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Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Following the news of Haitian The Assassination of President Jovenel Moise in the early hours of July 7, a state of collective shock took over the country.
The streets of Port-au-Prince – normally bustling with vendors, taxicab traffic and more than a month of fierce fighting between armed gangs who thousands displaced through the capital – fell silent.
The deadly attack — who also injured Martine Moise, the late president’s wife — exacerbated instability in a country already struggling with deep political divisions, several defunct state institutions, and a level of violence that has caused more than a dozen massacres since 2018.
Moise’s presidency, who took office in 2017 after the victory about 590,000 votes in the nation of 11 million, was soon marked by fierce opposition that followed allegations of corruption that he denied.
Moise has ruled by decree since January 2020 after parliamentary terms expired, and faced with massive protests demanding his resignation as opposition leaders, human rights defenders and legal experts said his term expired in February.
Now, as questions continue to swirl about who was behind his murder, despite a series of… arrests, Haiti Tuesday new prime minister sworn in, Ariel Henry, who was elected by Moise just days before the president was assassinated.
An international push to hold general elections later this year arose strong criticism however, from civil society leaders demanding a Haiti-led solution to the ongoing crisis.
While preparations are underway to put Moise to rest on Friday in his hometown of Cap-Haïtien in the north, Al Jazeera spoke to four people in Port-au-Prince about their thoughts after the murder — and where Haiti is headed.
Emmelio, 61, bricklayer originally from Grand-Anse
“I have lived in Port-au-Prince for 41 years… There have always been difficult moments, but not like today. Living was not that expensive then. I came to Port-au-Prince under the [Jean-Claude] Duvalier regime.
“There were a lot of people who died and a lot of unrest when ‘Baby Doc’ (nickname of Jean-Claude Duvalier) was overthrown, but still not like today.
“It’s about what happened” [to Moise]. Anyone can die, but the way President Jovenel Moise [did] shows that no one is exempt; if a president is assassinated in his own home, who is exempt from that same fate? That’s why everyone is so scared. It makes you feel like you’re not human.
‘You don’t have to have liked him to feel bad, it’s not humane. The president is supposed to be the country’s first citizen. What does this mean for the unnamed people on the street?
“I think there should be reforms in the country. Killing people and replacing them with the same people does nothing; it has to be through dialogue.”
Keziah, 36, documentary filmmaker and photographer originally from Jacmel
“[Moise] was a president who was very contradictory. He came up with some good ideas, but he was corrupt and would take what he gave.
“There used to be a lot of problems. We had a lot of social problems, a lot of class problems. We have lost all social values.
“I would like people to know that we are a people who draw from many resources within ourselves. If more people had access to a good education in the country…then the next generation could be educated.
“Our current system is not currently set up to deliver justice. The same people cycle through it. We can’t really believe it yet.”
Savanel, 35, motorcyclist originally from Aux Cayes
“If he had resigned on February 7 I don’t think this would have happened to him. I woke up at 4 am to the news that he had been murdered. But honestly, Jovenel’s government has taken everything from me, it’s not easy for me to believe he’s gone.
“The way he was killed is not something that brings me joy, I cannot take joy in his death. It doesn’t bother me that he’s gone because he was part of corruption. However, I can’t help but think that if he can die that way, the fate of the rest of us is worse.
“The uncertainty has gotten so bad under Jovenel. I always went to the beach, I went to programs on the street in the evenings. Now I have to go into my house [before] dark. If I had hope I would stay in Haiti, but I want to leave and live somewhere else because I don’t see how this can get any better.
“Recently I had to go to Carrefour to look for gas because there were gas shortages in the country. As I was driving through Martissant (a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince), I saw a group of young women standing on the side of the road with guns in their hands.”
Naline, 31, university student
“To kill a president who is our head of state, even if he didn’t run the government or the country properly and destroyed our institutions, we didn’t want him to be killed.
“There were problems with the way he ran the government and he was seen as a de facto president because he stayed even though his term or term ended in February. There was great opposition to him, but he is still a living person – you can’t kill him just because you have problems with him.
“It’s exhausting trying to predict when and when we won’t be able to leave our home to go to work, to school. We have developed resistance to the dysfunction, but some days it is still difficult to deal with or cope with.
“Our greatest sense of pride is our successful revolution against slavery and the French, but I would like our country not to live in the past, move forward and bring real change. We are people with many challenges, but we are also unique and special.”
*Al Jazeera protects interviewees’ identities for fear of retaliation
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