A Kenyan police contingent arrives in Haiti as protests shake Nairobi | Conflict news

Hundreds of officers have traveled to Haiti to begin a UN-backed mission to reduce the influence of the country’s gangs.

A group of Kenyan police officers have arrived in Haiti, marking the start of a United Nations-backed mission to combat powerful armed gangs that have caused unrest in the Caribbean country.

Waving Kenyan flags and sporting camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles, several hundred Kenyan police officers stepped onto the tarmac at Toussaint Louverture International Airport near the capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday. More than 80 percent of the city has fallen under gang control.

“I congratulate, and am deeply grateful, to all countries that have pledged personnel and financial support to this mission,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that the US also provided $360 million. support.

While the UN has urged the international community to send a security force to Haiti, a long and controversial history of foreign interventions has caused critics to question the initiative.

Kenyan police disembark from a plane
Kenyan police arrive at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024 (Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo)

Those doubts have been exacerbated by the lack of concrete details about the objectives and actions of the latest mission.

“What is going to happen to the gangs?” said Romain Le Cour Grandmaison, senior expert at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. “Is it a static mission? Is it a moving mission? All those details are still missing and I think it is time for there to really be transparency.”

However, Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille praised the effort in remarks Tuesday.

“The country is going through very difficult times,” he said. “We are going to start working little by little to take back the country.”

Conille was appointed to his position last month as part of a transitional government in Haiti. The country has not held federal elections since before the assassination of President Jovenal Moise in 2021.

Speaking alongside Conille was Monica Juma, security advisor to Kenyan President William Ruto. Juma said in statements that the forces will serve as “agents of peace, stability and hope.”

However, on the day Kenyan forces arrived in Haiti, police in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, opened fire on protesters attempting to storm parliament, killing several protesters and wounding dozens more.

“The police should be able to operate well in their own country, but they can’t,” said Enock Alumasi Makanga, a former Kenyan police officer who now works in private security. “How do you think they will manage when they get to Haiti?”

Responding to questions about the incident, Biden administration spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States and other countries have “vetted Kenyan personnel” in Haiti and stressed the importance of human rights.

The Kenyan police are the first contingent of an international force in Haiti that is expected to number about 2,500 police officers from 15 other countries.

A previous UN mission, which lasted from 2004 to 2017, did little to improve conditions on the island. Instead, his presence was marred by accusations of sexual assault and the start of a cholera outbreak that killed an estimated 10,000 people.

However, in the intervening years, the gangs have increased their influence, filling the power vacuum left by the Haitian government. So far this year, violence has displaced a record 578,074 people from their homes, and nearly half of the country’s population lives with severe hunger.

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