Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, speaks to students during a public lecture on bilateral engangement between Kenya and Haiti, at the United States International University (USIU) Africa, in Nairobi on March 1, 2024. (SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — Acting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced late Monday he would resign, saying he will cede power to a presidential council following weeks of soaring anti-government violence led by an alliance of gangs.

“The government that I am leading cannot remain indifferent to this situation. There is no sacrifice too big for our country,” Henry said in a video posted to official government channels.

He added, “My government will leave immediately after the installation of this council.”

The resignation had been earlier announced by the current chair of regional governing block Caribbean Community (CARICOM), who spoke at a press conference late Monday evening in Kingston, Jamaica.

“We acknowledge the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry upon the establishment of a transitional presidential council and the naming of an interim prime minister. I want to pause and thank Prime Minister Henry for his service to Haiti,” said Irfaan Ali, the current chair of CARICOM and president of Guyana.

The announcement came as gangs have launched an armed rebellion in Port-au-Prince this month, attacking a series of government targets over the last two weeks. Gang leadership had called for Henry to resign, leading to rampant speculation over how he would respond.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Henry first made the decision to step down on Friday but waited until Monday to communicate that with his ministers.

CARICOM members, representatives from Haiti’s political parties and civil society, as well as diplomates from the United States and the U.N. met for a series of emergency meetings on Monday to help chart a path forward for Haiti after it became clear the crisis in Port-au-Prince had spiraled out of control.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended the meeting and publicly called for the urgent creation of a presidential transition council, a sign the U.S. was ready to move past Henry.

In addition to Henry’s resignation, CARICOM leaders announced the creation of a seven-member transitional presidential council. The council will “hold relevant and possible powers of the Haitian presidency during the transition period until an elected government is established,” according to the CARICOM chair, and will operate by majority vote.

The council will appoint a new interim prime minister and council of ministers. In Haitian democracy, the prime minister answers to the president.

Henry first came to power a few weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in his official residence in July of 2021. In the absence of presidential authority, the U.S. backed Henry in a power sharing agreement that was originally supposed to lead to new elections within a matter of months.

But Henry postponed those elections after a massive earthquake in August of that year. Several more deadlines came and went for new elections to be held, with Henry citing security and logistics each time as the reason why elections shouldn’t yet be held.

He quickly became a symbol for many in Haiti of the chaos that has consumed the country in recent years — soaring gang violence, inept governance, ineffective policing, a corrupt judiciary, exploding hunger and deepening poverty.

Haitians took to the streets to protest loudly and often during his 2.5-year reign, calling for him to step down and criticizing him as an unelected autocrat desperately trying to cling to power. It was only this month, however, that it all came to a head.

Henry had just announced in late February that he would once again postpone elections until August of 2025. It sparked immediate anger, but Henry left the country for a trip to Kenya.

There he signed an agreement that he hoped would expedite the United Nations-approved deployment of some 1,000 Kenyan police officers to try and restore security to Haiti’s streets. Gangs had taken over at least 80 percent of the capital city and Henry said an international force was needed to restore a semblance of order.

But while he was gone, Haiti’s two largest gang alliances unified and attacked.

They targeted prisons, releasing thousands of criminals, as well as the National Palace, the Interior Ministry and dozens of police stations. Sustained attacks also forced the closure of Port-au-Prince ports and its international airport, effectively sealing it off from the rest of the world.

Henry was unable to return safely to Haiti and has been staying in Puerto Rico.

The gang leader behind the attacks, Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, told ABC News in an interview over the weekend that his first demand was Henry’s resignation.

“If Ariel Henry resigns, I think we are going to call for a truce just to evaluate the situation, just to allow the negotiations to take place between all the sectors of society and the armed groups,” said Barbecue.

It remains to be seen whether Henry’s resignation will quell the violence that has engulfed the capital city of several million people. But any cease-fire, even if temporary, would be welcome relief after two of the most violently consequential weeks in recent Haitian history.

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