Pressure mounts on Kenya over police deployment to Haiti

In this file photo, police recruits march during a passing-out parade at Kiganjo Training College in Nyeri County. Port-au-Prince says it is still hoping to receive Kenya police. 

Photo credit: File

What you need to know:

  • Kenya was supposed to lead the MSS by first deploying its 1000 police officers to Haiti.
  • It is however unclear whether Kenya’s court will decide in favour of the deployment.

The United Nations and the US have raised concerns over the delayed deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti even as the Caribbean country falls under more gang violence.

It is a dilemma the two sides are struggling to cope.

On one hand, they have expressed the desire for Kenya and other like-minded countries to urgently deploy police troops in Haiti.

However, they also don’t want to appear to be usurping Kenya’s legal procedures, including a court case that could determine whether Nairobi deploys police officers to Haiti.

On Sunday, the US State Department spoke of Kenya’s “unwavering commitment” to deploy police officers to Haiti but steered clear of the legal issues in Nairobi.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with President William Ruto to discuss the ongoing political and security crisis in Haiti, the Department Spokesman Mathew Miller said on Sunday.

“They underscored unwavering commitment to the deployment of a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to support the Haitian National Police in creating the security conditions necessary to conduct free and fair elections,” he said.

Blinken and President Ruto also discussed Horn of Africa security issues. But this call was meant to address the situation in Haiti more than anything else.  

Timeline: Key moments in Haiti's recent history

Kenya was supposed to lead the MSS by first deploying its 1000 police officers to Haiti. But that has since been delayed after the High Court ruled that Nairobi cannot deploy in the absence of a bilateral instrument.

The MSS was endorsed by the UN Security Council in October and the countries had at least 90 days to put together structures including the Concept of Operations (Conops), rules of engagement and other administrative issues.

Nonetheless, the government of Kenya has indicated that it will deploy the officers, with President Ruto recently signing a bilateral agreement with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Nairobi.

However, after leaving Nairobi, Mr Henry's return to Haiti has been delayed by gang violence that has escalated in recent days in his home country.

Meanwhile, the UN has also expressed concern regarding the court case challenging the deployment of 1000 Kenyan police officers to the gang-controlled Caribbean nation.

The case now lies in the Court of Appeal which may or may not reverse the High Court decision.

Briefing the press at the UN headquarters in New York, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN Security Council was concerned the MSS hadn’t begun even as violence escalated in Haiti.

The Council held a private session on Wednesday in which Kenya, Ecuador and the US spoke of the need to deploy troops.

The US and Ecuador are ‘pen holders’ for Haiti in the Council, which means they push the agenda of Haiti including by drafting and circulating certain proposed resolutions. 

“Ms Salvador remains in close contact with the PM, the government and other stakeholders from across the political spectrum to encourage a peaceful and constructive inter-Haitian dialogue to promote a nationally-owned political solution to this crisis,” he said, referring to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador. 

“We have not yet received an official notification, in line with Security Council resolution 2699. However – as you have seen, as this was public - President Ruto of Kenya has publicly expressed that his country is ready to deploy police officers to Haiti in the context of the Multinational [Security] Support mission,” the spokesperson said.

After the signing of the bilateral deal, President Ruto said the necessary procedures will be speeded up to deploy as soon as possible. However, he didn’t give any timelines.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the ‘reciprocal’ agreement deal signed between Kenya and Haiti.

It is however unclear whether Kenya’s court will decide in favour of the deployment.

“We hope this mission comes soon, as each day goes by and each hour, we risk the Haitian people who are suffering. They are the ones trying to reach out and trying to survive in the mix of the horrific and inhuman violence,” Guterres’ spokesman said.

“One of the reasons why Guterres suggested the security support mission, a non-UN peacekeeping mission, is because, in an ideal world, these things are mobilised much faster and get on the ground much faster than the official UN peacekeeping mission.”

Haiti’s immediate problem, however, is humanitarian. The MSS is supposed to have a component for health emergencies and humanitarian response.

But recent gang violence in the country Haiti has forced many more people out of their homes and most of the capital Porto-au-Prince remains controlled by gangs making it difficult to deliver aid.

Haiti hasn’t had an elected government since President Jovenel Moïse, the 43rd president of the country, was assassinated on July 7, 2021. Moïse himself had overstayed his welcome, having overrun his term.

Henry’s tenure was supposed to be a temporary installation to plan for elections. But he has delayed the polls thrice now, promising to deliver the vote by mid-next year.

The gangs in his country rejected the delay and had warned him last week not to return to the country.

Several other countries, including Benin, Spain, Senegal, Jamaica, Antigua and Bermuda and the Bahamas were listed as having volunteered to send personnel too.

Mongolia, and Belize have also expressed support while Canada has pledged to join the US in fundraising for the Mission.

The UN says Haiti’s healthcare systems are near-collapsed with many cutting down on operations due to a worrying shortage of medicine and the ability of staff to get to the hospitals where they are most needed.

Additional reporting by Aggrey Mutambo