Kenyan forces against gun-toting Haitian gangs. Source: Global Information Network - Photo: 2024

US-Funded Mission of Kenyan Forces Prepares For Battle With Gun-Toting Haitian Gangs

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 4 March 2024 (IDN) — Some 1,000 Kenyan police officers are preparing to head out on a controversial mission to end deadly gang violence in Haiti.

The last obstacle to the mission was reportedly lifted by a Kenyan court, which had ruled the deployment illegal because neither Kenya nor Haiti had signed a formal reciprocal agreement.

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from Kenyan rights groups.

The mission is already facing threats from gangs in Haiti, who are essentially running the country since the murder of the last president, Jovenel Moise.

Kenyan critics who oppose the mission warn of the Kenyans’ long record of human rights abuses and a poor record in fighting terrorism, which they say does not augur well for the deployment.

But the Kenyans may meet their match with a Haitian fighting force that speaks Creole, controls as much as 80% of Port-au-Prince, is well-armed, and recently enjoyed a peace pact with another powerful gang, called G-Pep. At least 230 people were killed last month alone as gangs battled for control of territory.

About 45 percent of the population needs food aid to survive, according to the U.N. which this week appealed for $674 million in humanitarian aid for Haiti.

The price tag, to be paid by the U.S., is at least $200 million. Several Caribbean and African nations—Chad and Benin plus the Bahamas, Bangladesh and Barbados—have reportedly pledged troops to bolster the Kenya-led effort.

Currently, Haitian police are outnumbered and outgunned by Haitian street fighters.

Even getting to this point has been challenging, says the International Crisis Group. The international mission began forming only after Kenya volunteered to lead it with a contribution of 1,000 police officers. Foreign interventions (including the last UN peacekeeping mission to the country, which left in 2017) have sometimes left a tragic legacy.

Ad hoc coalition rather than a blue-helmeted UN operation

The new mission, organised as an ad hoc coalition rather than a blue-helmeted UN operation, will attempt to protect state institutions as well as critical infrastructure and transport hubs, and together with the Haitian police, launch a counter-offensive against gangs. It appears that an advance contingent of several hundred officers will deploy ahead of the rest of the force. It should arrive in Haiti early this year.

Though the gangs have gained a degree of independence in recent years by expanding their sources of income, insiders say ties between government officials, business leaders and the gangs are still strong. “Gangs are not only to be found in the lower part of the city”, said a former official, pointing to patrons at a well-known bar in an upscale neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. “People who collaborate with them hang out right here. They are the ones who live between legality and illegality, who make contacts with the banks, who help bring in weapons”. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Kenyan forces against gun-toting Haitian gangs. Source: Global Information Network

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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