Haiti mission: Police deployment on course despite court injunction

Kenya police

 A Kenyan police officer patrols next to a vandalised car used as a barricade by opposition supporters during anti-government protests in Nairobi on July 19, 2023. 

Photo credit: AFP

Plans to send police officers to Haiti continue despite court injunctions that have halted the process, the Nation can now reveal.

On December 5, 2023, a delegation from Kenya, along with a delegation from the US, met with Dr. Ariel Henry, the prime minister of the Caribbean nation. The team had left the country on December 2, 2023.

It is worth noting that this is the third visit of a Kenyan delegation to Haiti. The first was in September and the second was in October.

Dr. Henry said in a statement that plans are also underway for a team from Haiti to visit Kenya in the coming days in preparation for the arrival of the Multinational Security Support Mission (MMSS).

"A delegation from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security will travel to Nairobi in the coming days to prepare for the arrival of this mission," the Prime Minister's office said in a statement.

The Nation has established that the team also met with members of the High Council of the Transition, whose members include; Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat, Calix Fleuridor and Laurent St. Cyr.

It is worth noting that the deployment to help the Haitian police fight gangs still needs the green light from the Supreme Court here in Kenya.

On Sunday, civil society groups condemned the visit, saying it was already an indication that they did not have the people's interest at heart.

Ms. Gaelle Castor, the executive director and founder of Se Fanm, an organisation that empowers women and children in Haiti, said the Kenyan delegation should be meeting the people, not holding secret office meetings.

"They say they want to help restore peace in Haiti and save the people. But from where I sit, I don't believe that because they should meet with us so that they understand what we are going through," said Ms. Castor.

According to her, the situation was getting worse by the day as the gangs became more powerful and wreaked more havoc.

Ms. Castor said the Kenyan meeting was held in secret and the matter was only leaked after the delegation left the Caribbean country.

"Unlike the other time when even the media was invited, this time we found out about the visit after the Kenyan delegation had left. Why did they keep it secret? She asked.

According to her, the officers being sent to her home country should be worried because the gangs there are ruthless and tough.

Ms. Castor said that police officers in Kenya had been put on the spot in the past for disregarding human rights and that alone was worrisome to Haitians.

Mr. Gedeon Jean, the director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH), said that it was time for Kenya to work closely with Haiti, but to ensure that their interest was to save the people who were suffering.

Mr. Jean also said that he never heard about the Kenyan delegation's visit until they left the country.

"Unlike the other two visits where we could get updates, this time it was made public that they had paid a visit after the team had left," Mr. Jean told the Nation.

In an early communication from gang leader Jimmy Barbecue Cherizer, a former police officer, he threatened Kenyan police officers not to set foot in Haiti, saying they would face ruthless retaliation.

The warnings and legal challenges underscore the complexity of the situation as Kenya considers contributing to international peacekeeping efforts in the troubled Caribbean nation.

The impending deployment faces legal challenges as a court case has been filed over the deployment of the officers. The court is expected to rule on January 26, 2024.

The earliest the National Police Service team can leave Kenya is February 2024, subject to the court's decision, following a petition filed by Thirdway Alliance Party leader Ekuru Aukot.

The United Nations (UN) has already given Kenya the go-ahead to send 1,000 police officers to the troubled country.

Kenya is also seeking a Sh36 billion ($237.55 million) funding vote to prepare its troops for Haiti in an annual budget estimate, indicating the cost the international community will have to foot to initially run the mission.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki told parliament in November that the amount would be used to prepare troops and buy equipment.