The offer from Kenya to lead a multinational force to assist Haiti in tackling the escalating gang violence has met with skepticism from Haitians. They are questioning whether another international intervention would actually do more harm than good, given the troubled history of previous missions.
Concerns have been raised about the past conduct of foreign forces, including incidents of sexual abuse and a devastating cholera outbreak, which have left many Haitians skeptical and lacking trust in the efficacy of such interventions. Despite their reservations, the ongoing bloodshed in the country has left them with limited alternatives for addressing the crisis.
Florence Casimir, an elementary school teacher, expressed a sense of resignation, acknowledging that the situation may not improve significantly with another intervention. However, she stressed that the Haitian people have few options at this point, as the brutality of the Haitian gangs continues to inflict terror on their communities. Kidnappings of students and extortionate ransoms from parents have only added to the gravity of the situation.
As Haitians grapple with the complex reality of seeking external help amidst a deteriorating security situation, they remain cautious about the potential consequences of a new international mission. The conflicting experiences of past interventions and the urgent need to address the rampant gang violence leave them with a difficult decision, hoping for a viable and sustainable solution that will truly alleviate the ongoing crisis.
“The Haitian People are Unable to Combat this Challenge Alone”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in October, appealing to the international community to establish a specialized armed force in Haiti. The country has been grappling with long-standing political instability and escalating violence.
The request came amid armed groups vying for control in the capital, Port-au-Prince, leading to a prolonged blockade on the city’s main fuel terminal. The blockade has resulted in widespread shortages, malnutrition, and the closure of healthcare facilities.
While Henry’s call received support from the United Nations and the United States, Haitian civil society groups raised immediate concerns about the potential pitfalls of a new foreign intervention. They cautioned that history might repeat itself, referring to past deployments marred by allegations of mass sexual abuse during the UN peacekeeping mission from 2004 to 2017. Shockingly, peacekeepers were accused of raping and impregnating girls as young as 11. Additionally, in 2010, a cholera epidemic that claimed nearly 10,000 lives was triggered by sewage run-off from a UN peacekeeper camp into the country’s biggest river.
The previous experiences have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Haitian people, as expressed by Valdo Cene, a cooking gas seller. Bringing in international forces, while potentially providing support, also carries the risk of repeating the unfortunate history of past interventions.
Hospital Abandoned for Months Amid Haiti’s Humanitarian Crisis
In the midst of Haiti’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, an abandoned hospital has become emblematic of the country’s struggle. The dire situation has drawn attention from the international community, and last weekend, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua announced that Kenya was considering leading a “multinational force” to assist Haiti. Kenya is prepared to deploy 1,000 police officers to train and support Haiti’s police in restoring order.
Mutua shared on social media that Kenya’s proposed deployment would take shape once it received a mandate from the UN Security Council and completed other constitutional processes in Kenya. A Kenyan police team will conduct an assessment mission in the coming weeks to inform and guide the mandate and operational requirements for the mission to Haiti.
The announcement by Kenya was met with welcome from the United Nations and the United States, with Washington indicating its plan to introduce a resolution at the Security Council to authorize the force’s deployment. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commended Kenya for responding to Haiti’s call for assistance and for leading a multinational force to aid the Haitian police in restoring security. He also urged Haitian stakeholders to work together urgently to broaden political consensus and restore democratic order as soon as conditions permit.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry expressed gratitude for Kenya’s solidarity and conveyed his appreciation to Kenyan President William Ruto regarding the upcoming assessment mission. As Haiti continues to grapple with a complex crisis, the potential involvement of a multinational force led by Kenya may offer a glimmer of hope for restoring stability and addressing the pressing security challenges.
Concerns Arise as Kenyan Police Take Charge in Potential Haiti Mission
The proposed international force for Haiti would not fall under the UN’s mandate, meaning that if deployed, Kenyan police would lead the mission, free from answering to a UN force commander, as is customary in UN peacekeeping missions. This departure from the norm has raised alarm among watchdog groups, who fear that the human rights track record of the Kenyan police could lead to potential abuses.
Kenyan police have faced long-standing accusations of violence, including incidents of killings and torture, such as the use of deadly force against civilians during the country’s COVID-19 curfew. In July, during protests, one local group reported that officers fatally shot over 30 people, all in Kenya’s poorest neighborhoods.
Louis-Henri Mars, the head of Haitian grassroots peacekeeping organization Lakou Lape, shared similar concerns, stating that people are puzzled about the potential consequences of deploying a Kenyan force. He fears it may lead to yet another complicated and challenging situation.
While many, including Mars, see a Kenyan-led force as a vital step towards stabilizing Haiti, they hope its deployment will be a temporary measure that sets the stage for a more extended process to address the widespread violence in the country.
On the other hand, individuals like Jerthro Antoine, a cellphone repairman, are eagerly anticipating the potential involvement of Kenya’s police. The violence in Haiti has become so severe that even walking on the streets has become a risk. Antoine feels trapped in his home and welcomes any foreign force supporting the Haitian police, as he believes it would provide much-needed relief to the people, offering them a chance to regain a sense of normalcy and safety.