UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief on Monday welcomed Kenya’s offer to “positively consider” leading a multinational police force to help combat Haiti’s gangs and improve security in the violence-wracked Caribbean nation.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry sent an urgent appeal last October for “the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity” to stop the gangs. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has been appealing unsuccessfully since then for a lead nation to help restore order to Latin America’s most impoverished country.
Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday said its offer includes a commitment to send 1,000 police to help train and assist the Haitian National Police “restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations.” The ministry said it was responding to a request from the Friends of Haiti group of nations.
“Kenya stands with persons of African descent across the world, including those in the Caribbean, and aligns with the African Union’s diaspora policy and our own commitment to Pan Africanism, and in this case to `reclaiming of the Atlantic crossing,’” the ministry said.
Haiti’s gangs have grown in power since the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and are now estimated to control up to 80% of the capital. The surge in killings, rapes and kidnappings has led to a violent uprising by civilian vigilante groups.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Guterres “welcomes Kenya’s positive response to his call” and expresses gratitude to Kenya for its “solidarity.”
The secretary-general calls on the U.N. Security Council to support a non-U.N. multinational operation in Haiti “and encourages member states, particularly from the region, to join forces from Kenya” in supporting the country’s police, Haq said.
Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said its proposed deployment will crystalize once the Security Council adopts a resolution giving a mandate for the force, and other Kenyan constitutional processes are undertaken.
A Kenyan task force plans to undertake an assessment mission to Haiti within the next few weeks which “will inform and guide the mandate and operational requirements of the mission,” it said.
Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus said: “Haiti appreciates this expression of African solidarity, and looks forward to welcoming Kenya’s proposed evaluation mission in the coming weeks.”
Guterres, who visited Haiti in early July, called afterward for a robust international force to help the Haitian National Police “defeat and dismantle the gangs.”
He said the estimate by the U.N. independent expert for Haiti, William O’Neill, that up to 2,000 additional anti-gang police officers are needed is no exaggeration. O’Neill, who concluded a 10-day trip to Haiti in July, is an American lawyer who has been working on Haiti for over 30 years and helped establish the Haitian National Police in 1995.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on July 14 asking Guterres to come up with “a full range of options” within 30 days to help combat Haiti’s armed gangs, including a non-U.N. multinational force, a possible U.N. peacekeeping force, additional training for the Haitian National Police and providing support to combat illegal arms trafficking to the country.
Compounding the gang warfare, which has spread outside the capital, is the country’s political crisis: Haiti was stripped of all democratically elected institutions when the terms of the country’s remaining 10 senators expired in early January.
The Security Council resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Ecuador, “strongly urges” all countries to prohibit the supply, sale or transfer of weapons to anyone supporting gang violence and criminal activities.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Kenyan President William Ruto on Monday including about Kenya’s positive consideration to leading a multinational force in Haiti, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
The United States takes over the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council for August on Tuesday, and Miller said the U.S. and Ecuador, as a first step, are going to introduce a resolution to authorize a non-U.N. multinational mission.
The second step is an assessment mission by Kenya, “which they plan to do in the coming days,” and then there will be talks with other countries about what additional assistance is needed, he said.
“We are committed to finding the resources to support this multinational force,” Miller said. “We’ve been a large humanitarian donor to relief efforts in Haiti for some time, and we have worked behind the scenes to find the lead nation to run this multinational force and are pleased that that has been successful.”
Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report from Washington and Evelyne Musambi from Nairobi