Kenya Says Haiti Deployment Due in ‘Next Few Days, Few Weeks’

© AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa

On February 29, gang violence erupted in the downtown area of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince while then prime minister Ariel Henry was visiting Kenya to seek an agreement for the deployment of foreign forces in Haiti to fight organized crime. The gangs said their goal was to prevent the prime minister from returning to the country.

Kenyan police will deploy to Haiti within weeks to lead a UN-backed multinational mission aimed at tackling gang violence, a senior government official in the East African country said on Sunday.

“That deployment will happen in the next few days, few weeks,” Korir Sing’Oei, Kenya’s principal secretary for foreign affairs, told reporters, shortly before President William Ruto travels to Washington to meet US counterpart Joe Biden on May 23.

Haiti has suffered from poverty, political instability and natural disasters for decades, and the multinational force has been tasked with helping its beleaguered police rein in criminal gangs.

Kenya pledged last July to deploy up to 1,000 personnel to Haiti, an offer welcomed by the United States and other nations that had ruled out putting their own forces on the ground. But the mission has faced legal challenges, with Kenyan petitioners in an ongoing case accusing Ruto’s government of “blatantly” ignoring a January court order prohibiting the deployment as unconstitutional and illegal.

According to the latest lawsuit, petitioners had been “reliably informed” that the deployment may take place no later than May 23, “hence the urgency of this application”.

A Haitian source had told AFP in early May that a first contingent of 200 Kenyan police was expected by that date. A source in the Kenyan interior ministry told AFP they could arrive by next Tuesday.

In January, Kenya’s High Court ruled that the National Security Council – which authorized the deployment – only had the authority to send the military abroad and not police officers. The judge said Kenya could deploy police to a country only if a reciprocal agreement existed.

Such a deal was signed on March 1 in the presence of Ruto and Haiti’s then prime minister Ariel Henry, who was visiting Kenya.

But in a fresh challenge filed on Thursday by a small opposition party, Thirdway Alliance Kenya and its leaders Ekuru Aukot and Miruru Waweru, petitioners said Ruto and other top officials were “acting in bad faith” by ignoring the High Court orders.

The complaint, which wants the government found in contempt of court, argued Haiti was not a “reciprocating country” and that it had not made any formal request for a police deployment.

“There is no government in place in Haiti capable of giving such request or signing any bilateral agreement with Kenya for deployment of police officers to Haiti; and there is no Parliament in place in Haiti to ratify such agreement,” it said.

On Sunday, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) said it too opposed the planned deployment, calling it “unconstitutional and illegal”.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the willful disregard to the law being demonstrated by the President and the government agencies,” LSK said.

Kenya had announced in March that it was putting its deployment on hold until a transitional council was installed in Haiti, after Henry quit as the crisis grew even more violent. The council was sworn in late last month and is due to lead the country until fresh polls, with an elected government to take over by February 6 next year.

Aside from Kenya, other countries who have voiced willingness to join the mission agreed under a UN resolution in October last year include Benin, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados and Chad.

The situation in Haiti, a country of 11.6 million people, began deteriorating in late February as well-armed gangs that control most of Port-au-Prince and much of the country went on a rampage they said was aimed at toppling Henry.

The United Nations says some 360,000 Haitians are internally displaced, with the gang violence forcing 95,000 people to flee the capital and pushing five million into “acute hunger”.

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