US officials urge Haiti to form electoral council

July 8, 2024  -U.S. officials have called on Haiti’s Prime Minister Garry Conille to prioritize the formation of an electoral council as the nation works to rebuild its government amid severe gang violence.

“This critical step toward will give the Haitian people an opportunity to select their leaders democratically for the first time in years,” said Brian Nichols, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who spoke after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille.

While acknowledging Conille’s efforts to improve security conditions in Haiti, Nichols emphasized the urgent need to establish an electoral council. This follows the resignation of former Prime Minister Ariel Henry in April after weeks of gang attacks that resulted in the dissolution of his Cabinet. During this period, gunmen seized police stations, opened fire at the main international airport, which remained closed for nearly three months, and stormed Haiti’s two largest prisons.

A transitional council was later formed and appointed Conille as the new prime minister. Part of this council’s mission includes appointing an electoral commission, a prerequisite for holding elections. The council’s non-renewable mandate expires on February 7, 2026, when a new president is scheduled to be inaugurated.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Blinken and Conille discussed steps for the U.N.-backed deployment of foreign police aimed at curbing gang violence in Haiti. The first group of Kenyan police officers has been deployed to help restore stability.

Currently, criminal gangs control about 80% of Port-au-Prince. The recent surge in violence has displaced over 580,000 people, according to a report by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.

On Wednesday, Todd Robinson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, confirmed that the U.S. has provided training and personnel to support the international mission in Haiti. Additionally, the U.S. has delivered armed vehicles, drones, and other equipment to strengthen the Haitian National Police amid the ongoing attacks. Training and equipment have also been provided to Haiti’s counternarcotics and border police units.

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