Court to hear lawsuit challenging deployment of Kenya police to Haiti

The High Court will Wednesday hear a lawsuit challenging the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti as part of a UN-backed mission.

The lawsuit, led by Thirdway Alliance Kenya leader Dr Ekuru Aukot and Miruru Waweru, questions the government’s ‘blatant disregard’ of a January decision that labeled the deployment unconstitutional and illegal.

Dr Aukot argues that the High Court should find Kenyan authorities in contempt of court for their persistent efforts to deploy officers to the troubled nation.

“There are no two ways about it; we must exhibit total fidelity to our Constitution. An agreement was purportedly signed between Kenya and Haiti to allow the deployment, but the law requires that this be published in the Kenya Gazette. Where is it? There are too many inconsistencies regarding this deployment,” he told The Standard in an interview.

“The High Court pronounced itself clearly on this issue in January, but what we are witnessing is a total breach of our Constitution. The fight is firmly on, and we are ready to appeal if things don’t go our way at the High Court. We’ll go even further and possibly seek audience with the Supreme Court,” he added.

In the January ruling, the High Court stopped the deployment on grounds that there was no reciprocal agreement between the two nations to allow it. Last month, the controversial Haiti deployment was delayed, reportedly due to unfinished preparations on the ground. Reports indicated that conditions were not yet in place in Port-au-Prince to receive the contingent of officers, including a base to host them.

The litigation comes as hostility escalates in Haiti, with reports indicating that gangs killed three police officers on patrol in Port-au-Prince, a section of the capital controlled by gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier.

According to police authorities in the Caribbean country, a group of armed men working under Cherizier ambushed a patrol vehicle from the police anti-gang unit in the Delmas 18 neighborhood and set it on fire.

US and Kenyan officials have been reluctant to discuss details of the deployment.

Insider reports indicate that the soon-to-be-deployed officers are currently undergoing high-level training at the Administration Police Training College (APTC) in Embakasi.

“The officers are being trained in tactical urban warfare to prepare them for fighting in open spaces, given the terrain that awaits them in Haiti,” said an officer familiar with the preparations.

“This is a deployment like no other. Beyond the necessary skills, they are also being trained in handling various weaponry, which takes about three months,” added the officer.

Language proficiency is also a critical part of the preparations. “Communication is important in this foreign deployment, which is why there’s a focus on training the officers to speak French and Creole, the main languages spoken in Haiti. I can tell you for a fact that there is no turning back on this deployment,” said a top officer involved in the preparation.

Kenya plans to deploy more than 1,000 officers to Haiti to help control gang violence. The officers are drawn from various police units, including the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), General Service Unit (GSU), and Border Patrol Unit (BPU).

Security analyst George Musamali has expressed doubts about the state of preparedness.

“When you embark on a mission of this nature, preparation is non-negotiable,” stated Musamali.

“But in this case, preparation seems to have been pushed to the back burner. For instance, is anyone guaranteeing life insurance for the officers set to be deployed? Have their immediate family members been provided with counseling and mental health support? This is a matter of life and death; you can come back home dead or alive, that’s the reality,” he added.

Social media has been awash with verified and unverified videos and pictures, allegedly filmed by gangs, showing gory images of murders and destruction. “Imagine what these images do to families with loved ones on this mission. There must be a way to offer them psycho-social support and mental preparedness,” said Musamali.

Reports indicate that a delegation of Kenya's advance team, deployed last month to spearhead preparations, has returned to the country. Part of their remit was to inspect the construction of the base that will host the officers.

A Haiti-based pressure group, Movement Unforgettable Dessalines Jean Jacques (MUDJJ), has called for Kenya to withdraw from the mission and allow Haiti to solve its issues internally.

“As descendants of Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines, we are committed to defending our sovereignty against any foreign military presence. External intervention in our internal affairs is unacceptable,” read a statement from the group.

MUDJJ has urged the High Court of Kenya to deliver a fair verdict that upholds justice and the sovereignty of nations. “The High Court decision will impact Haiti's future and serve as a testament to the strength and integrity of African justice.”

The National Security Council petitioned Parliament in October last year to approve the deployment of Kenyan police officers.

Parliament approved the deployment of police to Haiti to help in restoration of order.