Haitian President Jovenel Moise during an interview with reporters in Port-au-Prince, October 22, 2019
Haitian President Jovenel Moise during an interview with reporters in Port-au-Prince, October 22, 2019
  • Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home on Wednesday.
  • Moïse's presidency was marked by domestic unrest and repeated calls for his resignation.
  • The prime minister said on Wednesday that the perpetrators can't "assassinate his ideas."
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, 53, was assassinated at his private residence by a group of unidentified assailants around 1 am on Wednesday morning, and the first lady was wounded, according to an official statement.

Moïse was elected president in 2016 following an election mired in controversy and took office in February 2017. In his victory speech, he told a cheering crowd at a local hotel that "we will write a new page of history, one that is positive for this country, so future generations can be proud."

President of Haiti Jovenel Moise at an event in Antalya, Turkey in June 2021.
Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Haiti is among the poorest countries in the world and has struggled with insecurity, instability, and corruption. During Moïse's time as president, Haiti saw growing frustration with a worsening domestic situation and increased civil unrest.

Starting in summer 2018, Moïse began to face opposition over fuel shortages, inflation, rising crime, the misappropriation of development funding, and general corruption. During his presidency, Moïse faced waves of anti-government protests and increasing calls for his resignation.

Dissatisfaction stemmed in part from allegations that Haitian officials had pocketed millions of dollars in funds intended to be used to address domestic development problems.

Amid growing unrest, thousands of people gathered in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and other cities to protest against the government. Anti-government protests included fires and violent clashes with police.

A demonstrator during protests that saw clashes with Haitian police in Port-au-Prince on February 15, 2019.

As the protests ramped up and amid calls for his ouster, the president spoke out in February 2019, saying he would not step down. Moïse said that he "will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers."

Following the suspension of legislative elections, Moïse has been ruling by decree since January 2020 and was pursuing changes to the constitution that would strengthen executive authority, which had previously been weakened following abuses by past leaders.

The proposed changes to the constitution were deeply unpopular and drew significant criticism.

Tensions have also been running high amid disputes over the president's term, with the opposition claiming that his time in office should have ended on February 7 and Moïse arguing that he still had another year.

"He is doing everything, utilising all kinds of manoeuvres, to hold onto power and to ensure that he remains the only person governing in the country," Gédéon Jean, a local lawyer and human rights leader, told The Miami Herald in January.

Haitians demonstrate during a protest to denounce the draft constitutional referendum carried by the President Jovenel Moise on March 28, 2021 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Sabin Johnson/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On February 7, Moïse announced that his administration had foiled a coup and assassination attempt and that 23 people had been arrested.

In the aftermath, Moïse moved to strengthen police presence in the capital city amid renewed protests and domestic unrest. He launched what was described as a "counter-coup" operation, bringing down officials who the opposition had elevated as potential replacements.

Opposition protesters claimed Moïse was attempting to establish a new dictatorship.

It remains unknown who killed Moïse and for what motivation, but Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph condemned the attack as "odious, inhumane, and barbarous," stating that while the president had been "cowardly assassinated," his enemies could not "assassinate his ideas."

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