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Fluid situation in Haiti calls for change of tack

 A man is under arrest by Haitian police in the Turgeau commune of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during gang-related violence on April 24, 2023. [Getty Images]

A state of emergency has been declared in Haiti following an escalation in gang violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Besides causing several deaths, the violence has destroyed vital communications equipment. Attacks on two prisons have led to an estimated 4,000 inmates escaping. 

These developments came barely three days after Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry visited Nairobi to sign a deal that will allow Kenya to send 1,000 police officers on a peacekeeping mission to Haiti. 

The UN chose Kenya to lead the peace mission that includes Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda. These countries pledged to send security personnel to Haiti to help contain gang violence that has made governance a nightmare. Benin has also pledged to deploy 2,000 soldiers to Haiti.

The fresh violence and declaration of a state of emergency conspire to compound the fears most Kenyans harbour that sending our officers to Haiti is like deliberately sending them to a killing ground. 

The reality is that Kenya might not have the luxury of backing out of the mission at this point, having signed the reciprocal agreement and made a commitment to lead the Haiti mission. Yet, even as our officers prepare to leave for Haiti, the need to re-assess the strategies to be employed on ground zero cannot be overemphasised.

The Haiti mission will not be a walk in the park, more so should the 4,000 prison escapees join the gangs that have vowed to topple Henry. It is a measure of the gravity of the volatile situation in Haiti that the PM admitted all systems in Haiti have been grounded by gang violence, and nothing works anymore. 

It will take a lot in terms of human resources and equipment to contain the gangs. This means the UN should rally more countries, especially those that have superior hardware and specialist forces for such operations such as the US to help in quelling the violence in Haiti.

For the Haiti mission to succeed, developed countries should provide more than funds. They should put boots on the ground as well.

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