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Kenya halts police deployment to Haiti after PM resigns

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The government of president William Ruto has suspended the deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers as part of a US-backed mission to Haiti. The news followed a day after Haiti’s de facto PM, Ariel Henry, announced his resignation to pave the way for the appointment of a “Transitional Presidential Council” amid rising insecurity in the country. Picture: Logan Abassi / UN – United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Minustah)

By Tanupriya Singh

Kenya has suspended a police deployment to Haiti to be part of a US- and UN-backed mission, shortly after the de facto prime minister and president of the Caribbean country, Ariel Henry, announced his decision to resign on March 11, 2024.

Abraham Korir Sing’Oei, the principal secretary of Kenya’s foreign ministry, stated on March 12 that the deployment would be “contingent on the ground situation, and the critical ground situation is that there has to be an authority that can be the basis for a police deployment, that enjoys constitutional authority in Haiti”.

Henry had assumed power in the aftermath of the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse in July, 2021. The transition, which took place without the consent of the Haitian people who at the time had been organising mass protests against Moïse’s attempts to prolong his term in office, was quickly sanctioned by western powers including the United States.

The following period saw a surge in violence by armed groups in Haiti, causing mass displacement especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Even as people in the country were taking to the streets to protest the government’s failure to respond to issues of poverty and insecurity, social and political movements in the country had repeatedly warned that the situation must not be used as a pretext for foreign intervention in the country.

Especially given the role that countries like the US had historically played in undermining Haiti’s sovereignty, through the 2004 coup and direct occupation, and the fact that much of the weapons being used by groups in the country had flown in from the US.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Montana Accord — a product of consultations among hundreds of civil society organisations, popular movements, political parties, and individuals to devise a solution out of the present crisis from within the country — was largely sidelined.

“We have to organise the elections, organise the bases to solve the problem of insecurity in the country and reorganise the judicial system. But the United States and other imperialist powers have blocked the [Montana] agreement because it also provides for the end of interference by foreign powers in Haiti,” Jean Waltés Bien-Aime, a journalist with Radio Resistencia and the Haitian Popular Press Agency, told Brasil de Fato.

In October 2022, Henry requested the international community for a “specialised armed force” to be deployed to the country, sparking protests in the country. In October 2023, the UN Security Council voted to authorise a “Multinational Security Support” (MSS) to Haiti, with abstentions from Russia and China. Kenya offered to lead the mission, pledging to deploy 1,000 police officers.

The MSS would not be a UN mission, which had itself had an over decade long military presence in Haiti through its “stabilisation mission” MINUSTAH, which raised concerns of accountability.

The US announced US$ 200 million in funding for the mission, announcing an additional US$ 100 million on March 11, while the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin and Chad formally notified the UN of their intention to provide personnel for the deployment.

Meanwhile, at the end of January, the High Court in Kenya declared the deployment of personnel to Haiti unconstitutional, ruling that the country’s National Security Council did not have the authority to deploy police officers outside the country. The order was the extension of interim measures first issued by the court in October, which Kenya’s parliament defied to authorise the mission.

Progressive forces within the country, particularly the Communist Party of Kenya (CPK) had vehemently rejected the deployment, reiterating that “Haiti requires no foreign intervention; this crisis is orchestrated by the core group of the US, Canada, and France, aiming to maintain hegemony and settle scores with Haiti for its historic slave revolution against French rule”.

Nevertheless, President William Ruto had declared his intention to proceed with the deployment. At the end of February, Ariel Henry flew to Nairobi to sign “reciprocal agreement” with Ruto to “enable the fast-tracking of the deployment”. In Henry’s absence, armed groups within Haiti launched a major offensive, leaving him unable to return to the country.

Transitional government

On March 11, an emergency meeting was convened by the regional bloc CARICOM in Jamaica, also involving representatives from Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the UN, and the US. The meeting produced a “transitional governance arrangement”, which would involve the establishment of a Transitional Presidential Council and subsequently the appointment of an interim Prime Minister.

“The government that I am leading will resign immediately after the installation of [a transition] council”, Henry stated in a video address. The Council will be composed of seven voting members, drawn from seven designated groups including the signatories of the Montana Agreement, and two-non voting observers from the civil society and the InterFaith community.

Importantly, the Council will exclude anyone who opposes the UN Security Council Resolution 2699, which authorised the deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti.

Even though Kenya’s deployment seems to be on hold at the moment, the US-sponsored intervention in Haiti remains on the table, in complete defiance of the sovereign demands of the Haitian people.

Meanwhile, the Transitional Presidential Council will also be in charge of appointing an “inclusive Council of Ministers” and set the criteria for selecting an “impartial Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)” to hold the long-delayed elections.

Not only does the un-elected Council go against the demands of the Haitian masses and popular organisations, prominent leaders of armed groups including Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a former police officer, have warned that Haiti will be plunged into further chaos if the international community “chooses a small group of politicians to negotiate with them on paper to decide who can be president and what kind of government”.

Speaking to Democracy Now, Dr Jemima Pierre, a professor at the University of British Columbia and the co-ordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace’s Haiti/Americas Team, said of Henry’s announcement, “They are trying to put a veneer of legality on the situation basically saying that Henry has to resign in order to have a presidential council, in order to move on to so-called free and fair elections … The people making the decisions continue to make the decisions … and that is a problem that is not going to be solved.

“[W]hat is fascinating about the negotiations with CARICOM is that they key foreign negotiators were US, France, Canada, and Mexico … the US, France, and Canada were behind the coup d’état that removed our elected president and led us to the precipice that we are at right now,” Pierre emphasised.

Tanupriya Singh is a writer at Peoples Dispatch and is based in Delhi

This article was published on Peoples Dispatch