Kenya Volunteers to Send 1000 Police Officers to Haiti to Lead Peacekeeping Force

Jul 31, 2023
6:10 PM
Originally published at The Haitian Times

Police officers patrol a street in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on March 7, 2023. The multinational armed force would help the under-resourced, overwhelmed Haitian National Police if approved by the UN Security Council. (Marvens Compère/Haitian Times)


PORT-AU-PRINCE — Kenya says it is ready to lead the deployment of a multinational armed force in Haiti and will include 1,000 of its own police officers in the fight to help the Haitian National Police (PNH) restore law and order by fighting off the 200 or so gangs whose rampant violence has been terrorizing Haitians in recent years.

Kenya has proposed deployment once the United Nations Security Council approves such a mandate, said Alfred Ñganga Mutua, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign and diaspora affairs, in a statement Saturday.

“Kenya stands with people of African descent across the world, including those in the Caribbean. Kenya aligns itself with the African Union policy on the diaspora and our own commitment to pan-Africanism, and in this sense, to the recovery of the Atlantic crossing,” Mutua said in the press release, referring to the Transatlantic Slave Trade that brought kidnapped Africans to the Western Hemisphere.

Modern-day Haiti became the first Black republic in the Americas in 1804, after successfully fighting its French colonizers for independence. Haiti’s feat has since been credited for inspiring various Black liberation movements across the globe, including the négritude and pan-Africanist struggles for freedom that resulted in Africans reclaiming independence from European colonizers in the latter part of the 20th century.

Kenya’s announcement comes after a slew of meetings among various countries in response to an October 8 request by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to help Haiti fight the gangs with an armed force. Numerous meetings have been held, but no country wanted to lead the deployment of a multinational force in Haiti.

Even now, no final decision has been taken regarding the dispatch of this force to Haiti, whose capital is overrun by at least 200 gangs. The UN, in renewing its mandate for Haiti in July, asked for a multinational force to be considered and gave itself a 30-day deadline to make a final decision.

As a next step, Mutua said, a Kenyan police task force will be in Haiti in the coming weeks to conduct an assessment that will inform and guide the mission’s mandate and operational requirements.

Gangs in Haiti, which have suspected ties to numerous powerful and moneyed backers, have continued to kill and kidnap Haitian citizens with impunity in recent years as Haiti’s government has fallen. Among the latest cases is the attack of the Kraze Baryè gang in Tabarre near Port-au-Prince on July 24. The inhabitants were forced to take refuge in front of the American embassy in Haiti before being chased away again by Haitian police with tear gas.

The day prior, about 50 heavily armed men attacked the town of Liancourt in the Artibonite region, according to media reports. During the three-hour attack, at least four residents were killed, 10 were injured and another 10 abducted. The gangs also burned dozens of houses and the Radio Antarctique studio, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Kidnappings have also been on the rise, after a decline due to the bwa kale vigilante justice movement. A local human rights watch group, the Center of Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH), reported that 539 people were abducted between January and June 2023.

Among the kidnapping cases are that of journalist Blondine Tanis on July 21, the president of Tele Pluriel, Pierre-Louis Opont, on June 20, and his wife journalist Marie Lucie-Bonhomme on June 13. Bonhomme was released a few hours later.

Multinational Force Still a Concern

After Kenya’s announcement Saturday, some rejoiced. Luis Abinader, president of the Dominican Republic —Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola— has been asking for international assistance for Haiti, including the deployment of a multinational force in Haiti, for years.

“Our perseverance is bearing fruit: Kenya will lead, with the support of the United States, a multinational force for Haiti,” Abinader tweeted on Saturday.

“We will continue to advocate for more support,” he added.

As of Sunday, Henry had not made any public statements about Kenya. But in remarks made last week, he had already expressed some relief in knowing that a multinational force was being readied to come to Haiti.

Several countries, including the United States, have consistently shown that they support the idea of ​​deploying such a multinational force, but none has offered to direct it. Some, such as Canada, have opted for sanctions and police funding rather than committing to lead a specialized armed force in Haiti.

On July 14, the UN Security Council, which was reluctant about the idea, had for the first time considered the deployment of a non-UN force in Haiti as one of the options that could allow the UN to come to the aid of the Haitian government against gang violence. Thus, during the resolution of the renewal of UN Integrated Office in Haiti’s mandate, the Security Council said it expected from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres a report by mid-August on all possible options, including a mission of intervention in Haiti.

“So we’ve been focused on putting together what’s needed for a multinational force, including finding a lead nation to do it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an unrelated July 29 press conference. “I expect we will have progress to report on this very soon.”

“As far as Haiti is concerned, we are very concerned about the situation there, particularly with regard to violence and gang activity,” added Blinken, noting that U.S. collaborators are focused on helping Haiti restore peace, security and stability.

“It’s really the basis to be able to move forward on the political track and ensure that humanitarian aid can actually get to those who need it,” Blinken said when asked about the situation in Haiti.

On July 27, the U.S. ordered its citizens to leave Haiti in the face of rising insecurity characterized by gang violence.

“Do not travel to Haiti due to kidnappings, crimes, civil unrest and poor health care infrastructure,” the advisory read. “The Department of State has ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees and non-emergency U.S. government employees.”