Haiti Welcomes Kenyan Offer to Lead Multinational Force

Security forces are deployed in an area in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 17, 2021. [VOA]

Haiti has welcomed "with great interest" a Kenyan offer to lead a 1,000-strong multinational force to bolster security in the violence-torn Caribbean country.

"Haiti appreciates this expression of African solidarity," a statement from Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said Sunday, "and looks forward to welcoming Kenya's proposed evaluation mission."

Kenya announced Saturday that it was prepared to deploy 1,000 police agents to help train and support their Haitian counterparts in combating the violent gangs that have taken control of much of the capital Port-au-Prince.

"Kenya has accepted to positively consider leading a Multi-National Force to Haiti," said the Kenyan statement, posted by Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua.

A Kenyan-led deployment would still require a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, as well as a formal agreement by local authorities.

The council has asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to present by mid-August a report on possible options for Haiti, including a U.N.-led mission.

U.S. diplomats have been actively seeking a country to head a multinational force.

Mutua said Kenya would send an "evaluation mission" to Haiti in the coming weeks.

Kenya, seen as a democratic anchor in East Africa, has participated in peacekeeping operations in its own region, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Gangs in Haiti control roughly 80% of Port-au-Prince, and violent crimes including kidnappings for ransom, carjackings, rapes, and armed thefts are common.

With a weak government and its security forces overwhelmed, the country -- the poorest Western Hemisphere nation -- has seen compounding humanitarian, political, and security crises.

Both Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the U.N.'s Guterres have for nearly a year called for international intervention. Up to now, no country had stepped forward.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission was in operation in Haiti from 2004 to 2017 but fell out of favor after a cholera outbreak traced to infected UN personnel from Nepal claimed 9,500 lives.

This week, the United States ordered nonessential embassy personnel and their families to leave Haiti as soon as possible.

On Thursday, a young American nurse and her infant child were kidnapped in Haiti, according to the Christian aid group for which she works.

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