Haiti government resigns faced with spike in kidnappings

·2-min read
A street in Port-au-Prince, where anger has grown in recent weeks at the violence and unrest in Haiti

Haiti's government has resigned and a new prime minister has been appointed, President Jovenel Moise announced on Wednesday, under pressure to tackle insecurity in the country grappling with out-of-control gang violence and a months-long political crisis.

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation -- with the latest high-profile abduction Sunday targeting 10 people including seven Catholic clergy.

"The resignation of the government, which I accepted, will make it possible to address the glaring problem of insecurity and continue discussions with a view to reaching the consensus necessary for the political and institutional stability of our country," Moise tweeted.

"I have submitted my resignation to the President of the Republic tonight," confirmed the outgoing prime minister, Joseph Jouthe, overnight.

The new prime minister is Claude Joseph, currently the minister for foreign affairs, the president stated.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is plagued by poverty, insecurity and natural disaster.

Moise, who is facing popular anger and demands he resign amid the government's failure to reign in criminal violence amid the spate of kidnappings, is on his sixth prime minister in four years of governance. Jouthe was appointed in March 2020.

The group abducted Sunday in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, included seven Catholic clergy -- five of them Haitian, as well as two French citizens, a priest and a nun. A million dollar ransom has been demanded, and none of the victims have yet been released.

- 'Descent into hell' -

On Monday Haiti's Catholic Church slammed the government's failure to act over the unrest, decrying Haiti's "descent into hell."

Moise had responded by saying he was aware the state "must make more of an effort."

Another recent example of instability was the escape in February of more than 400 inmates from a prison on the outskirts of the capital, during which 25 people were killed.

In March, the Haitian government declared a month-long state of emergency to restore state authority in gang-controlled areas, including in the capital.

But the rise in violence and insecurity have recently drawn protesters onto the streets of Port-au-Prince, including hundreds of women who rallied earlier this month in the city against the growing power of gangs.

The unrest comes as Moise remains mired in a political stand-off.

He maintains that his term of office runs until February 7, 2022, but others claim it ended on February 7, 2021.

The disagreement stems from the fact that Moise was elected in a vote that was cancelled for fraud, and then re-elected a year later.

Without a parliament, the country fell further into crisis in 2020, and Moise is governing by decree, fuelling growing mistrust of him.

Amid the instability, Moise has said he plans to hold a constitutional referendum in June.