Kenya Ready to Lead Multinational Force to Haiti

  • Posted on: 1 August 2023
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Kenya is ready to lead a multinational force into Haiti, which is experiencing a surge in violence between police and gangs, its foreign minister said on Saturday.  An escalation of violence by Haiti's armed gangs is driving a humanitarian crisis that has displaced tens of thousands of people.  Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the Security Council and major potential contribution countries to act fast to create the conditions for the deployment of multinational force to Haiti.  "At the request of Friends of Haiti Group of Nations, Kenya has accepted to positively consider leading a Multi-National Force to Haiti," Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said in a statement.  "Kenya's commitment is to deploy a contingent of 1,000 police officers to help train and assist Haitian police restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations."  Haiti's foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.  Mutua said the planned deployment from Kenya is still subject to getting a U.N. Security Council mandate and Kenyan authorisations. "An Assessment Mission by a Task Team of the Kenya Police is scheduled within the next few weeks," he said.  Reporting by George Obulutsa; additional reporting by Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City; editing by Giles Elgood





Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States ambassador to the United Nations speaks during the UN Security Council meeting to discuss the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine, Friday, July 21, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States said Tuesday it will put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution that will authorize Kenya to lead a multinational police force to help combat gangs in Haiti that control much of the capital and are spreading through the Caribbean nation. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference at the start of the U.S. presidency of the council this month that “we welcome Kenya’s decision to lead the multinational force (and) we will be working on a resolution to support that effort.” 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 had been appealing unsuccessfully since then for a lead nation to help restore order to Latin America’s most impoverished country.

More than nine months later, Kenya was the first country to “positively consider” leading a force, offering to send 1,000 police to help train and assist the Haitian National Police to “restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations.” Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday it plans to send a task force to Haiti in the next few weeks to assess operational requirements for the police mission.

Haitians, weary of gang violence, protest the kidnapping of an American nurse and her daughter Thomas-Greenfield said the United States will work with other council members on a resolution “that will give the Kenyans what they require to establish their presence in Haiti.”

She gave no timetable but expressed hope that a resolution will be adopted unanimously, as the last two Haiti resolutions were. An October 2022 resolution demanded an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposed sanctions on individuals and groups threatening peace and stability — starting with a powerful gang leader, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier. A resolution adopted on July 14 asked 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.

Thomas-Greenfield said the situation is “unusual, but what is happening in Haiti is unusual.” “This is not a traditional peacekeeping force, this is not a traditional security situation,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We have gangs that have overtaken the country, ... that are terrorizing civilians every single day.”

She stressed that “it is very much a police action to stabilize the country so that the country can get back on the path of democracy, that they can move forward with a political process that will lead to a stable government that will be able to deal with the situation in the future.” 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.

Compounding the gang warfare 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. Welcoming Kenya’s offer, 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.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed Kenya’s offer and called on the Security Council to support a non-U.N. multinational operation in Haiti, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday. The U.N. chief encouraged U.N. member nations, “particularly from the region, to join forces from Kenya” in supporting the country’s police, the spokesman said.

Guterres 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.


Al Jazeera


People in Haiti express doubts over potential multinational force but say country can’t fight gangs on its own.  Haitian police officers walk near people who carry their belongings while fleeing their homes and neighbourhoods due to violence between gangs, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haitians have expressed scepticism over Kenya’s offer to lead a multinational force to help the Caribbean nation respond to months of surging gang violence, questioning whether another international mission would bring more harm than good. Many people in Haiti said the sexual abuse and a devastating cholera outbreak that have accompanied foreign forces in past decades fail to inspire much trust – but they also said ongoing bloodshed in their country leaves them with few other options.

“It will never be better [than past interventions], but the Haitian people don’t have a choice at this point,” said Florence Casimir, an elementary school teacher. She told The Associated Press news agency that while past international interventions have damaged the country, their abuses don’t compare to the brutality of Haitian gangs, which kidnap her students and force parents to pay hefty ransoms. “The Haitian people can’t fight it on their own.”

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry made an appeal to the international community in October to establish a “specialised armed force” in Haiti, which has been plagued by political instability and rising violence for years.

