More than a month after the 50th Legislative session came to an end and creating a constitutional void, President Jovenel Moïse finally appointed a new Prime Minister. Taking to social media to announce the appointment, the President tapped the former Minister of Environment and equally interim Minister of Economics and Finance in the erstwhile government of Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin, Joseph Jouthe. The President stated that the former Minister after consultation with various sectors of Haitian society, and hope that in the coming days, he will be able to form a consensus government capable of addressing the current crises facing the nation. This is the third appointment for the post of Prime Minister, after the vote of no confidence of Prime Minister Jean-Henri Céant, by the House of Deputies. Jean Michel Lapin and Fritz William Michel who were both appointed but not confirmed by the legislature and thereby unable to form a government. The hope is that the new appointment would be able to function given the country has not been governed properly for over a year now, since PM Céant’s government collapsed on March 18, 2019. Joseph Jouthe is no stranger to the Haitian political scene. A civil engineer by profession, he worked as Director of Analysis and Evaluation at the Bureau for Monetization of Development Aid Programs, Bureau de Monétisation des Programmes d’Aide au Développement (BMPAD), in 2017, also a special advisor to Prime Minister Guy Lafontant. He also has experience in the non-profit sector, working with international aid organizations, such as CARE and the UN.
The announcement of the Prime Minister’s appointment came as a surprise to most in the opposition who saw the president’s move as betraying their trust, or directly deceiving them. Having taken part in talks and negotiations with the government to find a new government capable to addressing the myriad of problems that the country is currently facing, known as the moderate opposition, these leaders were blindsided by the President’s appointment which is in direct opposition to what they have agreed upon, namely, that the new Prime Minister will come from the ranks of the opposition. Having been thrown under the bus, the opposition decided to call on their members to remain strong in opposition to this appointment. According to Paul Denis, member of the Haitian committee of patriotic initiatives, Comité haïtien d’initiative patriotique (CHIP), the so called inclusive dialogue was just a political tool used by Jovenel Moïse, under orders from the international community to pretend to have dialogue with all political actors to come to a concrete solution. Now that he has named his Prime Minister, Mr. Moïse will then attempt to consult with selected political leaders to form a government and then argue that he formed a consensus government. This decision has unmasked the President for who he really is one willing to take the country back to the old dictatorial days. While positioning himself as one open to dialogue with the opposition, Mr. Moïse was in effect consulting with selected political actors willing to endorse his bad governance, his reign of anarchy and barbarism that brought the country to a standstill. With Serge Jean-Louis of MOPOD, the newly appointed Prime Minister will not be making any difference in the crises facing the nation, because the former Minister of Economy and Finance, MEF, is one of the true symbols of institutional instability in the country. The ruling tèt kale (PHTK) party is simply resorting to their antidemocratic practices by concentrating power in the hands of a select few. This appointment only strengthens and confirm what the radical opposition has long maintained that the President is not to be trusted to solve the myriad problems of the nation because, he is the problem.
The increasing insecurity and violence in the country has reached unprecedented heights, with close to twenty people killed over the past weekend, six of which as a result of gang violence and the rest, victims of kidnapping. On Saturday afternoon, there were gunshots exchanged around the Port-au-Prince Cathedral in downtown, where according to the authorities, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened fire randomly on people on rue Pavée and rue des miracles. Reports from traders in the area confirmed 8 deaths and many wounded but the official police report revised this number down to 4 fatalities. At the same time in Petionville, 4 bodies were found after shots were exchanged in a club on rue Panaméricaine, not too far from the Compas Market, and as of press time, there has not been any official explanation for these deaths, but sources close to one of the victims suspect revenge and mistaken identity as the motive for the killings. Also, in Savien in the Artibonite department, gang rivalry claimed another 6 lives, only this time, the victims were other gang members. Reports stated that armed gang members in Jean-Denis attacked those in Savien early Sunday morning, with a casualty of 5 Savien gang members dying and one from Jean-Denis. Last July, in a stinging allegation, a gang leader spoke about a former Assemblyman from Petite-Rivière in the Artibonite, Victor Prophane, who is involved in the formation of the gang in the area, but no investigation has been opened into the allegation.
Meanwhile, the police, increasingly impotent and outgunned by the armed gangs, carried out an operation in the Village de Dieu, resulting in 5 arrests and though the officials did not include in their reports any casualties. Residents in the area confirmed 6 deaths. The official statement simply stated that a high number of reinforcements were sent to the area, as part of the operation. The operation was carried out with the newly acquired armored vehicles, which were no match for the semi-automatic artillery of the gangs. People taking to social media ridiculed the police for their show of force to arrest only 5 people and how their newly acquired vehicles were seriously damaged by the gangs. This is a clear sign that the security situation is going from bad to worse.
Finally, at the recently concluded Berlin film festival, known as the Berlinale, Haiti was prominently featured, and awarded honorable mention, for the film Ouverture, by the versatile group, The Living and the Dead Ensemble, a group consisting of Haitian and foreign artistes. Speaking on the award, one of the actors, Mackenson Bijou said the prize was awarded based on the screenplay, the translation and the historical significance of the individual on whom the story was based and the scores. The film was adapted from the book, Monsieur Toussaint / Misyé Tousen, (Mémoire d’Encrier) by the Martinican writer Édouard Glissant and filmed in both Haiti and Paris. According to the festival organizers, the theatre group filmed themselves rehearsing the play in Port-au-Prince, resulting in an experiment in three parts: a study retracing Louverture’s steps, an analysis of shared authorship and collective filmmaking and finally the outburst of a magical reality in which the spirits of the dead are alive. The top award, the Golden Bear Award was given to the Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof for his film, There Is No Evil. The Living and Dead Ensemble was formed in 2017 by 9 Haitian artists and 2 foreigners. They include Bijou Mackenson, Léonard Jean-Baptiste aka Leo, James Peter Etienne, James Desiris, Jephthé Carmil, Cynthia Maignan, Sophonie Maignan, Rossi Jacques Jr Casimir, Cherestal Dieuvela, James Fleurissaint dit Rikiki, Olivier Marboeuf (Guadeloupe) and Louis Henderson (Scotland).
There has been a case of coronavirus, COvid 19 reported in the Dominican Republic. Health officials reported that a 62-year-old Italian man has been diagnosed with the disease, while another French national is under observation in a local hospital. The Dominican authorities have taken preventive measures to prepare and fight this virus that is increasingly causing panic world over.