International support is finally underway for the troubled nation
The United Nations Security Council has greenlit the Kenyan-led mission aimed at bringing stability to Haiti, a beleaguered Caribbean nation that has been grappling with violence, economic turmoil, and a crumbling healthcare system.
The move comes a year after Haiti’s leaders made an impassioned plea for international assistance in the face of escalating challenges.
Haiti’s Descent into Chaos
A harrowing state of affairs has gripped Haiti for years. Armed gangs have asserted control over parts of the country, unleashing waves of brutal violence, while the nation’s economy and public health system remain in disarray.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been repeatedly calling for international support since late 2022 to bolster the beleaguered Haitian police force. However, prior international interventions in Haiti had left the global community disillusioned, which contributed to hesitancy in responding to these pleas.
Security Council Approves Mission
On Monday, the Security Council passed the resolution with an impressive 13 votes in favor, while China and Russia abstained from the vote.
➡️13 in favour
➡️ 2 abstentions pic.twitter.com/6zHnNQeDCs
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) October 2, 2023
Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus lauded the decision, describing it as a “glimmer of hope for people who have been suffering the consequences of a difficult political, socio-economic, security, and humanitarian situation for too long.”
Kenya Steps Up to Lead
A breakthrough in the mission’s planning materialized in July when Kenya volunteered to lead the initiative, pledging to send 1,000 personnel to assist in restoring Haiti’s stability.
“We must not fail the people of Haiti,” declared Kenyan President William Ruto, emphasizing that Haiti had endured the brunt of colonial exploitation and repression.
He underscored that the mandate was not limited to peace and security but also encompassed the comprehensive rebuilding of Haiti, encompassing its politics, economic development, and social stability, as expressed by Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua.
Restoring Security and Hope in Haiti
The approved resolution outlines the deployment of a “multinational security support mission,” distinct from an official UN force, with a designated “lead country” coordinating efforts with the Haitian government. The mission has been initially approved for a one-year period, with a comprehensive review scheduled after nine months.
The mission’s primary objective is to provide “operational support to the Haitian National Police,” encompassing capacity building through the planning and execution of joint security support operations.
Furthermore, the mission will strive to create the necessary conditions for holding elections, which have been absent in Haiti since 2016.
A Grim Security Situation
In a recent report, Secretary-General Guterres painted a grim picture of the security situation in Haiti, noting that gang members had become more numerous and better armed than the police.
The report highlighted the alarming statistic of nearly 2,800 homicides recorded in Haiti between October 2022 and June 2023, with a particularly distressing 80 minors among the victims.
US Assistance and China’s Concerns
Addressing concerns surrounding the mission’s scope, the United States has been advocating for a multinational force. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that his department would continue working with Congress to provide $100 million in foreign assistance, and the Pentagon stood ready to offer up to $100 million in enabling support.
We applaud the @UN Security Council’s authorization of a Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti – a pivotal step in providing the international support Haiti requested to restore security. We thank Kenya and Ecuador for their strong partnership in this effort.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) October 2, 2023
However, President Joe Biden has emphasized that American troops will not be placed in harm’s way.
The White House expressed its gratitude to Kenya for assuming leadership of the mission and also acknowledged nations such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Antigua for contributing manpower. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged international efforts to mobilize the necessary support to deploy this mission.
For the resolution to pass, China opted not to apply its veto power.
Haiti is one of the few nations that continue to recognize Taiwan, a source of contention with Beijing, which claims Taiwan and has been working to isolate it on the international stage. China had voiced skepticism before the Security Council meeting and attributed a portion of the violence to the influx of weapons from Florida. Under pressure from China, the resolution expands an embargo on light weapons and ammunition.
China’s UN envoy, Zhang Jun, maintained the country’s skepticism, stating that:
“Without a legitimate, effective, and accountable government in place, any external support can hardly have any lasting effects.”
Ensuring Accountability and Safety
The resolution leaves the exact size of the mission unspecified, although discussions have centered around a force of approximately 2,000 personnel.
It also calls for the support mission to “adopt appropriate wastewater management,” a pertinent issue given the troubled history of UN peacekeeping in Haiti.
A prior UN peacekeeping mission from 2004 to 2017 inadvertently introduced cholera to the country, triggering an epidemic that claimed over 10,000 lives. This experience has fueled deep-seated pessimism in Haiti about foreign interventions and contributed to resistance against another UN-sanctioned force.
Amnesty International Kenya emphasized prioritizing human rights, accountability, safety, and dignity in this policing mission, calling for robust measures to protect Haitians from any potential abuses.
As Haiti embarks on this new mission, it is hoped that it will mark a turning point toward a more stable and secure future for this embattled nation.