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Kenyan Court Temporarily Blocks UN-Backed Plan to Send Police to Haiti

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Protesters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, reacting to Kenya’s offer to send a security mission to the country, Aug. 22, 2023. The United Nations Security Council officially backed a Kenyan-led force on Oct. 2, but no time line has been announced when police officers, who are expected to help combat gang violence in Haiti’s capital, will arrive. Now, a high court in Nairobi has temporarily blocked the plan, saying it is unconstitutional. SIFFROY CLARENS

A high court in Kenya has temporarily blocked the United Nations Security Council-backed Multinational Security Support mission from going to Haiti.

“That a conservatory order is hereby issued restraining the respondents from deploying police officers to Haiti or any other country until October 24, 2023,” the court paper, released on Oct. 9 and seen by PassBlue, reads in part. The order responded to a political party suing to stop the deployment of a Kenyan police force to combat gang violence in Haiti, saying the move was unconstitutional because it did not have parliamentary approval yet.

The Security Council approved a plan on Oct. 2 to send approximately 1,000 Kenyan security officers to the Caribbean-island nation to drive back gun-wielding gang members that have taken over 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and areas outside the city in at least the last year. The mission may also include security forces from Jamaica, Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda, although nothing has been officially announced by these countries.

The mission, which is not a UN peacekeeping operation, materialized after Kenya proposed that it send a force to help combat the gang violence in the Northern Hemisphere’s poorest country. At first, Kenya wanted a larger country to take the lead, like the United States or Canada, but that offer never happened.

PassBlue contacted the Kenyan mission to the UN in New York City for comment on the High Court’s order but got no response.

Activists and lawmakers in a Kenyan political party, Thirdway Alliance, have accused the government of President William Ruto for breaching the law by failing to secure parliamentary approval for the Kenyan operation in Haiti. Anthony Oluoch, a parliamentarian, told The Associated Press that such an O.K. should have come before the government sought a commitment from the UN’s most prestigious body. Ruto offered in August to send troops, but the proposal was long deliberated before it got the green light at the UN last week.

The UN spokesperson declined to elaborate last week when he was asked if Kenyan parliamentary approval should have been the first step before the proposal went to the Security Council.

“It’s not for me to comment on internal Kenyan political processes, right? That’s a question you need to ask the Kenyan mission, the Kenyan authorities,” Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said.

Kenyans are also worried about the human rights record of their police force. Hussein Khalid, the executive director of Haki Africa, a pan-African human rights group based in Mombasa, Kenya, told PassBlue: “We are not in the best position to be doing this. The civil society in Kenya is concerned about the human rights record of our police, the corruption within the service, and we would not want these to manifest through this deployment in Haiti.”

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Kenyan police officers cracked a man’s skull while enforcing a curfew during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Another man lost his right eye to their brutality. In a recent protest by government opposition, the Kenyan police were captured on camera shooting tear-gas canisters into protesters’ vehicles. At least two journalists were injured by the police during the protest.

“My life flashed before me,” Eric Isinta, one of the video journalists who was attacked by the police during the protest, told PassBlue. “You cannot trust this type of police to go to Haiti when they cannot handle peaceful protesters without using tear gas.”

Dujarric of the UN acknowledged that it was important for security forces deployed by Kenya to abide by international laws and human rights provisions, as mandated by the Council resolution authorizing the mission. Guterres recommended that an international force — but not UN peacekeepers — be sent to quell the violence in Haiti a year ago. No time line has been made as to when Kenyans will arrive in the country.

“The Secretary-General has stressed that it is important on preventing any misconduct by any police that will be deployed by any country within the context of Haiti,” Dujarric said on Oct. 5. “And he had advocated for some very robust prevention and response frameworks in that regard.”

Kenyan police officers are not accustomed to dealing with criminal gangs, particularly those using guns and heavy weaponry, Khalid of Haki Africa said. “They are familiar with protests and civil unrest, not criminal gangs with guns.”

