Kenya should stand firm and help end Haiti gangs menace

Haiti gang leader Jimmy 'Barbecue' Cherizier. [AP photo]

As the Haiti question continues to evolve and present new nuances, Kenya, as part of the international community, must step up to the challenge and help restore law and order in Haiti, which has had a very tragic history.

From the time Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former slave, led the successful slave rebellion that ushered in modern Haiti, it has certainly been a bumpy ride. At a time when the slave trade and slaveholding were still part of the plantation agriculture in the West, Haiti’s contemporaries effectively cut her economically at the knee. France, for instance, forced Haiti to pay her astronomical amount of money as compensation to slaveholders who lost their 'properties’.

By the time Haiti was giving in to this demand by France, the diplomatic isolation and economic strangulation of Haiti, by the Western countries, had effectively made her unable to power her engines of prosperity like her contemporaries who had refused to recognise her independence.

This made it difficult to develop an effective state, coupled with a series of natural disasters that have plagued her. Many of Haiti's citizens have known suffering as amenities that ordinarily would support the enjoyment of life have been destroyed through violence or by recurrent earthquakes.

You could be wondering how Kenya got embroiled in the affairs of this far-off country, while it could conveniently adopt the  'hornbill’s problems are hornbill’s problems' attitude. Kenya and Haiti signed a ‘reciprocal’ agreement to deploy police to lead a UN-backed law and order mission to help root out the violent gangs. The agreement was entered between Kenya and the UN, not Haiti.

If you might recall, Jovenal Moise, the 43rd president of Haiti since 2017, was assassinated by gunmen in 2021. Upon his death, Ariel Henry stepped in as prime minister. But it must be remembered that as the senior political figure in Haiti until his resignation, he didn’t enjoy the direct mandate of the people.

History has demonstrated, times without a number, that there is no greater and more effective tool of nation-building than the ingenuity and imagination of the ordinary citizens of that country. The biting problem in Haiti now, is the gang violence that continues to displace ordinary citizens as gang leaders begin to pose as legitimate voices of the people of Haiti. This is where Kenya is prepared to stand firm with the people of Haiti, even if the heavens were to fall.

The established practice in International Law is that non-state actors who mete out violence on unarmed civilian populations must be punished with the same severity that state actors would be punished. It would undermine the peremptory norms if some of the outspoken gang leaders were to be rewarded with recognition. It would not only send wrong indicators but would also diminish the legitimacy of that government as hitherto victims of such a leader would be left without recourse.

So, while Kenya appears committed to finding a political settlement in Haiti, she appreciates profoundly that any political strategy and settlement in Haiti must first be preceded by the operation of the Multinational security support mission(MSS). Some of the countries that will be contributing personnel include Jamaica, Antigua and Bermuda, Belize, Senegal, Spain, Suriname and Bahamas.

This deployment was further endorsed by the UN Security Council through resolution 3699/23 in fulfilment of chapter 7 of the UN charter, which underscores the fact that the Haiti situation remains a breach to international peace. Kenya, therefore remains ready and willing to continue to participate in promoting global peace as it has done before through peacekeeping missions to war-torn countries.

When countries like Kenya are stepping forward to offer leadership, the institutions in the global North must remember their own role in the Haiti crisis and the burden of responsibility on their shoulders. As such we should not hear news to the effect that the international force is unable to move due to domestic politics in any country in global North.

-Mr. Mwaga is Convenor, Inter parties Youth forum. [email protected]