Haiti: Fils is New President, Gangs Demand Amnesty

Edgar Leblanc Fils was appointed by the Transition Council with the difficult task of restoring stability to the country on the edge of the abyss

Edgar Leblanc Fils, appointed president of Haiti by the Transitional Council formed on April 26, has a difficult life ahead of him. On the shoulders of former Haitian Senate President and Prime Minister Fritz Belizaire lies the daunting task of bringing stability to the country, protecting it from the criminal gangs that have been rampant for months, and building a path leading to elections.

A task fraught with obstacles: immediately after the Transitional Council was established, Jimmy “barbecue” Cherizier, a former police officer, now leader of the Viv Ansanm gang coalition that controls much of the capital Port-au-Prince, said he would not allow the entry of the Kenyan-led, United Nations-mandated Multinational Security Support Force (FMAS). This contingent was created by the UN back in October 2023, at the beginning of the crisis, to assist police forces that were unable to resist gang violence. But it hasn’t started operating yet. “We will regard its members as invaders, and we cannot cooperate with invaders who come to trample on our independence,” explained Cherisier.

This was followed by ambitious demands for amnesty for all crimes committed in recent months and a request to actively participate in the formation of a new government: “Either we all sit at the table, or the table will be destroyed along with all of us.”

The UN estimates that one person was killed every hour in Haiti in the first three months of 2024, and news reports from the western part of the island of Española show massive sexual violence, kidnappings, torture, and extortion by gangs. The power is such that they managed to blockade ports and airports and prevent former Prime Minister Henri, who was abroad to organize a UN security mission, from returning home.