Heavily armed gunmen on Wednesday morning attacked Haiti President Jovenel Moise at his home and shot him severally killing him on the spot. Confirming the incident, the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the attack took place at around 1 am, he condemned what he called a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act,” adding that police and other authorities had the situation in the Caribbean country under control. He further noted that he will be in charge of the country’s operations even as the police launch investigations.

The country’s first lady Martine Moise also sustained gun wound injuries and is currently receiving treatment with plans to be flown to a foreign country. “The president was assassinated at his home by foreigners who spoke English and Spanish,” Joseph said.

Moise had been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree, after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in the wake of disputes, including on when his own term ends.

In addition to the political crisis, kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months, further reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

The president faced steep opposition from swathes of the population that deemed his mandate illegitimate, and he churned through a series of seven prime ministers in four years. Most recently, Joseph was supposed to be replaced this week after only three months in the post.

In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti was due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supported by Moise, the text of the constitutional reform, aimed at strengthening the executive branch, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the opposition and many civil society organizations.

The constitution currently in force was written in 1987 after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship and declares that “any popular consultation aimed at modifying the Constitution by referendum is formally prohibited.” 

Critics had also claimed it was impossible to organise a poll, given the general insecurity in the country.

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By M. O