The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council recently approved a resolution allowing the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti, under the command of Kenya to combat gang-related violence. However, a court injunction put the plan on hold after a petition was filed by Thirdway Alliance, a small opposition group, which called the decision to send troops abroad unlawful, as reported by Reuters.
The Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission is authorized by the U.N. resolution “to take all necessary measures” to stop the violence in Haiti. The resolution, drafted by the U.S. and Ecuador was approved with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions from China and the Russian Federation.
The international legislation authorizes a one-year deployment of military force with a nine-month review. The project would be supported by voluntary donations, with the United States committing up to $200 million.
“The Haitian people say thank you very much to the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations,” Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said on X, formerly Twitter, after the U.N. vote.
According to the U.N., the mission aims to conduct “targeted operations” with the assistance of the Haitian National Police to protect vital facilities such as airports, ports, schools, hospitals, and essential crossroads.
“It’s sad to see,” Lucien Cherubin, a recent Howard University marketing graduate from Elmont, New York, said, expressing his concerns about the ongoing violence in Haiti.
Cherubin recounted an incident where his great-grandfather’s house was raided. “I’ve wanted to go back to Haiti for a long time, and I always have to deal with my family telling me it’s not a good time to visit or that it’s not a safe environment for people to return home,” Cherubin said.
At least 1,000 officers have been pledged for deployment by Kenya after Haiti appealed for international assistance with security forces to support its fight against gang violence in July. Additional support is anticipated from several other countries, as Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbuda, and Jamaica have also committed to sending personnel to Haiti.
The nation is currently led by Henry, an unelected Prime Minister, and although many nations are wary of giving the appearance of being in support of an unpopular government, Henry has led the nation with support from the international community.
Since the murder of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, the small Caribbean country – once the wealthiest colony in the world – with a populace of approximately 11 million people has seen an increase in gang-related violence. According to a Reuters report, several armed groups, primarily operating under gang federations of G9 and G-PEP, have seized control of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
In January, after the terms of the ten remaining senators expired, Haiti lost its last democratically elected institution, leaving behind zero legislators in either the House of Representatives or the Senate of Haiti.
Gang activity and violence in the country have recently increased, and it’s estimated that gangs control about 80% of the capital. According to aid workers based on the island of Hispaniola, a significant number of individuals have left their houses to avoid the violence, as reported by The New York Times.
There are approximately 200,000 displaced people in Haiti, most of whom are located in Port-au-Prince, as reported by the International Organization for Migration.
Earlier this year, a movement primarily composed of everyday Haitians united to fight back against gangs operating in the capital. According to the U.N., at least 238 alleged gang members – some of whom had been taken from police custody – were lynched between April and June.
I feel like things are going to turn around soon,” Cherubin said, expressing his optimism about the future of his homeland.
The U.N. has reported 3,000 killings and more than 1,500 kidnappings for ransom between January and September this year. As a result, the Dominican Republic partially reopened its border with Haiti, while Nicaragua has provided flights for Haitian migrants seeking to flee the nation as reported by ABC News.
“This mandate is not only about peace and security but also about the rebuilding of Haiti – its politics, economic development and social stability,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua said, following the U.N. approval.
President Ruto said that his country was answering Haiti’s request for aid and that the mission was a Pan-African effort to support the people of Haiti.
“The cry of our brothers and sisters has reached our ears and touched our hearts,” Ruto told the U.N. General Assembly.
Although proposed by the U.N., a multinational body responsible for maintaining international peace and security and impartially protecting human rights, some experts and impacted constituents are critical of the decision. On Oct. 9, a Nairobi court issued a temporary injunction in a case brought by former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot, who called the deployment unconstitutional because it was not authorized by a law or treaty.
Aukot, a lawyer who worked on Kenya’s 2010 constitution revision, also criticized Kenyan President William Ruto in his petition, claiming that while Kenya planned to send police abroad, it failed to address instability at home, as the East African nation faces security challenges brought on by terrorist attacks and recent ethnic conflicts.
“I am satisfied that the application and petition raise substantial issues of national importance and public interest that require urgent consideration,” Kenyan High Court Judge Enock Mwita ruled.
Previous U.N. missions in Haiti have been controversial and led to protests and demands for the departure of foreign forces, with U.N. soldiers charged with fathering children and leaving them behind. More than 9,000 Haitians died, and 800,000 others became ill as a result of the cholera epidemic scandal that plagued the U.N.’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) between 2004 and 2017.
The MSS mission will be the first force the organization has authorized sending to Haiti since MINUSTAH, which was deployed by the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Aaron McIntyre, a freshman environmental science major from Chicago, Illinois, is skeptical of the aid from the U.S., given its previous involvement in Haiti.
“Our tax dollars are going to contribute to this,” McIntyre said.
“Funding U.S. operations in Haiti isn’t going to do anything except continue the problem,” McIntyre said, after admitting he fears the potential of heightening tensions between Haitians and the U.S.
Interestingly, the recent U.N. resolution that was approved includes a warning to mission leaders, advising them to take action against sexual exploitation and abuse and to implement environmental controls and wastewater management to stop water-borne illnesses like cholera.
Critics of the Kenyan-led multinational law enforcement mission still have concerns lingering, as the nation’s police have a history of being accused of violations, including the use of deadly force, torture, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary arrests.
Dr. Nathalie Pierre, a Haitian assistant professor of History at Howard University, provided perspective on the conditions that led to the rise of gang violence on the island.
“Haiti doesn’t produce guns. Haiti doesn’t produce bullets.” Pierre said. “All of these weapons are coming from the U.S.”
Pierre highlighted the enduring effects of Western involvement in Haiti and the wider African diaspora and the importance of the East African country leading the mission, saying, “We have former colonial powers who are asking us to resolve an issue that they created, and they are making us fight against each other.”
To date, the U.N. has not deployed Kenyan troops in Haiti, as the Kenyan High Court announced that it would make a ruling decision for the case on Nov. 9.
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus