- Kenya police will lead a global force to Haiti, a country where violent gangs control 80% of the capital Port-au-Prince.
- At the UN Security Council, the US-backed resolution got 13 votes in favour, while China and Russia opted for abstention.
- Critics of the Kenyan-led mission have raised concerns about the track record of police forces in Kenya.
Kenya has warmly embraced the United Nations Security Council resolution designating it to lead an international contingent of armed police to combat Haitian gangs. President William Ruto, in a speech delivered shortly after the resolution’s adoption, expressed his strong support, characterizing it as a mission of profound significance for humanity.
President Ruto said that the mission’s primary objective is to empower the multinational security support mission in reinforcing the capabilities of the Haitian police. This involves providing operational assistance and undertaking collaborative measures to enhance the institutional capacity of the Haitian law enforcement.
Kenya police to help tackle Haitian drug cartels
Kenya will contribute approximately 1,000 police personnel to lead a global coalition aimed at assisting Haiti in countering the surging threat posed by criminal gangs and rising criminal activities. The mission’s scope also encompasses addressing issues related to human trafficking, arms proliferation, and drug trafficking within the Caribbean nation.
President Ruto further stated that the mission holds the responsibility of securing Haiti’s critical infrastructure, including its air and seaports, as well as vital transportation routes. He underscored the mission’s broader purpose, that is, creating the necessary conditions for Haiti to consolidate its development and governance efforts.
This undertaking is a testament to Kenya’s commitment to international peace and security and its dedication to assisting nations in need, fostering stability, and promoting sustainable development, he explained.
“This mission is a fundamental intervention to provide the necessary conditions for Haiti to consolidate its development and governance,” he added.
On Monday, the United Nations Security Council made a historic decision to dispatch a multinational armed contingent, led by Kenya police, to Haiti with the primary objective of tackling the escalating threat posed by violent gangs.
The latest development marks a significant milestone, as it represents the first such deployment to Haiti, the beleaguered Caribbean nation in nearly two decades.
The resolution, which was crafted by the US and Ecuador, garnered overwhelming support with 13 votes in favor, while China and the Russia opted for abstention.
President William Ruto has welcomed the resolution to send multinational security mission to Haiti, saying that Kenya will not turn away from peacekeeping mission.
Multinational Kenya-led police force in Haiti
This resolution, in essence, authorizes the deployment of a multinational force for a duration of one year, subject to a comprehensive review after nine months.
Importantly, the mission’s financing will rely on voluntary contributions, with a notable commitment from the US, pledging a sum of up to $200 million.
While visiting Kenya last week, US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin noted that the Biden administration would work with Congress to secure the $100 million financing for Kenya’s Haiti mission as offered during the UN General Assembly held recently.
“The United States stands ready to support that important mission by providing robust financial and logistical assistance,” noted Llyod Austin said.
The United Nations Security Council’s decision comes nearly a year after Haiti’s Prime Minister made a formal request for the immediate dispatch of an armed force to his country. In the capital Port au Prince, analysts say criminal gangs control over 80 percent of the city.
The primary objective of the Kenya-led mission will be to quell the disturbing upsurge in gang-related violence and, in doing so, restore a sense of security that is imperative for Haiti to conduct long-delayed elections.
The challenges faced by Haiti’s National Police in their struggle against these criminal elements are huge. Haitian police are grappling with subdued personnel as just 10,000 officers are in active service in a nation of over 11 million population.
Haitians enduring hardship
Haiti’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean Victor Généus, said the resolution is an expression of solidarity with a population enduring prolonged suffering. For the people of Haiti, it signifies a glimmer of hope after enduring hardship for a long time.
At the moment, it remains unclear when the boots will land on the ground. Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken intimated that a security mission to Haiti could be mobilized “in months.”
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua, on the other hand, conveyed last week that the force may be ready for deployment within a span of two to three months, possibly as early as January. He also highlighted that essential personnel are currently undergoing French language training.
