Haiti to rotate transitional council leader

A man films himself in front of tires on fire during a general strike launched by several professional associations and companies to denounce insecurity in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 18, 2021. [AFP]

Haiti's transitional ruling council which is leading the violence-wracked Caribbean nation will rotate its leadership every five months according to a decree seen by AFP Friday, following internal political strife among its members.

The new council came to power last month as Haiti's unpopular and unelected prime minister Ariel Henry submitted his formal resignation after armed gangs rose up and demanded his ouster.

Several days after the council's nine members were sworn in, they chose politician Edgard Leblanc Fils from among themselves to head the long-awaited governing body.

But his appointment to the role, whose main purpose is coordination, was not without internal controversy.

Leblanc Fils and three other members of the council announced a political alliance with the intention to vote as a bloc, a move that was particularly significant given only seven of the council's nine members have voting rights.

Among the bloc's intended decisions was appointment of former sports minister Fritz Belizaire as prime minister, an unexpected move which outraged the other three voting members.

In order to "avoid any dysfunction in the council," the decree seen by AFP said, the body had "proceeded by consensus to a rotating presidency."

It also agreed that its most important decisions, including the appointment of a prime minister and a government, would be made by a majority of five votes out of seven.

Leblanc Fils will be the leader of the council until October 7, to be followed sequentially by members Smith Augustin, Leslie Voltaire and Louis Gerald Gilles.

"Cohesion within the transitional presidential council is an overriding necessity to guarantee a solution to the multidimensional crisis facing the Haitian nation," the decree read.

Haiti, a nation of 11.6 million people, has suffered from poverty, political instability and natural disasters for decades. It is the poorest country in the Americas.

Its situation plummeted starting in late February as powerful and well-armed gangs that control most of the capital Port-au-Prince and much of the country went on a rampage they said was aimed at toppling Prime Minister Henry.

In recent days, the United States has flown 21 sorties into Port-au-Prince, delivering cargo and civilian contractors, according to information published by the US Southern Command on Friday.

The objective is to help prepare Haiti for deployment of a UN-backed multinational force -- to be led by Kenya -- which is tasked with helping its beleaguered police rein in the criminal gangs.