Civil society and aid workers in Kenya are concerned about the terrible situation worsening in Haiti, which is riven by violent gangs. Civil society and aid groups have also raised the possibility of human rights violations and attacks on ordinary Haitians by the Kenyan security operation.

Johan Lefebvre Chevallier, who is based in Haiti as the country director of the humanitarian aid agency Mercy Corps, said the situation there was “resembling an urban war zone.”

“Our primary concern with the UNSC-sanctioned international security intervention in Haiti is that it does not cause more harm than good, putting more people at risk of violence, and that it does not prevent humanitarian organizations from accessing those most in need of support,” Chevallier said in a statement released on Oct. 2, referring to the Security Council. “The worst outcome would be for this new intervention to further increase violence and burden those facing the brunt of this security and humanitarian crisis.”

The problem of a language barrier could also impede the Kenyan police officers working in Haiti, as they would be expected to operate closely with the Haitian National Police and to rely on the local community for intelligence. Haitians speak French and Haitian Creole. Although Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, Alfred Mutua, said the officers were receiving French lessons, they will need more than basic French to dislodge gangs who understand the terrain intimately.

The United States has pledged a total of about $200 million to support the mission’s defense needs and humanitarian aid in Haiti, but it will not be sending troops. In a phone call after the Security Council vote, President Joe Biden thanked Ruto of Kenya for “answering Haiti’s call.” Khalid said that money and international relevance are part of the motivating factors behind the Kenyan government’s proposal.

The history of a security deployment by Kenya abroad is also blemished. Kenyan troops were accused of working with militants in Somalia, a neighboring country where Kenya deployed a peacekeeping mission to fight Al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. Allegations of human rights violations also trail Kenyan troops in that mission. Khalid said the accusations have led to “retaliation” from Somalians who come to Kenya to wreak havoc.

“They used that as an excuse to retaliate and engage in terror activities within Kenya because they say: ‘We cannot fight your army in Somalia but we can come to Kenya and cause this harm,'” Khalid said.

According to the UN, 2,439 people were killed by gang members in Haiti through Aug. 15 this year. During the same period, 902 people were injured and 951 others were kidnapped. The International Organization for Migration said that 200,000 people have been displaced.

In one night, the UN Human Rights Office said that an entire family — a city worker, his wife and child — were killed in their house in Decayette, a Port-au-Prince neighborhood, by suspected gang members.

The gangs also use rape and other gender-based violence to punish and to keep people in check. At least 49 women were raped in mid-April, the UN said. Teenage boys are also forcefully recruited and threatened with reprisal if they don’t join the gangs.

“The gangs have boys as young as six years old,” said Gaëlle Castor, the president of SE Fanm Foundation, a women-led organization in Port-au-Prince.

With the situation so desperate, Haitians have organized vigilante groups to combat the gang members and take back their communities, using machetes and cutlasses to hunt down known thugs.

Foreign Minister Mutua of Kenya is confident that his country’s security troops will benefit from the gangs’ lack of support among Haitians. The job of the force is cut out for them, he said in an interview with the BBC. “They will be required to disarm the gangs and free kidnapped victims.”

“We don’t think there is going to be a lot of violence,” Mutua added. “These gangs are powerful because they don’t have anybody who can match them.”

The US-Ecuadorean Security Council resolution authorizing the mission was passed without the approval of Russia and China, who abstained from voting.

Opinions of both Haitians and Kenyans remain divided. While Kenyans are concerned about the ability and safety of their police officers operating in Haiti, Haitians themselves are tired of international interventions that often leave them worse off. In 2010, a UN peacekeeping contingent inadvertently brought cholera to the country, killing at least 10,000 Haitians. A plethora of sexual abuse cases have also dogged the UN’s peacekeeping mission over many years.

“We are used to hearing the fancy word coined as interventions,” Castor told PassBlue. Her childhood community of Carrefour-Feuille, in Port-au-Prince, has been taken over by gangs. “There are some Haitians who will accept any form of relief because they are tired and have nowhere to go, but there is another group that thinks an intervention is not the solution. Yes, we need help, but what kind of help will the Kenyans offer to us anyway? We need to be participating as well because this is our country.”

