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Kenya’s high court has blocked a police deployment to Haiti, delivering a significant blow to the prospects of a multinational force being deployed to quell rampant gang violence in the Caribbean nation.
Nairobi had pledged to send 1,000 police officers to lead a UN-approved international mission in Haiti, where violence last year claimed 5,000 lives and displaced 200,000 people. But on Friday the high court in the Kenyan capital ruled the country could not deploy police to countries with which it does not have reciprocal policing agreements.
“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,” Judge Chacha Mwita, said when delivering the ruling.
The decision is a blow for Kenya’s President William Ruto, as well as the US and Canada, which had supported an international mission while ruling out leading it.
Haiti’s acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, first called for international intervention in October 2022. Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua, and Barbuda pledged to support a mission, but it remained in doubt until July when Kenya — which has supported peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, Somalia, and Croatia — offered to lead it. The UN Security Council approved the force three months later, and the US pledged $100mn in logistical support.
Kenya’s government on Friday said it would appeal against the ruling, reiterating “its commitment in honouring its international obligations as a member of the community and comity of nations”.
Meanwhile, Haiti continues to deteriorate. Since president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, a power vacuum has engulfed the nation which dozens of gangs have filled, extorting locals and kidnapping for ransom.
The homicide and kidnapping rates doubled last year even with a temporary halt in gang violence between April and July attributed by analysts to a rise in vigilantism. Gangs control more than 80 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, according to the UN, while 87 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
“I cannot overstress the severity of the situation in Haiti, where multiple protracted crises have reached a critical point,” the UN secretary-general’s special envoy to Haiti, María Isabel Salvador, told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
Since January last year, when the terms of the last remaining elected officials expired, there have been no democratically legitimate office-holders left in the country. Henry has been unwilling to share power with members of Haiti’s opposition and civil society since assuming power following Moïse’s murder.
Diego Da Rin, a consultant with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the Kenyan court’s ruling would be badly received by many Haitians, already frustrated by the international community’s inaction.
“This court decision certainly brings more uncertainty about the way out of this reigning chaos and is likely to bring more instability to Haiti,” Da Rin said. “Another country could take the lead role but it is unclear which countries other than the US, Canada and Kenya could have the capacity to do it.”
Additional reporting by Gioia Shah in Nairobi