UN-Backed Contingent of Foreign Police Arrives in Haiti as Kenya-Led Force Prepares to Face Gangs

Police from Kenya deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived in Haiti on Tuesday, nearly two years after the troubled Caribbean country urgently requested help to quell a surge in gang violence.

A couple hundred police officers from Kenya landed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, whose main international airport reopened in late May after gang violence forced it to close for nearly three months.

It wasn’t immediately known what the Kenyans’ first assignment would be, but they will face violent gangs that control 80% of Haiti’s capital and have left more than 580,000 people across the country homeless as they pillage neighborhoods in their quest to control more territory. Gangs also have killed several thousand people in recent years.

The Kenyans’ arrival marks the fourth major foreign military intervention in Haiti. While some Haitians welcome their arrival, others view the force with caution, given that the previous intervention — the U.N.’s 2004-2017 peacekeeping mission — was marred by allegations of sexual assault and the introduction of cholera, which killed nearly 10,000 people.

Romain Le Cour, senior expert at Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, called on the international community and government officials to share details including the mission’s rules of engagement and concept of operation.

“We haven’t heard about a proper strategy about the mission on the ground, what is going to happen vis-a-vis the gangs,” he said. “Is it a static mission? Is it a moving mission? All those details are still missing, and I think it’s about time that there’s actually transparency.”

Journalists cover the arrival of a plane carrying police from Kenya at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Meanwhile, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti issued a brief statement welcoming the Kenyans’ arrival: “It is a crucial step in the fight to restore security in the Haitian capital and its surroundings and protect the rights of Haitians.”

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