Disquiet grows over Kenyan plan to send 1,000 cops to Haiti

Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry and President William Ruto witness the signing of the agreement by Haiti Foreign MinisterJean Victor Génus and his counterpart Alfred Mutua at the Kenyan Mission in New York, United States, on September 21. Image: PCS

By Gordon Osen, The Star, Sept. 27, 2023

Disquiet is simmering over the government’s deal with the international community to second 1,000 police officers in a peacekeeping mission to criminal gang-ridden Haiti, with civil society figures threatening legal action.

The Star has learnt that civil society entities in the Caribbean country have reached out to their counterparts in Kenya to raise concerns about the impending action.

The activists complain that the human rights record of the Kenya police, as well as their preparedness to deal with the vicious gangs in their country, is wanting.

Others complain that Kenya has “allowed itself to serve the agenda of white imperialists who continue to fund the criminal mafias in Haiti to destabilise it but pretend to mean good to it”.

Haiti has a long history of organised crime and violence that has seen its governments deposed and leaders killed.

Its latest leader to be killed was Jovenel Moïse. Multiple missions to it have failed. 

The United States has offered Sh14.6 billion in a defence cooperation deal with Kenya, which entails the cops' mission to Haiti.

Besides the money, the US also pledged four other benefits, including intelligence, airlift, communications and medical support to the mission.

Kenya only awaits the formal approval by the UN Security Council to deploy the officers. 

But key voices spanning civil society and the political class question why the US would prefer giving money rather than officers for the mission. 

Police officers who spoke to the Star said no official signal has been sent to them regarding the mission, but that jitters about the mission run deep.

They said fear among the officers is that top bosses may misappropriate the funds meant for those sent on the mission, hence making them less equipped and cared for and thus exposed to dangers.

“The bad thing is only top bosses will take the money and expose us to the gangs, who only speak French,” one officer said on the phone.

Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid told the Star that players in the civil society world in Kenya are widely consulting to amount a legal challenge against the initiative.

He questioned how the country stands to benefit, the preparedness of the Kenyan officers for the mission, their record on human rights as well as raising the security challenges.

“The Haitians are rightly concerned that Kenya is agreeing to serve the interest of imperialists in their already destabilised country,” Khalid said.

“They want us to highlight that as a country, our President William Ruto was among those who claimed our sovereignty over the ICC, yet he is the one agreeing to this injustice.”

He said they are consulting widely, including with the Law Society, to see how a viable legal intervention can be mounted.

“There are so many security challenges in this country, including the criminal gangs in Mombasa, Nairobi, the terrorism concerns, banditry among others that our officers have not been able to sort.”

The concern is also raised by political figures, who claim the move by the Kenya Kwanza administration is irresponsible.

Among the concerns raised over the mission include the fact that Haiti is a French-speaking country while Kenya police officers have not been exposed to the language, and this will likely hamper their operations.

Siaya Governor James Orengo is among the prominent political personalities who have openly opposed sending the officers to the Caribbean country.

“The people who should be taking soldiers to Haiti are Americans, not Kenyans,” Orengo said.

“You should not use the blood of Kenyans to get international recognition. You cannot use Kenyans to fight for a cause that will only make you loved by the US.”

Former Mukureini MP Kabando Wa Kabando claimed that the move to approve the operation was motivated by money without regard to the danger the officers will be exposed to, asking the cops to ignore the orders.

“[President] Ruto is an imperialism puppet sacrificing you [police officers] for his greed after his broken promises to raise your salaries,” he said.

“Tragically, the National Police Service Commission, a Ruto stooge, won’t protect your interests. Refuse to go die in Haiti.”

Azimio legal adviser Paul Mwangi was blunt in his advice to the cops: “Some poor and ignorant policemen are going to bribe their way into the list of police officers going to Haiti to keep law and order, thinking they will be confronting demonstrators throwing stones,” he said.

“My brothers, shock on you. There they throw bullets. You'll come back as cargo.” 

 

Posted Sept. 27, 2023