Kenya Meets With Leaders Of Haitian Police To Discuss Future Intervention

On August 19th, a Kenyan delegation met with the leaders of Haiti’s National Police to discuss the possibility of the African country leading an international peacekeeping force to Haiti. Haiti has faced increasingly debilitating instability over the past several years. Armed gangs now control large sections of the country, a severe and mounting humanitarian crisis is occurring, and a general breakdown of order across the nation is imminent. In October of 2022, Haiti’s unelected Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, requested the intervention of a multinational force to aid in the restoration of law and order in the country. Last month, Kenya asserted that it was ready and willing to lead an intervention force of police officers and other personnel to restore order and disarm the gangs. Any intervention will require approval by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the United States has indicated that it is supportive of Kenya’s offer. 


Many within Haiti and the international community have called for an international peacekeeping force of police and military assets to help resolve Haiti’s crisis. Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, affirmed the strategy that a “robust use of force” was necessary to end the endemic threat of gangs, which he asserted in a report to the UN earlier this month. However, others are not nearly as sanguine regarding the prospect of a Kenyan-led intervention. Kenya’s national police have been criticized for a long history of brutality and misconduct. “We had some consultations with Kenyan (civil society organizations) last week and there was general consensus that Kenya should not be seen to be exporting its abusive police to other parts of the world,” Otsieno Namwaya, Kenya researcher with Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. Others have drawn attention to the fact that Kenya’s police do not speak French, do not have experience in conducting peacekeeping operations of the scale proposed, and that Kenya would not be accountable to a UN force commander as is typical in traditional peacekeeping operations. 


It is necessary for the international community to formulate a coordinated and holistic response to Haiti’s national crisis. While the response should likely be a multinational police and military force, there must be more steps taken by the UN, and supported by members of the UNSC, to ensure that an intervention is undertaken in a way that does not contribute to more instability and violence. For example, there must be observers embedded in any peacekeeping force to safeguard against abuses, particularly those that are sexual in nature. In order to properly address the devastating challenges facing Haitians, there must be a more thoughtful and detailed approach undertaken by the international community. While Kenya’s willingness to send approximately 1,000 police overseas is admirable, there must be more safeguards and layers of accountability attached to the mission than are currently proposed. 


Though Haiti has a long history of instability and strife dating back to its revolution against French rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, the most recent rise of violence stems from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July of 2021. Moise’s rule was already incredibly unpopular and shaky. Opposition to his government began to mount in 2018 in a response to widespread corruption and sharply rising fuel prices. Moise’s assassination by foreign mercenaries coupled with the appointment of Ariel Henry to acting prime ministership has compounded the volatility. Haiti has endured ever rising fuel prices, increasingly powerful armed gangs, civil unrest opposed to the unelected government, a cholera outbreak and a humanitarian disaster which includes widespread hunger. Two years after Moise’s assassination there is no sign the Haitian government is restoring control over the population or able to ameliorate the mass suffering which is occurring. According to the UN an estimated 2,439 people have been killed due to gang violence year-to-date through August 15, with another 902 injured and 951 kidnapped.  


The situation in Haiti is a multi-faceted disaster. Within Haiti are failings of governance, security, economics and an inability to address Haitians’ basic human needs. An international peacekeeping force is likely necessary to restore basic services and civil order in Haiti, which would be the first step to reestablishing and rebuilding Haiti’s state capabilities. A Kenyan-led force could succeed in restoring rule of law, but it remains to be seen whether they are capable or whether such intervention would only lead to more conflict. Either way, there must be a decisive international response to Haiti’s crisis, as it is unlikely that the Haitian government will be able to regain control on its own.