Kenya’s high court on Friday blocked the U.N.-backed deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti to help the Caribbean country bring gang violence under control.
Judge Chacha Mwita said Kenya’s National Security Council, which is led by the president, does not have the authority to deploy regular police outside the country. Kenya’s parliament passed a motion in November allowing the deployment of 1,000 officers to lead a multinational force in Haiti.
“It is not contested that there is no reciprocal arrangement between Kenya and Haiti and for that reason, there can be no deployment of police to that country,” Mwita said.
The judge said Kenya’s offer was noble but needed to be carried out in accordance with the constitution.
Mwita made the ruling in response to an application from Thirdway Alliance Party leader Ekuru Aukot, who argued that the government’s plan to send the officers to Haiti was illegal.
Kenyan government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura said it will appeal the decision.
The decision was considered by many to be a blow to Haiti, which first requested the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force in October 2022.
“This is terrible news for Haitians,” said Diego Da Rin of the International Crisis Group. “The vast majority of the population was waiting for external help to assist the police regain some control of the capital and the areas most affected by violence.”
Mercy Corps Country Director for Haiti, Laurent Uwumuremyi, supported the High Court’s decision saying that previous international peacekeeping missions — such as the U.N. mission MINUSTAH that was deployed there 2004-2017 — and international interventions have had disastrous consequences for Haiti.
“Solutions for Haiti, including those to bolster the Haitian National Police and the army to tamp down violence and return some semblance of security, should be led by Haitians,” Uwumuremyi said.
He said another international intervention might inadvertently worsen the situation, exposing more people to violence.
“It is critical that any intervention is done to restore stability, respects human rights and humanitarian laws, and does not jeopardize or hinder aid operations or worsen the violence,” he said.
An unprecedented surge in gang violence is plaguing Haiti, with the number of victims killed, injured and kidnapped more than doubling last year, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for the country said Thursday.
“I cannot overstress the severity of the situation in Haiti, where multiple protracted crises have reached a critical point,” envoy Maria Isabel Salvador told the U.N. Security Council.
She said the 8,400 victims of gang violence documented by her office last year — 122% more than in 2022 — were mainly targeted by gangs in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Some 300 gangs control an estimated 80% of the capital and accounted for 83% of last year’s killings and injuries, Salvador said. She said they have expanded north into the Artibonite region, considered Haiti’s food basket, and south of the capital, where “gangs conducted large-scale attacks to control key zones” and systematically use sexual violence to exert control.
Guy Philippe, a former rebel leader in Haiti, implored Kenyans in a video message this week not to allow their police or military be deployed to Haiti.
Philippe said the Haitian people view Kenyans as their fellow African brothers but if the police were deployed to the Caribbean, Kenya’s people would become the “enemies” of Haitians because they would be seen as supporting an illegitimate government.
“We have a government here in Haiti that has no legitimacy, no one loves them. This government is helping gangs, killing innocent people, kidnapping and serving the interest of imperialism,” he said.
Philippe served nine years in a U.S. prison following a guilty plea to a money laundering charge. He is best known for leading a 2004 rebellion against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and masterminding attacks on police stations.
Earlier this month, his supporters launched protests that paralyzed some cities across Haiti as they demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Kenyan authorities told The Associated Press last month that the first group of about 300 officers was expected to arrive in Haiti by February. Kenya’s contribution would eventually rise to 1,000 officers at the head of a 3,000-strong multinational force.
Burundi, Chad, Senegal, Jamaica and Belize also have pledged troops for the mission.
– Tom Odula, AP News