Browne on Haiti: Situation dire but improving

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne – File photo

WHILE national insecurity has enveloped Haiti after two prison breaks last week, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne says progress has been made toward achieving “political consensus” among fractured groups in the country.

Newsday spoke briefly with Browne on March 3 after his return from the Caricom heads of government meeting, which was dominated by the crisis in Haiti.

“Some additional progress has been made from the Caricom perspective, guided by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), which we have sent in and activated to work with Haitian stakeholders, with respect to a political consensus,” he told Newsday.

An EPG is a group of prominent people appointed to investigate a particular issue. The group is led by former St Lucia PM Kenny Anthony.

The three-person EPG, appointed by the Caricom heads, was sent to Haiti last year to “initiate and oversee the community’s provision of good offices support in designated priority areas, including security, governance, the electoral process, and long-term development planning and advocacy.”

Haiti is currently under a state of emergency and a curfew, as local and international security forces seek to take control of the country, after the attack on two prisons which led to the escape of most of the prisoners.

A gang led by a former high-ranking police officer has taken responsibility for the attacks in a larger scheme to topple the police force, capture government ministers and prevent Prime Minister Ariel Henry from returning from Kenya, where he is seeking support from UN security forces to help stabilise his country.

“Of course, the circumstances on the ground continue to deteriorate, and have deteriorated quite alarmingly over the last several days, but preparations with international support and further advancements toward a political consensus have been occurring.”

Caricom issued a statement last Thursday revealing Caricom heads, including Henry, met with representatives of Canada, France, the US, UK and UN, in a co-ordination meeting on the situation in Haiti.

“The heads of government and the partners received an update on the situation by the co-ordinator (of the EPG), former PM Kenny Anthony,” Caricom said.

“In the course of a frank and in-depth discussion on the situation in Haiti, the Caricom heads expressed their deep concern over the continued deterioration of the security, humanitarian and political situation and the continued delay in overcoming the political stalemate, which have blocked the possibility of free and fair elections.”

Caricom heads underlined the immediate need for a “participatory and inclusive” political path forward, it said.

The statement said Caricom heads took note of Henry’s commitment to “move the political process forward,” including his promise that a general election would be held no later than August 31, 2025.

Caricom said it will dispatch an electoral-needs gap-assessment team by March 31, “in consultation with the UN in line with existing Security Council mandates, with the support of Canada, US, and the Organization of American States.

“(The team) will support planning and efforts of the relevant Haitian institutions to be established.”