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Raging protest mars funeral of slain Haiti president

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By Chuks Njoku

It was like the break of another civil war as Haiti bid a rowdy farewell to their assassinated President Jovenel Moise on Friday as his funeral was roiled by nearby gunfire and protests, prompting a high-level U.S. delegation to leave abruptly and other dignitaries to duck into vehicles for safety.

The state funeral in the northern city of Cap-Haitien was intended to foster national unity, but the unrest reflected deep divisions over the July 7 atrocity, in which suspected foreign gunmen walked apparently unchallenged into the Moises’ residence and shot the president multiple times, also injuring his wife.

Acrid smoke from piles of burning tires and gutted autos blocking roads outside the compound where the ceremony was held billowed into the service, depositing black ash onto mourners.

Delivering an emotive address that switched between French and Creole, Moise’s widow Martine closed the ceremony with a call for justice for her husband, rounding on his critics and pledging to continue his efforts to build a fairer Haiti.

“The struggle isn’t over yet,” she said, her face nearly hidden under a wide-brimmed black hat, and her bandaged right arm in a sling. “He has already shown us the way. And he will be with us until we get there, even though the journey is long.”

There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters or mourners at the funeral. Reuters witnesses smelled gas and heard detonations like gunshots outside the site of the service.

Local media reported a nearby home furnishing store was looted during the disturbances. Lines of people could be seen nearby carrying washing machines and other domestic appliances as the last mourners were exiting the compound.

The U.S. delegation filed out of the makeshift arena hosting the service less than an hour after entering. During the service, dozens of armed security personnel formed protective cordons around officials in the stands.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the situation in Haiti as he announced the U.S. delegation had returned home safely.

“We strongly urge all parties to express themselves peacefully, and call on Haiti’s leaders to be clear that their supporters must refrain from violence,” he said in a statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, led the American delegation. Earlier, as her team arrived in Cap-Haitien, she called on Haiti’s new Prime Minister Ariel Henry to create conditions for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as feasible.”

“The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity,” said Thomas-Greenfield on Twitter.