CAP – HATIEN, Haiti, July 24, 2021 - The body of assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was laid to rest on Friday amidst demonstrations and what appeared to be shots fired nearby and riot gas used on protesters, prompting many dignitaries to take cover in their vehicles.
The mass prior to the funeral in Moïse’s hometown at the cathedral in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien was about half-full as Moïse supporters kept interrupting the mass as they cried out and accused Haiti’s elite of killing the president.
A man who identified himself as John Jovie stood outside the church with a group of men and threatened more violence if wealthy members of the elite from the capital of Port-au-Prince showed up for the ceremonies, Al Jazeera reports.
“We ask them not to come to the funeral,” he said. “If they come, we will cut their heads off. We will bring our guns out of hiding …We want justice for Moise.”
The trouble flared minutes after a brass band and church choir opened Moise’s ceremony, which took place two weeks after he was killed in a still-unexplained assassination at his home by foreign mercenaries.
The service went ahead, with speeches by family members, but it was punctuated by angry shouts by supporters accusing authorities of responsibility for Moise’s death. Their words were sometimes drowned out by loud swells of taped somber church music.
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 body arrived in Cap Hatien shortly after dawn at his family's seaside property where the funeral is being held. Six police honour guards carried the brown casket up a stage where they saluted it and stood before it in silence for several minutes before draping a large red and blue Haitian flag over it.
At the end of the funeral, Martine Moïse spoke publicly for the first time since the attack :"The family is living a black day as we are here having made the effort to say goodbye to my president, to my husband," she said.
"Blood will not cease to flow. Today it is Jovenel Moïse. Tomorrow who will it be? It will be him, it will be me, it will be us."
“You lost one battle, but the war is not over. We must find justice for you,” the president’s widow Martine Moise said in Haitian Creole, her face nearly hidden under a wide-brimmed black hat and her right arm in a sling after being injured in the attack.
She said the system was stacked against him, citing powerful business interests seen in the country as a defacto oligarchy, without giving details.
“Cry for justice. We don’t want revenge, we want justice,” she said.
Earlier, cries filled the air at the arrival of Haiti's National Police Chief León Charles.
Haitians shouted and pointed fingers at Haitian officials and foreign dignitaries: "You didn't take any measures to save Jovenel! You contributed to his killing!" one woman yelled.
The demonstrators in Cap-Haitien were venting anger over the many questions that remain unanswered about the assassination, including who planned it and why.
The attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers, at least six of whom had previously received US military training. Haitian Americans were also among the accused.
The funeral comes days after a new prime minister supported by key international diplomats was installed in Haiti — a move that appeared aimed at averting a leadership struggle following Moïse's assassination.
Dr. Ariel Henry, who was designated prime minister by Moïse before he 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.
Moïse was sworn in as Haiti's president in February 2017 and faced increasing criticism in recent years from those who accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian. He had been ruling by decree for more than a year after the country failed to hold legislative elections.
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, including a former rebel leader and an ex-senator.
Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and AlJazeera