Police officers patrol a neighbourhood amid gang-related violence in downtown Port-au-Prince on April 25, 2023. Between April 14 and 19, clashes between rival gangs left nearly 70 people dead, according to a United Nations statement released April 24


Explainer: Why Kenya is taking part in the Haiti mission

What you need to know:

  • Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry first asked for such a mission in 2022, admitting his country’s security forces had been unable to tame violent gangs
  • The Mission begins in coming months, and will last 12 months, initially, subject to an extension of mandate by the UN Security Council

Leaders in Haiti view the Multinational Security Support mission (MSS) authorised on Monday by the UN Security Council as an imminent saviour to their crisis. And according to the country’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus; “It was more than a simple vote. It is an expression of solidarity with a population in distress.”

So what will the mission be like? Here are some of its descriptors.

Why is the mission necessary?

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry first asked for such a mission in 2022, admitting his country’s security forces had been unable to tame violent gangs. These mobs rose sharply in 2021 when President Juvenal Moise was assassinated, although they have been active since 2018. According to UN figures gang violence has killed 3,000 people, seen 1,500 others kidnapped for ransom and yet 200,000 others displaced.

On Monday, the UN Council condemned “in strongest terms” the increasing violence, criminal activities and human rights abuses it said had undermined peace and security.

How long is the mission and who will fund it?

As is tradition with most UN-mandated interventions, the mission will last a year, initially, subject to an extension of mandate by the UN Security Council. Its budget as well as source of funding is subject to further discussions although the US has pledged $100 million in cash and another $100 million worth of supportive facilities for the undertaking.

Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Martin Kimani, said the mission will largely be reliant on UN members to contribute funding and other enablers.

“We invite member States to contribute as active participants, providing personnel, funds, vital equipment, and logistical support to the Multinational Security Support Mission,” Dr Kimani told the Council on Monday.

Once deployed, troops will be paid in two ways: a field allowance to be determined and another pay sent through their employers back home to which tax is deducted and the rest remitted to their accounts.

As is tradition with UN-mandated missions, the UN Department of Peacekeeping will replenish equipment used during the operation.

How large is the Mission and when does it deploy?

Kenya has pledged 1,000 police officers but it will require contributions from other countries to make it stronger and probably share out roles. At the council meeting on Monday, Jamaica, Antigua and Berbuda and the Bahamas were listed as having volunteered to send personnel too. Mongolia, Spain, Senegal and Belize had also expressed support while Canada has pledged to join the US in fundraising for the mission.

According to Kenya’s Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, Dr Alfred Mutua, the approval of the mission paves the way for consultations with other stakeholders, including politicians in Haiti for possible buy-in, and other UN members for resource pooling. Dr Mutua has since been moved to the Tourism ministry.

“The mandate is not only about peace and security, but also about rebuilding of Haiti,” he said on Monday.

“It is about politics, economic development and social stability.”

Dr Mutua suggested it could take at least three months of preparation including getting more troop contributions, raising money, working with local blocs and rules of play including the officials to head the Mission.

What is the legal requirement for Kenya?

The UN Security Council approval provided the necessary legal backing for the mission. But Kenya must follow its law to send any of its forces beyond its territory, legal experts say.

Victor Olao, a constitutional lawyer and Partner at Olao and Rai Advocates told Nation.Africa that the proposal for deployment will have to get parliamentary backing before any personnel can be sent to Haiti, under Article 240 (8) of the Kenyan law. Ordinarily, such a memorandum is first endorsed by the National Security Council headed by the President.

“The exercise of Kenyan forces inside and outside the country goes back to the issue of exercising the sovereign power through Article 1(3): Parliament is the arm of government seized with the mandate of giving such an approval, the national security council is not an arm of government, it is an organ of the executive. It doesn't operate outside or beyond the executive powers,” he said on Tuesday.

“The requirement for approval by parliament is to have an accountability channel. The people need to understand the scope and details of the arrangement between Kenya, the UN and other partners in the mission.”

Kenya has deployed troops to foreign lands twice under the current Constitution, to Somalia under Amisom and to the Democratic Republic of Congo under the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF). Parliament approved their deployment. Kenya’s law considers ‘national forces’ as comprising Kenya Defence Force, the National Police Service, Coast Guard, National Intelligence Service, Olao explained.

What will be the mandate of the mission?

According to the resolution 2699/23, the MSS will help tame gang violence, guard important installations and help train Haitian police to work independently long after they leave. The actual rules of operations, known as Concept of Operations, are supposed to be developed and approved by the council before deployment.

Troop and financial contributors are expected to inform the mission’s leadership, the council, and the Secretary-General of their intent to participate. And Haiti and the Mission’s leadership will provide regular progress reports on deployment of relevant personnel and equipment.

 What about human rights violations?

One reason for critics of Kenya’s participation has been the police here have previously violated civilian rights including extra-judicial killings. On Monday, the council called on the mission to establish an oversight mechanism to prevent human rights violations or abuses, and to ensure that the planning and conduct of operations during deployment will be in accordance with applicable international law. Individual countries will retain powers to punish their errant troops, on the recommendation of the mission’s leaderships. There have been calls to attach humanitarian and economic aid to the mission to help Haitians rebuild from scratch.

 Is there danger in deploying Kenyan police?

Great danger. Haitian gangs are some of the worst, mostly because they share out territories to which even local police do not go to. Dr Mutua argued they haven’t met their match yet, but we will wait to see.

Olao says we should, from the outset, expect casualties, given the lawlessness in Haiti for which government officials will be hard-pressed to answer.

“Expect a few casualties, here and there. It is a price that comes with peace, will the National Security Council come out to explain such? or they will remain mum?” he posed. 

 What next after deploying?

Gangs in Haiti have publicly rejected the MSS as an occupation force. But everyone who spoke on Monday at the Council session admitted Haiti needs a long-term political solution. And even China which abstained, alongside Russia, argued a foreign intervention without a stable local government will make the mission’s work difficult.

On Tuesday, President William Ruto promised to leave a different kind of mark for Haiti.

“We express our determination that this mission will provide a different footprint in the history of interventions in Haiti, and emphasise that it is aimed solely at providing an appropriate environment for the leadership, both political and civil society sectors to usher in stability, development and democratic governance, through a political framework owned by the people of Haiti,” he said.

Haiti hasn’t had elections since 2016 and five previous foreign missions failed. Independent since the 18th century, Haiti’s previous glory of conquering slavery and colonialism returned to haunt it. There have been at least 14 coups and seven assassinations of its leaders. Some of the coups were masterminded by foreign interventions.

At the council, Kenya said it will work with Haiti's people, allies, and other stakeholders to bring lasting peace.