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Residents evacuate the Carrefour Feuilles commune in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 15 August 2023, as gang violence continues to plague the Haitian capital.(Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Security Council Endorses Kenyan-Led Mission to Stabilize Haiti

On 2 October, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution in support of a multinational security mission led by Kenya to bring security and stability to gang-ravaged Haiti.

The Caribbean nation has struggled with violence for decades, but the situation devolved rapidly after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Reporting on UN statistics, the Associated Press said more than 2,400 people in Haiti had been killed in the gang-related violence in the first eight and a half months this year. Another 950 had been kidnapped, 902 injured, and more than 200,000 Haitians have been displaced because of the violence.

The New York Times reported there have been no elections in Haiti in years, and the country’s last officially elected representatives—10 senators who, according to the AP, “had been symbolically representing the nation’s 11 million people”—saw their terms expire in January.

Haiti’s head of state is currently Ariel Henry, who was appointed by Moïse weeks before he was assassinated. Henry survived a gang-related assassination attempt in January 2022. He called for international security aid a year ago to help stabilize the country so it could conduct democratic elections.

The United States, Canada, and Brazil all balked at leading the effort, though they pledged to support other nations that might take charge. Finally, in July, Kenya stepped forward to lead a coalition, but it wanted UN backing. That set off months of negotiations. With Russia and China holding veto power, the UN Security Council has been mostly inactive since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in early 2022. The resolution passed; Russia and China abstained, voicing support in principle but expressing reservations and concerns about the scope and viability of the mission.

The mission itself will not be coordinated under the UN. Kenya sought, and received, approval of the intervention; however, it is a multinational effort being led by Kenya.

Kenya will send 1,000 police. Caribbean nations Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda have also pledged send forces. The United States said it would back the effort with logistical, intelligence, communications, and financial assistance, pledging $100 million for the effort. Forces are expected to be deployed either late this year or early in 2024.

In an interview released by the UN public relations office, retired Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil, who led UN mission in Haiti from 2007 to 2009, said, “It’s a very complex context, and it’s very important to be aware of all the variables in the country. Then, you need to understand the position of local partners and local government. The solution depends on the Haitians, on the government, and on the public working in Haiti. It’s an illusion to think that the UN is going there to deliver solutions. The solutions will come from Haitians.”

In a separate interview, Robert Rae, Canadian UN ambassador and chair of the UN Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, added, “This mission is not going to be a walk in the park. It’s a very difficult undertaking, but all of the UN has come together with one voice to say, ‘Unless we have a coherent approach on security, we’re not going to be able to address the other issue.’ The security issue is becoming critically important. … It’s a police intervention that is intended to support the Haitian efforts that are already in place, and it has to be accompanied by stronger action on the development and humanitarian sides. There’s a very deep crisis taking place in the country today and any intervention has to deal with all the elements of the crisis that can’t just be a single focus.”

Rae also tacitly acknowledged problems with previous UN-backed efforts in Haiti when he said, “I think the requirement that any force in any other country has to be respectful of the law and respectful of human rights is completely understood. I know that will be an integral part of the discussions at the Security Council.”

So far, the new action appears to be much more limited in scale and scope compared to other Haiti missions in previous years. The UN resolution calls for a year-long commitment to be re-evaluated after nine months. Kenya’s 1,000-person commitment is much smaller than the 21,000-strong contingent organized by the United States in 1994 and the 13,000 forces led by Brazil in 2007.

While those missions may have achieved short-term goals, they did not achieve long-term stability for the country. And UN peacekeepers are believed to be the source of a cholera outbreak in the country in 2010. The outbreak infected hundreds of thousands of people, killing more than 10,000.

Why did Kenya, a developing African country half a world away from Haiti, step in to lead the effort? The official reasoning is the humanitarian mission.

“This mandate is not only about peace and security, but also about the rebuilding of Haiti – its politics, its economic development, and social stability,” wrote Kenya Secretary for Foreign Affairs Alfred N. Mutua on X (formerly Twitter). “It is the beginning of a new chapter for the fathers, mothers, and children of Haiti. It’s for the posterity of Haiti and a force for good for global peace and security.”

A foreign affairs analyst in Kenya told Al Jazeera that leading the mission could be a geopolitical boon to the country.

“On the global stage, sending its forces to Haiti gives Kenya a very serious political capital. In the eyes of the world, Kenya becomes a dependable ally who is willing to help other countries,” Dismas Mokua said. “The mission creates several opportunities for Kenya. Kenyan law enforcement agencies will get specialized training and equipment before they are sent. This will improve the capacity of the force in the long term. Obviously, there are financial incentives. Resources are allocated to participating countries. Troops will also be given extra allowance, which is why there is high interest from officers for foreign deployments.”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement, “The mission speaks to the UN’s ability to galvanize collective action, but today’s vote is only the first step—now, the work of getting the mission off the ground begins. The United States thanks Kenya for positively considering leading the mission and welcomes the pledges by Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, and others for mission personnel.

“The United States will continue to support the Haitian people in their time of need and is committed to surging assistance to the mission. We call on the international community to join us. We must act with urgency as the people of Haiti cannot and should not wait for the peace and stability they deserve.”