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Haiti, the troubled and savage nation Ruto is sending Kenya's paramilitary police units

Opinion
 Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue, right, talks to reporters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 6, 2021. [AP Photo]

Images of street fighting between violent gangs and security forces coming out of Haiti are scary as debate rages on the impending deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers to the lawless country.

Despite the gangs ruling the capital and farmlands, the signing of a reciprocal agreement by President William Ruto and Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry last week has signalled clearance for the deployment of the law enforcers anytime from now, as more voices oppose the order.

A fierce battle between police and armed gangs took place in Haiti over the weekend, with the government declaring a 72-hour state of emergency that has now passed as violence continues. Gang leaders have also called for Henry’s ouster.

On Wednesday, BBC reported the failure of Prime Minister Henry to land in the capital Port-au-Prince after taking off from the US and was forced to land in Puerto Rico which is considered a US territory.

It was reported that gang leader Jimmy Cherizer otherwise known as Berbecue and his marauding goons had taken over the airport and 80 per cent of the capital, preventing Henry from returning home after his Kenyan tour.

According to ABC News, six nuns and two other people were kidnapped last month while travelling aboard a bus in the capital, Port-au-Prince but were later released.

Nearly 2,500 people were kidnapped last year in Haiti, an 80 per cent increase compared with the previous year, according to UN statistics. “We are waging a battle that will not only topple Ariel’s government but change the whole system,” said Barbeque, a 46-year-old gang leader, who is also a former police officer, last week.

On Wednesday, a senior police officer at Jogoo House, Nairobi told The Standard that the National Police Service is ready to deploy officers from the Administration Police Rapid Deployment Unit and special forces from the General Service Unit paramilitary force.

He said they have completed the selection and all they are awaiting is a Cabinet approval. “They will be paid as the United Nations (UN) deployment rates for different missions around the world,” the officer said without revealing when they are expected to depart for Haiti.

Police and the armed gangs battled fiercely in Port au Prince last weekend as reports emerged that the militia managed to free around 4000 prisoners who are now roaming freely around the country.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the deteriorating security situation in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, following deadly weekend violence.

“The secretary-general is deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs have intensified their attacks on critical infrastructure over the weekend, including on police stations and two penitentiaries,” said his chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday.

Leading the mission

Guterres reiterated need for urgent action, particularly in providing financial support for the Kenya-led non-UN Multinational Security Support mission.

The mission comprises a group of countries volunteering police contingents that will assist Haitian police in meeting urgent security needs and preventing the country from plunging further into chaos.

The Kenyan force is expected to lead the mission in coordination with the Haitian National Police, with Caribbean Community member states Jamaica, Bahamas, Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda also taking part. Spain, Senegal and Chile may also deploy their security personnel.

 President William Ruto and Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

On Thursday last week, Reuters reported from the UN headquarters in New York, that Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin and Chad have also formally notified the United Nations of their intent to contribute personnel to an international force to help Haitian national police fight armed gangs.

Dujarric told reporters that contributions totalling $10.8 million (Sh1,549,800,000,00) have been deposited into a trust fund to support the multinational security support mission, adding that further pledges of $78 million (Sh11,193,000,000.00) had also been made.

Kenya Kwanza leaders have supported the President’s decision to deploy the officers, despite spirited rejection from the opposition and many Kenyans speaking to the media on the streets.

The President has also hit out at critics, arguing that the deployment is well-intentioned and sanctioned by the family of nations to assist a country in distress.

“Unsurprisingly, and in view of our democratic nature, this matter has generated public interest, largely informed and driven by misconceptions and lack of information,” said President Ruto in October last year.

He said the security mission to Haiti is multinational, mandated by UNSCR 2699 (2023), which enjoyed unanimous approval at the UN, in endorsing Kenya to lead and coordinate this multinational mission.

“This vote of confidence underscores the stature of our nation as a respected member of the International Community. Our participation in this mission adds to our renowned anchor role in contributing to international peace and security, a commitment underscored by the Kenya Kwanza administration,” he added.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo has opposed the deployment saying, it is a violation of section 241 (3b) of the Constitution which only allows defence forces to be deployed for such missions.

He argued that the law only allows the defence forces to assist and cooperate with other authorities in situations of emergencies and disasters with a report being tabled in the National Assembly.

The opposite is the case for the National Police Service which article 243) (3) of the Constitution describes as a national service which shall function throughout Kenya, meaning it cannot be given international duties.

“We have few policemen and women against the population on their daily beats and yet there are many people from the defence forces in the barracks who should be deployed for such missions,” says Amolo

He further argued that the foundation upon which the decision was made is wrong and despite the courts stopping the deployment of the 1,000 officers the government went ahead with the process.

The MP is further concerned that despite the court giving orders stopping the processing of the 1,000 police officers, the decision was made long before the Haiti PM came to Kenya.

“These things point to the fact the courts don’t matter for this administration because this is a decision not in the interest of the country but one that serves the strategic needs of others,” said Amolo.

Former minister Kipruto arap Kirwa questioned the peace the police officers are going to keep in Haiti, given the state of the country.

“Why do we expose our young people to a situation we know is not tenable? It would have been useful if the President or one of his delegates went to Haiti to assess the situation first before such a monumental decision with far-reaching consequences,” said Kirwa.

He advised the President to stop the exercise. “I don’t want to make a premonition or statement that may be seen as if we are predicting a disaster but the truth is many big countries including the US itself cannot dare go there,” added Kirwa.

He thinks small countries like Kenya and Chad are being used because the bigger countries know they are thirsty for money.

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