By Tanya Wadhwa, People's Dispatch, August 26, 2023
A Kenyan assessment mission arrived in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on August 20 to evaluate the security situation in the Caribbean country. The 10-member mission met with senior officials of the de-facto government led by Ariel Henry, the police, and the diplomatic corps of other nations during its three-day visit, which concluded on August 23. The visit and the plan was condemned by progressive organizations and rights groups which strongly opposed foreign intervention.
The delegation’s visit came weeks after Kenya offered to lead a multinational police force in Haiti to help improve its security and stem gang violence. On July 29, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the east African country is ready to deploy 1,000 police officers to help train and assist Haiti’s police to “restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations.”
Kenya’s proposition came in response to the Henry government’s official request to the UN for international military assistance to fight criminal gangs. In October 2022, Henry called for the deployment of foreign troops to help counter the expansion of armed gangs after criminal groups blocked a key fuel terminal in the capital, which caused a severe fuel shortage and a massive rise in the prices of basic goods. At the time, several countries backed the prospect of sending a multilateral force to Haiti. However, no country stepped forward to lead the intervention despite a great deal of effort by the US.
Following Kenya’s announcement, both the US government and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who have been pressing for an international force for Haiti, welcomed the Kenyan government’s willingness to lead a potential mission. This is despite the Haitian people’s explicit request for an end to all foreign interference in the country and respect for their right to self-determination. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters that Washington would introduce a UN Security Council resolution with Ecuador to authorize the deployment, while Canada, Jamaica, and the Bahamas announced that they would support the effort.
Haiti’s Ministry of Communication reported through a statement on August 23 that the High Command of the National Police described the first visit by the Kenyan delegation as “very useful.” The statement added that all the parties have the same understanding of the mission: “it will not be there to replace the National Police or to carry out its work, but it will come to help it become more efficient, more adapted, better capable of fulfilling its mission to protect and serve.”
Nevertheless, Haitian civil society organizations and social movements strongly opposed the idea of allowing foreign troops in the country, citing severe issues caused by previous foreign military interventions in the country. They also condemned the international community for supporting Henry, who assumed the office following the assassination of the previous de-facto president Jovenel Moïse and indefinitely postponed the long overdue presidential and legislative elections in 2021, citing gang violence as a pretext. They also held Henry and the ruling far-right Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) responsible for the economic, social, political and institutional crises facing the country.
Henry Boisrolin, a member of the Haitian Democratic Committee, in an interview with Barricada TV, pointed out that “a thousand policemen obviously cannot solve the issue of insecurity. In other words, the presence of those thousand policemen — in case they arrive in Haiti — would be to protect the leaders and institutions, not the Haitian people. This is clear.”
Boisrolin highlighted that “the political objective of this [mission] is to try to have a kind of apparent calm to organize elections through the creation of a new provisional electoral council…we call them ‘selection elections,’ where they will impose someone who will sustain and reproduce the current power that is nothing more than a power in function of a neocolonial state.”
Boisrolin condemned that the criminal gangs that are kidnapping and murdering people, raping women, and burning homes “have direct relations with the CORE group and the government.” “Haiti does not produce arms or ammunition and everybody knows that these arms and ammunition come from the United States. How do these weapons arrive in Haiti? There is an arms embargo on Haiti,” he argued.
With respect to a Haitian solution to a Haitian problem, Boisrolin stressed that it is important “to reinforce the popular struggle in all senses in the first place. Then, see if we can create a liberation front, counting on the solidarity, not the help, of the brothers and sisters of the Latin American and the Caribbean continent. From there on, we have full confidence in the capacity of resistance of the Haitian people even to confront these gangs.”
Boisrolin pointed out that “since April, a movement called ‘Bwa Kale’ has emerged in the country, where the people go out with some nationalist policemen to confront the bandits, they have caught them and they have confronted them. From April to July, the number of kidnappings had dropped significantly. So, all this means that Haitians can solve their problems.”
“We are confident. We know that the road is difficult and not easy, but we trust in the resilience and resistance of the Haitian people and in the creativity of the leaders of the popular organizations,” he added.
International organizations reject Kenya’s plan
Various international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have rejected Kenya’s plan to send personnel in Haiti, raising several human rights concerns.
Prior to the arrival of the Kenyan delegation, the Frantz Fanon Foundation strongly condemned the Kenyan intervention plan in Haiti. It criticized the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states and some African states for joining the CORE group and the United Nations in taking armed action in Haiti.
“This military intervention is an attack on the right of the Haitian people to self-determination and sovereignty, and this institutional violence only reproduces the violence exercised by the former colonizers, including France, which forced the Haitian State to pay an illegitimate and illegal debt as the price of its freedom and independence, but also the United States and international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. The project of this military intervention extends that of the former colonizers: to prevent by all means the emergence of the first black Republic,” condemned the Frantz Fanon Foundation.
“This intervention, presenting itself as a solution to the problems of Haitian society, will only renew the process at the origin of these same problems: the denial of the sovereignty of the Haitian people over their territory, their economy and their institutions. Through the illegitimate and anti-Pan-African intervention of the Kenyan army, the imperialist states are using the African states to prolong their policy of racist domination over Haiti…Haiti has been and continues to be the laboratory of the oppression of African peoples throughout the world, on the continent and in the Diaspora. Today it is Haiti, tomorrow it will be one of the CARICOM States, which have agreed to sign this military intervention project. The Frantz Fanon Foundation strongly denounces this intervention and the instrumentalization of African states to serve the interests of imperialist states,” it added.
Likewise, on August 24, the Kenyan Revolutionary Socialist League in the International Socialist League also rejected Kenya’s offer to send police officers to Haiti to help local police to restore order in the country.
Violence in Haiti
Following Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July 2021, illegal armed gangs have been increasingly exerting control over the national territory, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. According to reports from various international organizations, violent gangs now control more than 80% of the capital and more than 50% of the national territory. The increasing gang violence and incompetence of the authorities has led to a rise in vigilante justice.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 2,400 people have been killed in Haiti so far this year as a result of gang violence. Meanwhile, since April 24, more than 350 people, including 310 alleged gang members and a police officer, have been lynched by the local population and self-defense groups.
Posted August 27, 2023