Kenyan vanguard of international police force deploys to Haiti

Kenyan vanguard of international police force deploys to Haiti
Kenyan vanguard of international police force deploys to Haiti

After months of waiting, a first contingent of Kenyan police arrived Tuesday in Port-au-Prince, as part of an international mission aimed at restoring security in Haiti, a country ravaged by gang violence.

A plane from the national company Kenya Airways landed shortly before 2:00 p.m. GMT at Toussaint Louverture airport in the Haitian capital with on board a first contingent of 200 armed police officers, helmeted and dressed in military fatigues, noted a correspondent from the AFP on site.

A second contingent of police officers is expected Thursday, a Haitian government source said.

The plane flew from Nairobi on Monday evening after Kenyan President William Ruto visited the police before their departure.

“This mission is one of the most urgent, important and historic in the history of global solidarity,” declared the head of state during a closed-door ceremony, according to comments reported by the presidential office.

Kenya has proposed sending a thousand police officers to Haiti for the Multinational Security Support Mission (MMAS), planned for an initial duration of one year, and to which Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, the Bahamas and Barbados.

The deployment of this force, which will be around 2,500 people strong, was approved by a UN Security Council resolution in October, but it arouses strong criticism in Kenya.

An anti-government protest movement turned into chaos on Tuesday in its capital Nairobi. At least five people were killed and 31 injured during these demonstrations, according to several NGOs including Amnesty Kenya, and the government announced it was deploying the army.

– “Relief” –

The arrival of Kenyan police officers “will bring much-needed relief to Haitians,” Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday.

The American president says he is “very grateful to all the countries that have promised their support in the form of personnel and financial means to this mission”, and recalls that the United States, in the absence of sending police or military personnel, is the one top contributor, with “more than $300 million” in funds and “up to $60 million in hardware.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for this dynamic to continue “to ensure that the mission receives the financial support necessary to carry out its mandate”, according to comments from his spokesperson on Tuesday.

The task of the security mission in Haiti promises to be daunting.

– Chronic instability –

Haiti has suffered from chronic political instability for decades and faces a resurgence of gang violence, which controls 80% of the capital Port-au-Prince, coupled with a humanitarian crisis.

The situation suddenly worsened at the end of February when armed groups launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince to overthrow the then Prime Minister, Ariel Henry.

Since then, transitional authorities, including interim Prime Minister Garry Conille, have been formed with the mission of restoring stability.

The number of internally displaced people has increased by 60% since March due to intensifying gang violence, now reaching a total of nearly 600,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The UN-supported mission must support the Haitian police in the fight against gangs which terrorize the population.

“I salute the determination of the Kenyan government and its people to support Haiti in the fight against the insecurity that is eroding society,” said Prime Minister Garry Conille on the X network.

Haiti “wants this multinational mission to be the last which helps it stabilize for the renewal of political personnel and the return to effective democracy”, he added, while the restoration of security in this country Caribbean must eventually allow elections to be held. The last election in Haiti dates back to 2016.

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