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Haitian PM getting ‘extremely’ positive feedback on Kenyan police mission

Hundreds of officers from the East African nation arrived in the island nation last week to help fight armed gangs

Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille has hailed the first deployment of Kenyan police officers under the UN-backed Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission, stating that their presence will help put an end to escalating gang violence in the Caribbean nation.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Conille said Haiti was at a “critical point” as 12,000 armed groups “hold hostage a population of 12 million.”

According to the UN, gang attacks have killed around 2,500 people in the first quarter of this year alone, with 580,000 displaced, more than half of whom are children. The World Food Program also said more than 4 million Haitians are facing food insecurity.

“At this decisive juncture, no project, be it economic or political, can be tackled without addressing the security issue,” the prime minister told the UNSC.

Conille, a former UN development specialist, took office as prime minister last month after being elected by a transitional council. This followed Ariel Henry’s forced resignation in April, when his trip to Nairobi to expedite the MSS mission deal enraged armed gangs. Militants stormed the island’s two largest jails, reportedly freeing more than 4,000 inmates and demanding that Henry step aside while he was away in Kenya in February. The gangs also launched coordinated attacks on government infrastructure, including roads and the Port-au-Prince airport.

A team of hundreds of Kenyan police officers arrived in Haiti on June 25 as part of an international force that the island nation requested in 2022 following President Jovenel Moise’s assassination in 2021. Kenya agreed to lead the mission following months of appeals from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a country to head the force. Nairobi agreed to contribute 1,000 police officers last October, and the mission is going ahead despite a court in the East African nation deeming it unconstitutional.

READ MORE: Kenyan police begin controversial deployment to Haiti

Rights organizations, including Haiti-based lobby group Movement Unforgettable Dessalines Jean Jacques, have questioned the Kenyan police involvement, citing long-standing abuse allegations against officers.

The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Jamaica have also pledged to contribute personnel to the 2,500-man force. The US has promised over $300 million in funding support but has declared that it will not contribute troops because an American military presence in Haiti could generate “all kinds of questions that can easily be misrepresented.”

Since its deployment, Kenya’s police contingent has held “operational meetings” with their Haitian counterparts and begun “joint operations” as part of the mission, according to Njambi Kinyungu, the African nation’s UN ambassador.

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FILE PHOTO: Police officers patrol a neighborhood amid gang-related violence in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 25, 2023.
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On Wednesday, Haiti’s premier, who has the responsibility of stabilizing the troubled country in preparation for democratic elections in February 2026 with the mission’s assistance, described preliminary feedback on the Kenyan police presence in the capital as “extremely, extremely positive.”

“More than ever, Haiti must mobilize all the necessary and available resources to make this transition the last one, a transition that could set it on the path toward peace, security and sustainable development,” Conille told the council.

However, he said “Haiti must escape the spiral of security missions” and called for a “redefined approach” to build “strong” and “effective” institutions after the foreign mission ends.

July 05, 2024 at 07:47PM

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