Haiti’s new PM Conille says leaders are putting aside differences

By Thomson Reuters Jun 3, 2024 | 10:44 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haiti’s new interim Prime Minister Garry Conille said on Monday members of the new administration were setting aside their differences to work for the good of the country, which is battling a devastating crisis fuelled by gang wars.

Fighting among gangs in the capital has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes while closing major ports, cutting off key supplies of food, medicine and aid, intensifying a food crisis that has plunged millions into hunger.

“We are going through an interesting moment for the Haitian people, a moment of political groups putting aside their differences for the interest of the nation,” Conille told a swearing-in event in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

“The first instruction the transition council members gave was that we have no time to lose,” added the leader, until recently a regional director at U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

He spoke days after being named for the office, more than a month after a nine-member transition council was sworn in and nearly three months after his predecessor Ariel Henry resigned while stranded in the nearby U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Henry had traveled abroad to secure Kenya’s leadership of an international security force he requested in 2022 to help national police battle the gangs that have coalesced around major alliances in the capital.

Factional disagreements and threats slowed the setting-up of the transition council, drawn from various political parties and levels of society, but Conille said the first meeting had been convivial.

Although council members had shown an “encouraging” disposition and momentum in conversation, he added, “We have no illusions about the difficulties ahead, no illusions that things will be easy.”

Their next task will be choosing the new cabinet and paving the way for a delayed first deployment of Kenyan police.

Conille was photographed with eight council members, as business sector representative Laurent Saint-Cyr, who has been abroad and who did not participate in the vote to elect Conille, remained absent, without assigning a reason.

Haitian feminist groups blasted the absence of female representation among the council’s voting members and those interviewed for the prime minister’s job, urging the new administration to include women in government.

(Reporting by Steven Aristil; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)