By Raphael Pirro & Anne Caroline Desplanques, Le Journal de Montreal, July 31, 2023
Clearly annoyed, Justin Trudeau changed his tune on Monday, accusing the Haitian government of not taking the political and security crisis "seriously" despite "three decades" of Canadian financial and institutional support.
The Prime Minister was reacting to the United Nations' recent support for an intervention force led not by Canada, which preferred to train police and send humanitarian aid, but by the East African country of Kenya.
"We've been in Haiti for three decades, at different times, to help counter the violence, the political instability, the appalling humanitarian situation, and we still find ourselves, now, in a situation that is among the worst we've ever seen, despite thirty years of support and investment," said Mr. Trudeau on the sidelines of a press briefing in Hamilton, a suburb of Toronto.
He went on to openly criticize the Haitian political class, marking a change from the more conciliatory tone maintained until now.
"We're here to put pressure on the political class in Haiti, who are not taking seriously the responsibility they have to compromise and restore security," he said.
Kenya's offer is to lead a multinational force, starting with 1,000 Kenyan police officers on the ground. This plan requires the green light from the UN Security Council and the endorsement of the local authorities.
The Haitian government has already "welcomed" the initiative, saying it "appreciates this demonstration of African solidarity".
Haitians lack confidence
On the streets of Port-au-Prince the reaction was quite different. A police commissioner, who spoke to Le Journal on condition of anonymity for his own safety, said his teams are expecting popular uprisings in the coming days against the intervention of a country that does not inspire confidence.
"Kenya [...] is mired in its own internal socio-political crisis. [Anti-government demonstrations protesting against the high cost of living are being violently repressed by the police. Can a police force that is not professional in its own country be professional elsewhere?" asked former Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph to the local newspaper Haïti Libre.
"If they are capable of firing live ammunition at their own population, what will they be capable of against a foreign population?" worried Wilner Cayo, president of the Haitian organization Debout pour la dignité, in Montreal.
Mr. Cayo points out that Ottawa issued a warning to its nationals in Kenya in recent days "because of the terrorist threat and the high crime rate". He also points to corruption within the Kenyan police force, which he believes does not bode well for any deployment to Haiti.
His organization, Debout pour la dignité, is calling for a Canadian-led intervention involving Haitian veterans of the Canadian and American armies, who are not only combat-trained but also familiar with the terrain.
But even under pressure from the United States, Canada is still refusing to lead an operation on the island and send troops. Instead, in March, Ottawa announced a new $100 million envelope to equip Haitian police, training and a surveillance boat stationed off the island.
"Canada will continue to be part of the solution alongside Haitians who must be at the heart of any solution we put forward," the Prime Minister said.
Translated by CHIP editors
Posted August 17, 2023