“This mandate is not only about Peace and Security, but also about the rebuilding of Haiti – its politics, its economic development, and social stability. It is the beginning of a new chapter for the fathers, mothers and children of Haiti. It’s for the posterity of Haiti and a force for good for global Peace and Security. History will judge all of us kindly,” Dr Mutua tweeted on Monday upon passage of the resolution by the UN Security Council.
Following the vote, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry lauded the UN Security Council, the UN’s Secretary-General, and the countries, including Kenya, that have agreed to participate in the multinational force. He stated, “The bell of liberation sounded… We couldn’t wait any longer!”
Reports indicate that Kenya is proposing to send 1,000 police officers. The armed contingent will be beefed up by personnel from Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda.
Russia backs resolve, but seeks rules of engagement
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Federation’s UN ambassador, noted that while he did not object in principle to the resolution, sending an armed force to a country, even at its request, should be a well-considered step.
Nebenzia noted that several requests for specific details, such as the rules of engagement and the withdrawal timeline, remained unanswered, and criticized what he perceived as a hasty decision. He remarked that authorizing the use of force in Haiti without providing the sought-after details is shortsighted, according to the Russian Federation.
On their part, China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, expressed the hope that the countries leading the mission would engage in in-depth consultations with Haitian officials regarding the deployment.
Zhang Jun also explained his opposition to the resolution, calling for the need for a legitimate, effective, and responsible government in place. This, the Chinese envoy noted, should be accompanied with a consensus for a transitional process and a credible timetable. He noted that the resolution, as adopted, fails to convey the strongest signal in this regard.
Haiti is reeling from a myriad of economic challenges, with approximately six out of ten people living on less than $2 a day. Poverty has deepened in recent years, exacerbated by inflation.
Assassination of Haitian president
The deployment of an armed force aims to restore peace and security in Haiti. This in turn will enable the nation to conduct long-awaited general elections, which Prime Minister Ariel Henry has repeatedly promised following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.
The President of the UN Security Council, Brazil’s Sérgio França, noted that without a Haitian political solution anchored in free, transparent, and fair elections, no external assistance can ensure sustained success.
Previously, international interventions in Haiti have been fraught with complexity. A UN-sanctioned stabilization mission to Haiti, initiated in June 2004, was marred by a sexual abuse scandal and the outbreak of cholera, resulting in nearly 10,000 deaths. The mission concluded in October 2017.
The resolution approved on Monday underscores the need for mission leaders to take measures to prevent abuse and sexual exploitation.
Critics of the Kenyan-led mission have raised concerns about the track record of police forces in Kenya. Kenya police have time and again faced accusations of torture, excessive use of force, and other misconduct.
“For the US, they needed a friend, because they themselves don’t want to go to Haiti. They have been there many times and they messed up. So, they don’t want to go there because they’ve been messing up,” Macharia Munene, Professor of International Relations and History at USIU-Africa told Citizen TV.
Kenya poorly equipped to tackle Haitian gangs
“Kenya is poorly prepared for that despite what some officials are telling us. There will be a language and cultural problem. The Haitians also don’t want us, the gangs are saying don’t come. And they are better armed than the forces there,” adds Prof. Munene.
Reports say that top Kenyan officials visited Haiti in August as part of a reconnaissance mission while the US was working on drafting the resolution.
President Ruto maintained that the mission is aimed at providing an appropriate environment for the leadership of both the political and civil society sectors to usher in stability, development, and democratic governance through a political framework owned by the people of Haiti.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, expressed confidence in Kenya’s ability to execute the mission.
The vote on Monday comes nearly a year after Haiti’s prime minister and 18 top government officials urgently requested the deployment of a foreign armed force due to the government’s struggle to control criminal gangs amid a surge in violence, including killings, rapes, and kidnappings.
Over 2,400 people were reported killed in Haiti between January 1 to August 15, according to UN statistics. The country has also experienced over 950 kidnappings and 902 injuries. Additionally, over 200,000 individuals have lost their homes as rival gangs have pillaged communities during fights for territorial dominance.