Kenya will deploy 1000 police officers as part of a multinational operation designed to “restore normalcy” in Haiti, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua announced on July 29th. Following the announcement, a spokesperson for the US State Department said that the US and Ecuador both intended to introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council to authorize the mission. In a show of support, the Foreign Ministry of the Bahamas pledged to add 150 police officers to the Kenyan contingent if the mission is authorized.
The UN and the Haitian government have welcomed progress on the deployment of a multinational force, which they first called for in October 2022. UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed appreciation for “Kenya’s positive response” through a spokesperson, and Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry thanked Kenyans for their “demonstration of fraternal solidarity.” Meanwhile, civil society groups are less enthusiastic. “We need to be careful. I don’t know why they chose Kenya,” Pierre Espérance, a Haitian human rights campaigner, told the New York Times.
An international mission to support Haiti’s failing police is unquestionably necessary, but Kenya is not best placed to lead it. Kenyan police killed 35 civilians during anti-government protests in July, adding to a string of recent scandals. Otsieno Namwaya, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that if the mission to Haiti goes ahead, Kenya may be perceived to be “exporting its abusive police to other parts of the world.” Also concerning is that, despite their intention to train Haitian police and interact with local civilians, Kenyan police officers do not speak French. This complicates the already formidable challenge facing them: dismantling Haiti’s brutal and well-organized gangs.
Haiti was plunged into turmoil when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. Gangs took advantage of the chaos by consolidating their territorial control, especially in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Frequent clashes between the gangs, violent vigilante groups, and the overstretched Haitian National Police have turned parts of Haiti into de facto warzones.
There is no guarantee that the arrival of a multinational police force led by Kenya will improve the dire situation, and the UN already has a history of bungled interventions in Haiti. Peacekeepers deployed after a destructive earthquake in 2010 were responsible for reintroducing cholera to Haiti, where the disease has since killed more than 10,000 people. Victims’ families claim that the UN has never properly compensated them, and now it appears that the international community is walking into another doomed enterprise in Haiti.
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