what our contribution is, globally.

“We have a small population within the region. But one thing about this region is that we never shy away from our responsibilities and participating in creating a better space within this region.

“So, I am sure that whatever is affordable, within the construct of our economies, that our region would make the contribution that we need to make,” Ali told reporters.

2 replies on “CARICOM chairman praises integration movement for its role in Haiti”

  1. If his name is barbecue why not eat him. He is more like a tyrant to me rather than a leader. He a real tonton macoute. A Zebra never shed its stripes.

  2. Mind your own business. Don’t decolonize Haiti!

    Allow its people to solve their own problems in their own way.

    If Haiti deserves settler recolonization, so does little SVG.

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