Ruto plunging Kenya into Haiti disaster with his eyes wide open

Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua (right) and Haiti PM Ariel Henry display a signed UN-backed security mission to Haiti agreement at the Kenya Mission in New York. [Courtesy, Standard]

President William Ruto seemingly wants Western recognition as leader of the Africans. He is sharp, charming, scheming, focused, and exudes confidence.

He, however, has problems listening to alternative views. This probably leads him into decision-making embarrassments on matters of foreign affairs, which makes him look gullible to external persuasions that other states try to exploit.

He first showed signs of gullibility on his inaugural day when, after hosting Morocco’s minister for Foreign Affairs, he tweeted that he intended to expel the Saharawi envoy from Kenya. Although he withdrew the statement, the damage had already been done.

He appears eager to make the same mistake, with the United States egging him on. He agreed to plunge into the disaster that is Haiti and although his eyes are wide open, he still is not able to see the looming danger.

He appears to follow the example of American presidents who repeatedly plunged their country into disaster. They did it with self-righteousness and display of disdain for others as they chose to impose ‘change’ and conformity.

In Vietnam, they spent 20 years and left with rotten eggs on their geopolitical face; they repeated it in Afghanistan with the same end result. They seemingly succeeded in Libya and Egypt and ran into trouble in Syria and in the Russia/Ukraine zone.

More serious than involvement in those countries is repeated US involvement in Haiti, a little country of mystery near Cuba that shares an island with the geographically larger Dominican Republic in the Western hemisphere. Haiti embarrasses the United States, mainly because its people are black.

The embarrassment started over 220 years ago when slaves in Haiti successfully rose against their masters and defeated Napoleon Bonaparte to win independence. Although slave-owning leaders in the United States supported Haiti’s slave masters, slave owners still lost and relocated to France and the United States where they helped push for compensation for loss of slaves. France demanded that Haiti pay 150 million francs to compensate slave masters for loss of human property or face war; Haiti did not have the money but it struggled to pay.

On its part, the United States benefitted from Haiti’s independence because Napoleon, after losing to slaves, sold the Louisiana territory to Thomas Jefferson for 15 million dollars. Suppressing news about slave victory became an American preoccupation lest slaves in the American South think of replicating Haitian success.

To make matters worse, Haiti inspired and assisted other colonies in the Western hemisphere to seek independence. The US thereafter went out of its way to ensure Haiti’s isolation in the international stage and it remained underdeveloped.

Although the United States made a habit of occupying and turning Haiti into a virtual colony, it disliked the Haitians with their blackness. It occupied Haiti for 19 years from 1915 to 1934 in which Haitian gold and other wealth reportedly migrated to New York thereby leaving Haitians desperate. While imposing puppets to front American interests, however, the level of unhappiness kept rising.

When Haitian refugees tried fleeing to the US in their boats, President Jimmy Carter turned them back. When Joe Biden became president, the families of those few who had made it and settled found themselves facing deportations.

This Biden policy of deporting desperate migrants, US-born children included, to violent and fragile country that is full of armed gangs and militia who are more powerful than an unpopular American proxy of a president sounds callous. It made Biden’s ambassador to Haiti, Daniel Foote, to resign in 2021 saying: “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.”

Biden, however, seemingly managed to persuade Ruto to go to Haiti. On his part, Ruto and his team probably had not carefully thought of the consequences of plunging Kenya into the Haitian geopolitical miasma. His Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly working on a general foreign policy document but since it has not matured, there is confusion which makes Kenya appear gullible and Biden exploited it. This impression is especially vivid when considering that big and rich Western hemispheric powers do not want involvement.

Biden complicates matters with his policy on Haitian migrants and yet he does not want direct involvement the way Bill Clinton did in 1994 when he sent 21,000 troops. Interestingly, Biden seemingly violates the principles of the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary which frowned on those not in the Americas operating in the Americas; he encourages Kenyans to Haiti.

Neighbouring Canada, which projects itself as a promoter of peace and stability in the Western hemisphere is reluctant to stabilise Haiti. Why? Lula da Silva’s Brazil had in 2004 tried its hand in helping Haiti and sent 13,000 troops. The same Lula is not enthusiastic about getting back to Haiti. Do these powerhouses in the Western hemisphere know something that Kenya does not?

Information that Kenya would lead a team of small countries, with some American funding, into Haiti elicited concern within and outside the country. First, compared to what the big and rich powers had sent to Haiti in 1994 and 2004, and still failed, Kenya’s suggested 1,000 cannot be serious for the task ahead.

Ambassador Foote suggests that the US “should lead the peacekeeping mission” instead of sending poorly prepared Kenyans to face gangs having “.50-caliber rifles mounted on pickup trucks …. You can’t do it with unqualified people, and you can’t fix it with rookies going in.”

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga raises constitutional issues. He accuses Ruto of unilateral decision-making, ignoring ‘public participation’, and acting as an agent of ‘neocolonialism and imperialism.’ 

Mutunga’s comments are weighty and disturbing. President Ruto, he argues, does not respect the constitution, is under imperialistic manipulation, and is plunging the country into Haitian disaster. Why would Ruto do such a thing?

Among the possible reasons is that he wants acclaim and recognition from the West, particularly from Biden in Washington, as the new leader and spokesman for Africans and  continent. With his eyes wide open and many signals of geopolitical danger ahead, Ruto appears eager to plunge into Haiti’s protracted chaos that keeps it underdeveloped.