GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has condemned the armed attack on Haiti’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, and urged the Haitian authorities to address “this prevailing untenable security situation with urgency”.
According to police reports, at least one person was killed and several others injured in the city of Gonaives as Henry and his entourage left a church service on Sunday that was held to commemorate the country’s 218th anniversary of political independence.
Henry’s office said on Monday that “bandits and terrorists” had tried to shoot the prime minister at a church in the northern city of Gonaives where the ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of independence was taking place.
“I thank Mgr Yves Marie Péan, Bishop of Gonaives and Mgr Victesse Nicolas, Vicar General of the Cathedral who, despite the tense situation that reigned in the city, did their duty, within the framework of the celebration of 218th anniversary of national independence, to sing the traditional Te Deum which took place in the church of Saint Charles Borromeo,” Henry said in a statement.
“I would also like to thank the ministers, directors-general, representatives of the various state bodies, as well as the local authorities for attending this historic meeting in Gonaives. January 1 is a milestone in our life as a people, a symbol of pride and unity,” he added.
Videos released on social media show Henry being quickly removed from the area as members of his security engage heavily armed gangs that control the area.
In a statement, Caricom said that the attendance of the prime minister of Haiti and his delegation of high officials at the traditional celebration of the anniversary of Haiti’s Independence, which includes a Te Deum church service at the Gonaives Cathedral, was disrupted by volleys of automatic weapons in the surroundings of the church.
It said he was unable to deliver his public speech at the nearby Place des Armes Square which normally follows the church service as part of the ceremony.
“The reported death of a citizen during the incident heightens the community’s concern at the continued deterioration of the security situation in the country.
“Caricom urges the Haitian authorities to address this prevailing untenable security situation with urgency in order to restore a sense of safety and security to the country,” the statement added.
Following the incident, the remaining events to celebrate Independence Day were cancelled.
Henry, who was installed as prime minister weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home on July 7 last year, has been focusing on trying to clamp down on the increase in crime and violence across the country.
Prior to the incident, a local gang boss had made threats against Henry in local media.
Haiti has not yet set a date for elections to elect a replacement for Moise.