tall order

Kenyan police told to brace for herculean task in Haiti

By Victor Abuso

Posted on August 1, 2023 10:28

Riot police officers in Nairobi, Kenya July 21, 2023.
Riot police officers in Nairobi, Kenya July 21, 2023. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Security experts in Kenya warn that major challenges await the country’s police forces that will be sent to Haiti.

Security experts in Kenya warn that major challenges await the country’s police forces who will be sent to Haiti where violent crimes persist as gangs control 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua said in a statement on 29 July that the East African nation is ready to deploy a contingent of 1,000 police officers who will lead a multinational force in Haiti. “Kenya will train and assist Haitian police to restore normalcy in their country,” he said.

Mutua added that Kenya had resolved to help Haiti because it aligns with the African Union’s diaspora policy of promoting Pan Africanism. “Kenya stands with persons of African descent across the world, including those in the Caribbean,” he said. 

Uphill task

Kenya’s experience in peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world, most recently in Somalia and DRC, informed the decision to offer to lead the international effort in Haiti, says Hassan Khannenje, director of Nairobi-based security research and policy think tank, HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies.

However, Khannenje, warns that experience alone might not be enough to deal with the situation in Haiti, describing the mission as very risky.

“Dealing with well organised gangs will be a tall order for Kenya forces,” he says, adding that proper preparations before deployment could help. 

How will Kenyans who speak English [or] train Haitians who speak French

It will be the first time for Kenya’s security personnel to take on an operation of this sort.

Training of Haiti police will be another tough assignment for Kenya, thanks to the language barrier. “How will Kenyans who speak English [or] train Haitians who speak French?” says Khannenje.

Dominic Wabala, a security researcher and chairman of the Crime Journalists Association of Kenya (CJAK), says: “Kenyan police feel competent enough to help Haiti, but they don’t know what to expect on the ground.” 

Having sent its army and police for peacekeeping missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past, and currently in DRC leading the regional force against rebels, Wabala says: “Kenya is showing the world that it can be counted on to help Haiti.”

US backing

Kenya’s offer seems to be getting a strong backing from the US. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with President William Ruto via phone on matters of security and the situation in Haiti.

On Monday 31 July, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters that the US would support the deployment of Kenyan security forces to Haiti and a resolution by the UN Security Council to authorise the mission. “We are committed to finding the resources to support this multinational force,” he said.

Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus says his country welcomes the Kenyan offer with great interest.

Meanwhile, Antonio Guterres, UN’s Secretary-General has also welcomed Kenya’s readiness to lead an international force and urged other countries to join the operation.

Kenya now awaits a mandate from the UN Security Council before deployment of its forces, but will send an evaluation mission in the coming weeks.

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