Damilola Banjo is a reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.

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Kenyan Court Temporarily Blocks UN-Backed Plan to Send Police to Haiti
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John
John
3 months ago

This is despicable for anyone to even think that the Kenyan police can bring peace to Haiti. The Kenyan could not even handle their own security problems. This will be a total violation to the Haitian people for any foreign country to send their troops to the first Black republic. I hope this will never happen. Any security problems must be resolved between the Haitian people themselves and nobody else.

I believe this decision made by President Biden to send Kenyans troops to Haiti could be the advice of former president Obama. I could not comment 100% if my statement is accurate but my gut told me because of the political relationship between both men.

I wish that former president Bertrand Aristide and the stinky Clinton administration never abolished the army of Haiti. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to this divine nation. This low life president of Santo-Domingo with the help of the USA, Canada and France took advantage of the situation.
I’d like to see a miracle happening for the army to be established again.
A country without army is helpless and has no future.

I completely blame the inexperience Aristide and the evil Clinton administration.

Margaret Mazile
Margaret Mazile
4 months ago

Kenya,???????? stay away from Haiti ????????, you guys are as corrupt as Haiti. There will be a bloodbath, let the United States, Canada and France find a solution to the problems they have created, while trying to destabilize Haiti. They created the gangs, they kill our president and have been stealing our resources. Now they have enlisted the Kenyans to leave their African Continent and to come to our Caribbean shores in order to invade Haiti. Our African ancestors were sold into slavery for alcohol and firearms by their African tribal chiefs and now the Kenyans have been enlisted for money to invade us, under the disguise to rid Haiti of their “gangs” problems.
Stay home Kenyans, don’t think of violating our sovereignty as we are offsprings of African slaves who successfully fought Napoleon’s Army and are still paying for daring to take our indépendance!

Pat Seynaeve
Pat Seynaeve
4 months ago

First-class article that clearly and thoroughly presents the problems of the situation in Haiti. In my opinion, the UN should take the lead in this situation and assemble a force of French-speaking soldiers and police to disarm and arrest the criminal gangs.
To prevent the gangs from spreading to the rest of the country, the targeted area must be surrounded and combed.
To reduce the chance of non-violence, the force should be overwhelming so that gang members realize that they are no match for that superior force. Those who surrender and hand in their weapons could then receive community service. However, this reduction in sentence should not lead to insufficient punishment when testimonies and charges arise due to their criminal behavior.
Canada should be encouraged to take the lead here, together with French-speaking African countries. France itself is not eligible to be present in Haiti given its past, but should be urged to contribute financially because of its disastrous history. Haiti was obliged for years to pay compensation to France because Haiti had fought for independence from France.
To obtain the cooperation of the people, the UN could set up an experiment with a ‘Global Basic Income’. Give every registered Haitian a basic income of $2 per day, reorganize the national administration, organize free primary education and free primary care and support the democratic government, train teachers, nurses and police officers and punish corruption.
Explain these plans in detail to the population and organize a referendum where people can choose what they want: whether or not they want to temporarily come under the authority of the UN, where free education and primary care, a corruption-free administration and law enforcement are organised, together with a (temporary) basic income of $2 per day for every adult (children receive free education).
Canada has long been interested in exploiting Haiti’s natural resources such as gold and other minerals. This should also be done under the watchful eye of the UN and the Haitian population should be asked in the referendum.
This experiment could bring the country back to the normality of self-sufficiency and resolve the conflict with neighboring Dominican Republic. If this experiment is successful, it could be an impetus for other problem regions to intervene.

Dr Bilali Camara
Dr Bilali Camara
4 months ago

Military forces or Police forces are not and will never be a solution to the Haitian crisis. The root causes of the crisis are poverty and political games driven by the small economic local elite with strong US connections. Also, it is high time for the United Nations to leave Haiti as they are important part of the problem.

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