He made the request as armed groups vying for control in the capital, Port-au-Prince, were maintaining a weeks-long blockade on the city’s main fuel terminal, leading to widespread shortages and malnutrition and forcing healthcare facilities to close. While Henry’s call enjoyed support from the United Nations and the United States, Haitian civil society groups immediately cautioned that a new foreign intervention could end up repeating the mistakes of past deployments.

A UN peacekeeping mission from 2004 to 2017 was plagued with allegations of mass sexual abuse, including claims that peacekeepers raped and impregnated girls as young as 11. In 2010, sewage run-off from a UN peacekeeper camp into the country’s biggest river started a cholera epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people. “They left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Haitian people,” Valdo Cene, who sells cooking gas, told AP. “Bringing in international forces could mean repeating our history.”

But last weekend, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said the East African country was considering whether to lead the “multinational force” to Haiti and was ready to deploy 1,000 police officers to help train and assist Haiti’s police to restore order.

Mutua said in a post on social media that Kenya’s “proposed deployment will crystalize” once it gets a mandate from the UN Security Council “and other Kenyan constitutional processes are undertaken”. The minister also said that a Kenyan police team would undertake an “assessment mission” in the coming weeks to “inform and guide the mandate and operational requirements” of a mission to Haiti.

Kenya’s announcement was welcomed by the UN and US, with Washington saying this week that it planned to introduce a resolution at the Security Council in the near future to authorise the force’s deployment. “We commend the Government of Kenya for responding to Haiti’s call and leading a multinational force to assist Haitian police in restoring security,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on social media. “We call on Haitian stakeholders to urgently broaden political consensus to restore democratic order as soon as conditions permit.”

On Tuesday, Henry said he spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto about the upcoming Kenyan assessment mission to the country. Henry also said he thanked Ruto on behalf of the Haitian people for Kenya’s “brotherly solidarity” in saying it would lead the potential mission.

We commend the Government of Kenya for responding to Haiti’s call and leading a multinational force to assist Haitian police in restoring security. We call on Haitian stakeholders to urgently broaden political consensus to restore democratic order as soon as conditions permit. — Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 1, 2023

The international force would not be a UN force, so if deployed, Kenyan police would be in charge rather than answer to a UN force commander as they would be required to do in a UN peacekeeping mission. That has raised some alarm among watchdog groups, which have raised questions about the human rights track record of police in Kenya, saying the force may export its abuse.

Kenyan police have been long accused of killings and torture, including gunning down civilians during country’s COVID-19 curfew. One local group said officers fatally shot more than 30 people during protests in July, all of them in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Louis-Henri Mars, head of the Haitian grassroots peacekeeping organisation Lakou Lape, echoed those concerns. “People are puzzled about this,” Mars said. “It may become just another big mess.” While Mars is among many who said a Kenyan force would be an important step in stabilising Haiti, he expressed hope its deployment will be a temporary effort that paves the way to a longer process of untangling rampant violence in the country.

Others, like cellphone repairman Jerthro Antoine, said Kenya’s police can’t come soon enough. He said he dreams of once again setting foot on one of Haiti’s beaches but the violence has gotten so bad that even walking on the street is a risk. “I feel trapped in my home. Any foreign force in support of Haitian police is more than welcome,” Antoine said. “The Haitian people need it, we need a break and to have a life again.”


As a kidnapped American nurse and her child marked their 11th day in captivity in Haiti on Monday, the United Nations’ leading child-welfare agency says it is seeing an alarming spike in the abductions of women and children in the Caribbean nation. Nearly 300 cases have been reported in the first six months of this year, UNICEF said. The number is close to the total documented in 2022 and is close to three times more than what was recorded in 2021. In Haiti, most kidnappings are at the hands of armed gangs, whose warfare has worsened since the 2021 assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse. Gangs routinely grab people and hold them for ransom. But sometimes abductions are the result of inside jobs, where victims are set up — and even taken — by people they know, including family members, friends or employees.

Still, the high number of women and children who are falling victim to the epidemic is worrisome, the U.N. agency said. “We can’t say that they’re specifically targeting women and children, but indeed we see that there is an increased number of women and children, both boys and girls, who are being abducted,” Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF’s regional chief of communications and advocacy for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in an interview. “That in itself is a concern, as far as UNICEF is concerned, because they require specific assistance,” he added. “The level of risk is higher for them in many ways and they have needs that are very specific.”

