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Kenya Police Haiti Mission Delayed Again Amid Growing Anger

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Overview

The announcement that Kenya would lead a United Nations force into Haiti sparked immediate controversy across the East African nation. 

Though Kenyan President William Ruto framed the mission as an honourable call to duty, offering 1000 police officers to help rein in Haiti’s ruthless gangs, dissenting voices back home tell a different story.  

To them, this deployment represents something far m ore sinister – an unconstitutional occupation, driven by Western powers desperate to outsource their dirty work.

From civil society groups to opposition leaders, the pushback against the planned intervention grows stronger by the day. 

Protesters see the spectre of neocolonialism, not humanitarianism, in Ruto’s decision. Activists argue these dangers are Kenya’s responsibility to avoid, not contain. 

And angry citizens allege that with massive funds being dangled by the US, profit rather than peacekeeping is Ruto’s true motive.

As Haiti spirals into chaos after another government falls, Kenya stands at a crossroads. Will it become the latest pawn in the West’s endless string of ill-fated Haitian exploits? 

Or will the people’s resistance prevail in stopping what they call an unjust mission before 1000 officers are thrust into harm’s way? 

The Announcement

The announcement by Kenyan President William Ruto last July that Kenya would lead a United Nations-backed multinational force to help restore order in Haiti was met with intense scrutiny and resistance back home. 

President Ruto offered to send 1000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti to partner with the local police and help rein in the powerful gangs that have taken control of the capital Port-au-Prince and now hold the nation hostage.

Kenya
Kenya’s President William Ruto looks on during his swearing-in ceremony at Moi International Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya September 13, 2022. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

But civil society groups and opposition parties in Kenya are speaking out against what they see as an unconstitutional deployment that requires a military force rather than a police contingent. Many are calling it an occupation and accuse Ruto of trying to financially profit from the unstable situation in Haiti.   

The UN Security Council authorized the multinational security support mission in Haiti in October in response to the escalating gang violence that has gripped the country. Kenya volunteered to lead the mission, but deployment was delayed in January when the Kenyan High Court ruled that a reciprocal agreement with Haiti was first needed to send Kenyan officers abroad.

President Ruto worked around that ruling by signing a reciprocal agreement with Haiti on March 1st, witnessed by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry during his visit to Nairobi. 

However, Henry was unable to return to Haiti amidst the rapidly deteriorat ing security situation and was forced to resign just days later. As an unelected leader who failed to hold elections last year as promised, Henry’s resignation announcement fueled further anger within Haiti.

In light of Henry’s resignation and the complete breakdown of law and order in Haiti, Kenya has now put its planned deployment of police officers on hold, according to a Kenyan government spokesperson. But many in Kenya insist the deployment should be cancelled entirely. 

“Henry was a bogus prime minister by the time he purported to execute this deal,”said Kenyan politician Ekuru Aukot, who filed the court case against Ruto’s plans. “Even the so-called agreement they claim to have signed is not enforceable in any court of law,” he said.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, secretary general of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, echoed Aukot’s argument that the deal lacks legal standing.

“As a lawyer and an elected member of parliament in Kenya, that agreement does not hold any water because you signed an agreement with an entity that does not have the mandate to call itself a government,” Sifuna stated.

The degree of risk for any Kenyan police deployed to Haiti is also generating heated debate, despite Kenya’s long experience participating in peacekeeping missions worldwide. 

Other Missions For Kenya Police

The Kenyan police have been present in conflict zones from Cambodia to Kosovo since the 1980’s. They are currently serving in Somalia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“In all those missions, Kenya has not lost a single police officer in any combat,” said former police spokesperson Charles Owino.“Kenya has well-trained paramilitary officers from the General Service Unit and the Administration Police Special Operations Group. These are officers who have both local and international training from some of the best institutions in Israel and the United States.” he added.

But security analyst Francis Maina contends that neither the Kenyan police nor its special forces are equipped to handle the ruthless gangs controlling Haiti.

“It would be very tragic to send them because police officers are not military personnel. They’re not going to be there to fight,”  Maina explained. “Our police officers cannot and can never be able to contain the threat of the criminality in Haiti,” he continued.

