Amid gunshots, Haiti’s PM lays floral offering in memory of Jean-Jacques Dessalines

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Prime Minister of Haiti Ariel Henry says he has “deposited a floral offering” at a ceremony marking the 125th anniversary of the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, even as video recordings emerged showing that Henry and other government ministers were forced to retreat after they came under gunfire from a gang on Sunday.

“On the occasion of the 155th anniversary of the assassination, at Pont Rouge, of the illustrious founder of the nation, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, I have just deposited, in memory of the Emperor, a floral offering, at the Altar of the Fatherland where his imperishable remains lie,“ Henry posted to his Twitter account.

But video recordings published on social media and other platforms show armed security officials hurrying government and other officials out of the area as gunshots rang out.

The videos also showed former policeman, Jimmy Chérizier, also called “Barbecue,” the reputed leader of the Gang “G9” dressed in white and surrounded by many hooded and heavily armed men attending the ceremony.

Media reports said that Chérizier had earlier announced that the government officials would not be allowed to enter Pont-Rouge on Sunday.

The videos showed him smiling as he and his followers went to the Emperor’s monument, where he placed his own floral offering. They also carried a photo of President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated at his private residence on July 7.

While several people, including former military officials from Colombia, have been detained in connection with the assassination, the Haitian police say they are still searching for the main suspect, Joseph Félix Badio, who once worked at Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and at the government’s anti-corruption unit.

Last month, the chief prosecutor, Bed-Ford Claude, announced that he asked a judge investigating the assassination of Moise to charge Prime Minister Henry with involvement in the case over alleged phone calls he made to the main suspect.

Earlier this month, the head of the UN office in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, Helen La Lime, told the Security Council that “long-awaited” national and local elections have now been further postponed while “insecurity has become rampant in Port-au-Prince, as kidnappings are once again on the rise and gangs have extended their control over large swaths of the city”.

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