As Haitians took to the streets in Port-au-Prince on Monday to protest against the violence, UNICEF called for the immediate release and safe return of all those who have been kidnapped. The actual number of kidnappings remains unknown since many abductions go unreported for fear of retaliation by armed groups, or concerns about victims being held longer due to their perceived ability to pay large ransom demands. Get unlimited digital access Try 1 month for $1 CLAIM OFFER Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking to reporters in New York on Monday, said “there are many different parties” responsible for the kidnappings in Haiti. “There’s been a rise in activity, particularly by different criminal and other gangs. And that is why we’ve been pushing for a ... multinational force that could help restore stability and order to Haiti,” Haq said.

Among those still being held by kidnappers is the former head of the country’s provisional electoral council and television station owner, Pierre-Louis Opont, who was abducted over a month ago, and Alix Dorsainvil. A U.S. citizen, Dorsainvil is a community health nurse from New Hampshire who works for the Christian humanitarian aid organization El Roi Haiti in Port-au-Prince. She and her daughter were abducted on the morning of July 27 on the campus of the nonprofit. She is married to the organization’s director, Sandro Dorsainvil.

A State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. government is aware of reports of the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens in Haiti. “We are in regular contact with Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and our U.S. government inter-agency partners,” the spokesperson said. “We have nothing further to share at this time.” Dorsainvil was kidpoanoeod the same day the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel from its embassy, located several miles east in the suburb of Tabarre.

Days earlier, dozens of Haitian families had sought refuge in front of the embassy after an armed gang invaded their nearby neighborhood. U.S. citizens were also advised to immediately leave Haiti. News alerts in your inbox Sign up for email alerts and be the first to know when news breaks. The State Department and El Roi have said little about the circumstances surrounding Dorsainvil’s abduction. The Associated Press, citing witnesses at the campus, said Dorsainvil was providing medical care in El Roi’s small brick clinic Thursday morning when armed men burst in and grabbed her.

The captors demanded $1 million in ransom. Haitians familiar with the grassroots organization’s work have held protests demanding the duo’s release. A report by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, which tracks kidnappings, concurs with UNICEF that there is a significant rise in kidnappings in Haiti compared to previous year. Since January, there have been 539 cases reported, the human rights group said. Kidnappings are a very “traumatic experience” for victims, said Duvillier, the UNICEF spokesman.

“Many things can happen during the captivity, unfortunately,” he said, citing cases of sexual violence against girls and women. “It’s not always the case, but it can happen. So there are many risks involved,” Duvillier added. “We have experience of girls being held for months in captivity, living with the armed groups being threatened, different forms of violence….It varies from one person to another.” Even after individuals are released the trauma persists, he said.

Victims are sometimes scared to make contact with relatives either because they want to protect them from being abducted or they are ashamed of what happened to them while in captivity. As a result of the increase in needs for services, Duvillier said UNICEF has increased its efforts in Haiti, working with police and the brigade in charge of minors to provide support and in some cases even housing for freed victims. ”Those who have been abducted live with fear that it can happen again and they don’t feel safe to go back to their relatives because they don’t want to expose their relatives, so they don’t know where to go,” he said.

The escalation in kidnappings and armed violence have made the country’s humanitarian crisis worse. Today, an estimated 5.2 million people, almost half of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. said. This includes 3 million children, many of whom have been displaced and are unable to go to school, while others are suffering from high rates of malnutrition. In cases where they are forcefully taken by armed groups and used for financial or tactical gains, they are also left to grapple with deep physical and psychological scars, possibly for years. “The stories we are hearing from UNICEF colleagues and partners on the ground are shocking and unacceptable,” said Gary Conille, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Women and children are not commodities. They are not bargaining chips. And they must never be exposed to such unimaginable violence.

The growing trend in kidnappings and abductions is extremely worrisome, threatening both the people of Haiti and those who have come to help.” Still, protection for women and children, in general, are among the most underfunded areas, said Duvillier. A $720 million humanitarian aid plan for Haiti has only received 23% of the funds it has requested, the United Nations has said. “We need to provide water, we need to provide shelter, we need to provide food to people.

But beyond those humanitarian needs to keep people alive, child protection, for example, is an area that is absolutely critical. But you may not see the impact of it,” he said. “You may not see how tangible, how visibly important it is because most of the people are living with internal scars.... But it’s very important if we want them to rebuild their lives and to move forward, go beyond the trauma and give them a sense of a normal life.”



Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize — the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.

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