By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | NAIROBI. 2 October 2023 (IDN) — After months of fruitless efforts to control spiraling gang violence in Haiti, a framework for defense cooperation has been signed by the United States and Kenya aimed at creating a multinational force to quash the violence that has brutally taken so many lives.
Such a deployment had been stalled for months because no country would agree to lead such a perilous mission.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale signed on 25 September the accord at a meeting in Nairobi that will guide the countries defense relations for the next five years.
They are expected to work behind the scenes to build support for the plan among the Security Council’s 15 members and the wider international community.
Washington will supply “robust financial and logistical assistance” in the amount of $100 million to the proposed deployment.
“Signing the framework for defense cooperation between our two countries today reinforces the importance of our strategic partnership with Kenya,” Austin said following the meeting.
Duale said his country was ready to deploy to Haiti and cited Kenya’s “very long history of global peacekeeping” in Kosovo, neighboring Somalia and Congo.
Kenya is expected to be the largest contributor with 1,000 police officers and troops. At least a dozen nations have now come forward to help tackle the gang violence engulfing the country.
Besides The Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, at least a dozen nations offering to join the effort to fight gang violence. Other countries stepping up are Italy, Spain, Mongolia, Senegal, Belize, Suriname, Guatemala and Peru.
Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols was surprised at the numerous offers of support coming from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. “People were saying, ‘Hey, we’re in, we’re going to support; we are going to provide troops, we’re going to provide police, we’re going to provide money,’” he recalled.
However, Haitian Americans and Haitians at home are split on whether a Kenya-led intervention is a good idea, said Macollvie Neel, executive editor of Brooklyn-based Haitian Times, speaking with the online publication Semafor.
Many in the diaspora remember the sexual abuse and devastating cholera outbreak that accompanied foreign forces in past decades, but they also said ongoing bloodshed in their country leaves them with few other options.
UN Peace Mission
Also, perhaps worrying, the international force would not be a UN force. If deployed, Kenyan police would be in charge rather than answer to a UN force commander as required in a UN peacekeeping mission.
Still, cellphone repairman Jerthro Antoine, speaking to Al Jazeera news, said Kenya’s police can’t come soon enough. He said he dreams of strolling along one of Haiti’s beaches, but the violence has gotten so bad that even walking on the street is a risk.
“I feel trapped in my home. Any foreign force in support of Haitian police is more than welcome,” Antoine said. “The Haitian people need it, we need a break and to have a life again.”
The mission is awaiting the UN Security Council’s formal approval to go forward but has already received support from the UN and US. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Kenyan President William Samoei Ruto and Kenyan Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Bare Duale pose for a photo during a bilateral exchange at the Kenya State House in Nairobi, Kenya on 25 September 2023.
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