Ariel Henry is the prime minister of Haiti.
When President Jovenel Moïse asked me on July 5 to lead his government as prime minister, I know I may not have been the choice most expected. I was not part of the president’s inner circle, and I was no longer involved in politics. I was busy with my medical practice as one of the few neurosurgeons in Haiti.
I accepted the position because I believed in the president’s vision and commitment to leaving a legacy by first changing our constitution, and second, by organizing the elections that had been delayed for more than a year. Presidential elections were to take place Sept. 26, and if the unthinkable had not happened, perhaps we would have had some clarity on the path forward by now. Moïse believed that the constitution has been the root cause of many of the political impasses we have suffered over the years, and I concur.
My role as prime minister changed radically in a way no one had expected because of the tragic assassination of the president. I knew my job would not be easy; many thought it would be impossible.
But as a neurosurgeon, I’ve had to face the impossible a few times.
Since taking office, I have had a steadfast position that the masterminds, as well as the perpetrators, of the horrendous assassination must be brought to justice. I know they will. Respecting the independent investigation is paramount for me and for this reason I have not asked to be briefed or inquired into the investigation.
On the dreadful night of July 7, after my security was removed without notice in the middle of the night, I was afraid for my own life. I had to take cover. I had been named prime minister to lead the president’s government. Any insinuation that I had any involvement in this appalling crime is not only out of line, but reckless.
My focus has been on organizing a coalition of political parties to sign an accord to find a path forward for Haiti and our people. I am proud to say that after several weeks of negotiations, we accomplished this daunting task. Around 550 political parties, civil society and socio-professional organizations have come together to sign onto an unprecedented agreement. These political parties and organizations compose all ideologies and leaderships. Everyone understands the urgent need to come together, first and foremost for the Haitian people. This was Moïse’s wish, and as our flag declares, “unity makes us stronger.”
Unfortunately, some members in the civil society have not yet accepted to join our discussions and chose to come up with their own accord. I strongly believe that we cannot find a path forward by excluding the vast majority of the political class. I raised this concern with Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez during their recent visit, and they agree civil society must take part in our accord. The door remains open.
The political agreement takes into consideration many of the concerns by political parties, and there is plenty of compromise in the document. It shows a level of maturity not seen in Haiti in many years.
Two of the main objectives of the agreement are to carry forward Moïse’s project for a new constitution and elections. Drafting a new constitution was something he was very proud of and the legacy he had hoped to leave behind. We want to honor his wishes by approving it in an inclusive process, to ensure everyone’s concerns are addressed.
Elections are the other priority. My job is to be out of a job, by having an elected president take office as soon as possible. To that end, we will first establish a new, inclusive electoral board (CEP) to ensure free and fair elections. Once we have a new electoral board, it will be up to the board to put forward as soon as possible an electoral calendar so we may elect a president and parliament and conduct local elections, which are so long overdue. It is my objective to have these elections conducted in the second half of 2022, so that we may have an elected president before the end of 2022.
Over the past few years, and especially the past two, Haiti has confronted an unprecedented series of challenges, from a global pandemic to the tragic loss of our president, and a devastating earthquake followed by destructive storms. But I remain an optimist and believe better days are ahead of us, but not without more challenges. We must come together as Haitians and ensure a brighter future.