History won't be kind to Ruto if he sends Kenya's police to Haiti

Leader of the G9 gang coalition Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue talks to reporters near the perimeter wall that encloses Terminal Varreux, the port owned by the Mevs family, in Port-au-Prince. [AP Photo]

Balancing competing national interests is the only concern in the international arena. There is simply nothing more, and nothing less. 

Powerful nations will, of course, pedal potpourris of moralism, and wear sentimental humanitarian masks, and cloaks of piety in these forums. But all that is deception. Their emotional pleas are no more than high-sounding hot air. They have very little significance outside the coordinates of self-interest. That is why Kenya must think very carefully before sending 1,000 police officers to dance with death in Haiti. What is in it for us?

Once a hugely prosperous French colony under brutal slavery, San Domingue  (as it was called), pushed through the first slave revolution in world history, in 1791–1804. The slaves founded the self-governing Black nation that was renamed Haiti. Their story has been immortalised in CLR James’s 1938 classic titled The Black Jacobins. 

But does this nation live under the curse of the leader of the revolution, Toussaint Louverture? Louverture was betrayed in 1803 by fellow revolutionaries, just before victory. He was shipped to France, where he died shortly after the 1804 victory. Haiti has since stumbled from one political blunder to the next, and from one natural disaster to another. 

The present tragic drama is the story of a country in the grip of dangerous gangsters. The government has collapsed. In 2021, gangsters gunned down President Jovenal Moïse. He had just named Ariel Henry Prime Minister. The Premier, however, was required to take the oath of office before becoming legit. 

But there was no Chief Justice to administer the oath. Appointment of the CJ was the prerogative of the President. But now there was no President. So there would be no CJ. Moreover, Parliament had recently been dissolved and the Senate was on its final legs. Its tenure has since lapsed. And Henry has now been forced out. The UN, under the prompting of the United States, has put in place plans for what is essentially an armed intervention to restore order. Available evidence shows that the mission is a walk into disaster. Even war has laws, and there are none in Haiti. 

It is difficult to see why America wants Kenyan youth to walk into gangster bullets that the US is running away from. This humanitarian hocus-pocus is not convincing. We need a different story. For the US, Haiti has been a commercial playground for 100 years and going. It began with a 1915 military intervention, to safeguard US investments. The US technically “pulled out” in 1934, following “restoration of order.”

However, the US has always remained unofficially in Haiti, even after that. In 1957, it installed the dictator Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc), and later his son, Baby Doc, Duvalier Jr. The first democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was captured by Western powers. He has since swayed between home and exile. 

America, Canada, and other Western powers have distinct commercial interests in Haiti. Kenya has none. But Kenya is willing to use its naked paws to remove American nuts for them from the blazing fires of Haiti. In 1949, Hans Morgenthau, the father of modern international relations, discussed the primacy of national interests in diplomacy.  It was in the early years of the UN system. He convincingly dismissed diplomatic sentimentalism, moralism and legalisms in American foreign policy. 

Long before that, European powers assembled in what is today the Czech Republic in 1820, to issue the Troppau Protocol. Its philosophy remains the ideological motherboard of modern-day drama in the international arena. Troubled about liberal uprisings in Spain, Naples and Portugal, the sovereigns of Prussia, Austria, France and Russia committed themselves to the violent overthrow of European regimes that ascended to power through revolutions. 

From the Congress of Vienna and Concert of Europe in 1814 to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, on to the UN Charter in 1945, the international system is about self-interest. Kenya has nothing to die for, or even to fight for, in Haiti. President Ruto is on the weighing scales of statesmanship and history. A harsh verdict awaits him, if he sends Kenyan boys to die in the streets of Port-au-Prince.