Author Mukoma wa Ngugi raised concerns about the painful irony of Kenya, an African nation, planning to occupy Haiti – the first independent black republic in the world. He predicted the same Kenyan police accused of extrajudicial killings at home would do the same in Haiti.

Others have suggested the true motivation behind Kenya’s interest in leading the mission is the $300 million contribution pledged by the United States. The issue of money sparked heated debate when Ruto first announced the deployment without seeking parliamentary approval as required.

“You cannot use our policewomen and men as guinea pigs at the altar of rent seeking,”  opposition parliamentarian Opiyo Wandayi charged during the divisive debate to rubber stamp Ruto’s decision. “Because we know for sure that the reason for this misadventure is money.” he said.

President Ruto frames the mission as a moral duty, stating Kenya will not abandon Haiti in its time of need. But former presidential candidate Aukot labeled it a suicidal occupation that will send Kenyan officers home in body bags.

“What will Ruto tell the people of Kenya” when that happens?, Aukot asked.

Former US Envoy’s Comments

Former US envoy Daniel Lewis Foote agrees Ruto is after the money and warns the gangs will fight the Kenyan police to the death. While more nations have pledged support, Foote argues the multinational force requires at least 20,000 personnel to succeed.

Amidst the mounting concerns, the powerful Haitian gangs have continued making advances in Port-au-Prince while residents report worsening hunger, trauma, and human suffering across the country. With thousands now fleeing the capital seeking refuge in the provinces, rural communities lack the resources to cope with the massive displacement.

Haiti has been plagued by instability since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry claimed power but resigned without ever holding elections. Haiti has now gone without an elected president since 2016.

A transitional council is still being formed to name an interim prime minister and oversee national elections. However, the gangs have already refused to recognize any coalition government imposed without their input.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where foreigners are evacuating Haiti entirely. The US has helped over 230 Americans leave Haiti in recent days and warns citizens not to travel there. The closure of the Port-au-Prince airport has made importing critical supplies nearly impossible, with only 5% of Haitians receiving desperately needed humanitarian aid so far.

The West Will Not Drag Kenya Into Their Mess

As the Biden administration hopes for progress appointing a transitional government, the UN Security Council has called on countries to enforce the arms embargo on Haiti. But police are struggling to maintain order as armed groups advance deeper into the capital.

With no political solution in sight and violence spiralling out of control, the Kenyan people are calling on President Ruto to definitively cancel the risky and unpopular plan to deploy their police officers to Haiti. 

Though Ruto’s government maintains Kenya will remain involved, intense scrutiny at home ensures the 1000 officers will stay where they are needed most – serving their own nation, not fighting someone else’s battle.

The courageous Haitian people, having won independence over 200 years ago, must chart their own course forward. Kenya’s citizens are rising up to proclaim it is not their place to interfere, regardless of any funds being offered. By refusing to participate in the occupation of Haiti, the Kenyan people are taking a stand against Western influence and letting their voices be heard.

Ultimately, the chaos engulfing Haiti is a crisis of the West’s own making, through years of interventionist policies and self-serving practices that have destabilized the nation. 

Yet now the US and others somehow see fit to demand African personnel be sent to clean up the mess. The proud citizens of Kenya and nations across Africa refuse to accept this affront.

Haiti’s struggles are not for Africa to remedy, and African lives will not be sacrificed in vain to Western interests yet again. 

If the West wishes to fix the situation in Haiti, it must do so using its own resources. Biden, Macron and others will not so easily win over Africa this time. Their neocolonial designs on the region are clear for all to see.

The brave activists and opinion leaders of Kenya have spoken loudly – they will not become party to the occupation of Haiti regardless of how much money is offered. 

Their principled stand serves as an inspiration and they are rightly pushing back against the old pattern of Western powers using Africa for their own ends. 

This time, African solutions are what matter. Haiti’s road to peace and stability must be forged by its own people, not foreign forces. And Africa will not be bullied or bought off to enable further Western meddling abroad. The age of exploitation is over.

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