Journalists gather near a mural featuring Haitian President Jovenel Moise, near the leader’s residence where he was killed by gunmen in the early morning hours, and his wife was wounded, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday. Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, confirmed the killing and said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti.

Renuka Singh

The President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his private home just after 1 am yesterday.

Haiti’s Ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Bocchit Edmond yesterday attended an emergency OAS meeting which was convened after the shocking news of Moise’s assassination.

Edmond said today Moise would be honoured by Haiti as the country will observe a day of mourning and a country will undergo a “State of Siege” for the next 15 days.

Edmond told the OAS gathering that a group of people, some speaking Spanish and some speaking English, stormed Moise’s private residence and shot him and his wife Martine Marie Etienne Joseph.

Joseph was seriously wounded and is receiving medical treatment, Edmond said.

“The Haitian people as a whole are in shock as we learned of the assassination of the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, we are all disgusted by this cowardly act,” Edmond said.

Edmond acknowledged the country’s chronic instability but painted a wholesome picture of Moise.

“The Haitian Government vehemently condemns this odious, inhumane and barbaric act. He was a human being and he worked arduously for peace for the Haitian people,” he said.

Edmond said the security situation was “under control” and the national police force and armed forces were working to “ensure the continuity of the State”.

Edmond said that Moise was elected by a “democratic free and transparent election” back in 2017, which was observed by the OAS.

“The President worked tirelessly showing his will to truly out an end to corruption and clientelism that has beset the Haitian people for so long,” Edmond said.

“The nation is on its knees,” Edmond said.

He said that Moise’s determination to adopt fair policies led to the violet uprising in some sectors of Haiti.

“These sectors decided to support institutional blockade violently through assassinations gang activity and other similar acts,” he said.

Edmond believed that Moise was killed because factions wanted to “interrupt the constitutional order and install an interim government”.

“This assassination shows that we must ensure that President Moise did not work in vain and we must ensure that we hold elections this fall as the electoral college recently published,” he said.

The election is expected to be held at the end of this year.

Haiti has a long history of political instability but last September Molse appointed a new nine-member Provisional Electoral Council to organize Haiti’s election.

According to reports, the sentiment in the country was the Moise went too far in the use of his executive powers. It was felt that Moise violated the country’s constitution as the appointments were made by presidential decree.

The group was tasked with organizing municipal, legislative and presidential elections, and was expected to prepare a constitutional referendum.

Guardian Media spoke with US journalist Jacqueline Charles at the Miami Herald whose work focused on political issues in Haiti. Charles said Moise was widely unpopular and ruled by presidential decree, issuing over 100 presidential decrees since January last year.

Charles said that Moise faced waves of political protests and the referendum that he pushed was seen as illegal. She said that the US was opposed to the referendum.

Moise, she said, imposed controversial rules using the power of the presidential decree including giving himself more power and deeming protest action, like the burning of tyres to terrorism. Terrorism charges in Haiti carry a life sentence.

The agitation in Haiti is also being fed by a massive uptick in gun violence and gang activity.

According to reports, some 15 people, including a journalist and a political activist were executed in a single night in the country’s capital last week.

On the ground in Haiti, one reporter who requested anonymity because of the dangerously polarised political situation told Guardian Media that Haiti was “quiet” in the hours after the assassination.

The reporter said the political situation in Haiti was worsened by the fact that there was “no parliament and deep political creases” in the country.

“The President was very unpopular,” the journalist said.

“The country was misadministrated and people were angry about the security problems and a lot of social problems,” the reporter said.

The journalist said that there was no parliament sitting which fed the deep, political creases.

“We do not know how the President is killed, we do not know the reason,” the reporter said.

The reporter said the Government has been saying that Moise was killed by foreigners but said that whenever there is an internal issue, Haitian officials always blame foreigners.

“It will fit the commentary, anything happens you hear that foreigners were behind it,” they said.

“The country is very calm right now,” the reporter said.

“We were waiting on the election to see what would happen, now we do not know,” they said.

The election is due in September but is currently “shut down” because of political clashes between the Government and the Opposition over the credibility of each to handle the election.