Ali: No talks with Haitian gangs on transitional governance

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali

CARICOM and its international partners are not holding discussions with criminal gangs in Haiti as part of efforts to restore stability to the troubled Caribbean nation.

Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali made this statement at a news conference in Jamaica on Monday, after a meeting there, between Caricom leaders and representatives from the US, Mexico, France and Canada, about Haiti.

At the end of the meeting, Caricom issued a statement expressing its support and that of its international partners for a transitional governance council to restore peace and stability to Haiti.

Asked whether there had been any dialogue with Haitian gangs about transitional governance arrangements, Ali said, “We had no engagement with any gang or any gang leader or anything, to the best of our combined knowledge.”

He added that Caricom and its partners held multiple meetings on Monday with different Haitian stakeholders about transitional governance arrangements.

Ali said tackling the gang issue was key to the success of those arrangements.

“The gangs make up a part of the Haitian society. That is part of the challenge that we have on the ground.”

Haiti declared a state of emergency early this month after an alliance of gangs, led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, warned of civil war if prime minister Ariel Henry did not step down. Cherizier’s gangs unleashed chaos. Henry has agreed to step down.

Ali said steps are being carefully and strategically taken towards setting up a multinational security support (MSS) mission to Haiti to help re-establish security and build conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections.

The UN sanctioned the creation of the MSS through UN Security Council resolution 2699, which the council passed last October. Kenya has volunteered to lead the MSS.

Ali said deploying the MSS to Haiti involved several components such as financing and ensuring “a bridge between the deployment and what exists today and that requires continuous assessment and resources and equipment on the ground.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who attended the Caricom meeting, earlier on Monday said the US would contribute a total of US$300 million to the MSS.

Ali declined to comment on what other countries will commit resources, including troops, to the MSS.

But he said Caricom has historically been known to rise to the occasion whenever situations arise within its geographical space.

He reiterated the need for all stakeholders to exercise good judgement in finding the best solution for the Haitian people.

“This is Haitian-led. Whatever we do, it must be what the Haitian people (want). It is not what we want. It is what the Haitian people want.”

Ali said while there was agreement on some steps towards restoring peace and stability in Haiti, they did not represent the end of that journey.

“This is a work in progress.”

He added this was not a time for premature statements from anyone.

“For this to be successful, we cannot be looking for media moments. We have to be very careful and strategic in what we do.”

Ali said there was no discussion at the meeting about countries in the region accepting Haitian migrants.

He reiterated the focus was the stability of Haiti, the security of its people and getting humanitarian aid into the country.