The body of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was returned to his hometown Friday for a private funeral amid heavy security following violent protests and fears of political volatility in the Caribbean nation.
Moïse’s wife, Martine, who was injured during the July 7 assassination, arrived to cries of “Justice! Justice!” as she headed straight to her husband’s casket, climbing the stairs and stopping in front of it.
Her right arm in a sling, she lay her left arm on the casket then brought it to her heart as she stood in silence. Her eyes filled with tears as her three children joined her.
Minutes later, a group of supporters grabbed a large portrait of Moïse and paraded with it as the police band began to play the national anthem over loud wails.
As the ceremony began, hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the private residence. Shots erupted and tear gas and black smoke wafted into the ceremony. The cries of protesters carried over religious leaders speaking at the funeral.
At the end of the funeral, Martine Moïse spoke publicly for the first time since the attack, her soft voice growing stronger through the 15-minute speech.
“They’re watching us, waiting for us to be afraid,” she said. “We don’t want vengeance or violence. We’re not going to be scared.”
Tensions with officials
Earlier, cries of “Assassin!” filled the air at the arrival of Haiti’s National Police Chief Léon Charles.
Haitians clad in sombre suits, shiny shoes and black and white formal dresses shouted and pointed fingers at the neighbouring seating platforms where Haitian officials and foreign dignitaries sat above at least a dozen men with high-powered weapons.
“You didn’t take any measures to save Jovenel! You contributed to his killing!” one woman yelled.
On the grounds below, one Moïse supporter threatened Charles: “You need to leave now or we’re going to get you after the funeral!”
Newly appointed Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry arrived after to cries of “Justice for Jovenel!”
‘Let all Haitians channel solidarity’
White T-shirts and caps emblazoned with Moïse’s picture were distributed to supporters the day before what is expected to be the final ceremony to honour Moïse, who was shot several times during the attack at his private home.
“This is something that will be engraved in our memory,” said Pedro Guilloume, a Cap-Haïtien resident who hoped to attend the funeral. “Let all Haitians channel solidarity.”
Moïse’s body arrived shortly after dawn at his family’s seaside property where the funeral is being held.
Six officials carried the brown casket up a stage where they saluted it and stood before it in silence for several minutes before draping it with a large red and blue Haitian flag.
Before the funeral began, a man wrapped himself in a large Haitian flag and approached the casket, crying out, “We need to fight and get justice for Jovenel!”
Next to him, a man carrying a T-shirt commemorating Moïse joined in as he yelled, “Jovenel died big! He died for me and for the rest of the country. We’re not going to back down.”
Political turmoil in Haiti
The funeral comes days after Henry, with support from key international diplomats, was installed in Haiti — a move that appeared aimed at averting a leadership struggle following Moïse’s assassination.
Henry, who was designated prime minister by Moïse before the president was slain but never sworn in, replaced interim prime minister Claude Joseph, and has promised to form a provisional consensus government until elections are held.
Authorities have said that at least 26 suspects have been arrested in the killing, including 18 former Colombian soldiers. Police are still looking for several more suspects they say were involved in the assassination plot.