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Kenyan police to tackle Haiti gang violence

By Barbara Plett Usher & Alex Binley BBC News

AFP In October last year, the UN Security Council backed Kenya’s offer to lead a multinational security force to Haiti

Around 1,000 Kenyan police officers are set to be deployed to Haiti in a bid to combat raging gang violence.

Last year, Kenya volunteered to lead a multinational security force in the troubled Caribbean nation.

Yet in January the High Court blocked the plan, ruling the government did not have the authority to deploy police to other countries without an agreement.

It also ruled that the National Security Council lacks the legal authority to send police outside Kenya.

On Thursday, Haiti’s PM arrived in the East African state to salvage the plan.

In January, a UN envoy said that gang violence in Haiti had reached “a critical point”, with nearly 5,000 deaths reported last year, more than double the number seen in 2022. While in that month alone, more than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped.

In a statement on Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto said he and Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry had signed an agreement and discussed the next steps to enable the fast-tracking of the deployment.

Along with the Kenyan officers, the Bahamas has committed 150 personnel. Jamaica and the state of Antigua & Barbuda have said they are willing to help, while the US has pledged £158m ($200m) to support the deployment.

Earlier this week, Benin offered 2,000 troops.

However, many Kenyans are opposed to the deployment, arguing that security challenges need to first be tackled at home.

Opposition politician Ekuru Aukot, who filed the initial petition against the deployment, told the AFP news agency on Friday that he would lodge a case “for contempt of court”.

“We will question the validity of this secretive agreement,” he said.


Haiti Crisis: Can Kenya Succeed Where Others Failed?

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and gang violence has increased following the 2021 assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse. No one has replaced Mr Moïse and elections have not been held since 2016.

Under a political deal concluded following Mr Moïse’s assassination, Haiti was supposed to hold elections and the unelected Mr Henry cede power by 7 February, but that did not happen.

Not only has the country been engulfed by widespread civil and political unrest, but with huge swathes of it under the gangs, Haiti’s economy and public health system are also in tatters.

In recent weeks, thousands have taken to the streets to demand Mr Henry step down after he refused to do so as scheduled.

Since he left the country for Kenya, violence in Port-au-Prince has escalated even further, with prominent gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (nicknamed ‘Barbecue’) declaring a coordinated attack by armed groups to oust the prime minister.

“All of us, the armed groups in the provincial towns and the armed groups in the capital, are united today,” the former police officer, who is thought to be responsible for numerous massacres in Port-au-Prince, said in a video posted on social media before the attacks began.

“The country is in a situation it can no longer cope with. The country is not run, there is no leader, the population is in famine, people can’t go out because of the insecurity. 

“The population is tired, it can’t take it any more.”

“The first objective of our fight is to ensure that Ariel Henry’s government does not remain in power by any means.”

The wave of shootouts and public panic in the capital has left four police officers dead and five injured.

Reports say the airport has been attacked, multiple airlines have cancelled flights, and that university students were briefly taken hostage with one shot and wounded.

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For more on this story go to: BBC


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