Evaluating the U.S.-supported, Kenya-led mission in Haiti and its implications

Photo by Augustine Wamenya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a recent report by theGrio, as the United States gears up to support a ground mission to stabilize the fragile situation in Haiti led by Kenya, some advocates have expressed reservations about the motives and structure of this initiative. The U.N. greenlit a multinational security support mission on Oct. 2, sanctioning the dispatch of 1,000 Kenyan police officers to the Caribbean nation. However, Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, remarked to theGrio that, from a geopolitical perspective, this operation isn’t truly “Kenya-led.”

Jozef articulated concerns that Haiti perceives this mission as a way for international entities, like the U.S. and U.N., to use Kenya as a symbolic front for their intentions. Haiti’s current situation is marked by challenges such as gang violence and food shortages, further exacerbated by the assassination of its president in 2021 and persistent natural disasters.

Support for the mission comes primarily from the U.S., pledging up to $200 million, supplemented by other U.N. member states. Jozef emphasized that while international aid is crucial, it should come with a genuine acknowledgment of past and present roles in destabilizing Haiti. She criticized the U.S.’s financial support, labeling it insufficient for genuinely stabilizing the nation, and contrasted it with the hefty funds allocated for other countries, such as Ukraine.

Historical context is significant here. Haiti, which became the first free Black republic in 1804, faced crippling debts from former colonizers like France and other nations. In this context, Jozef argued that the choice of Kenya to lead the mission is a matter of optics, considering the African nation’s Black diaspora identity.

Kenya’s commitment to the mission is not without challenges. A court recently halted the deployment of Kenyan officers to Haiti due to the Parliament’s non-approval. The U.S. maintains its support, however, directing inquiries regarding the court decision to Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Joseph Tolton, a Pan-African activist, shared with theGrio that the mission raised eyebrows in Kenya, especially with President William Ruto’s unilateral decision-making. Many in Kenya and Haiti question the legitimacy of Haiti’s current leadership. Furthermore, concerns persist about the use of funds and potential human rights abuses by the Kenyan officers.

Kenyan involvement in the mission comes with complexities. While Kenya had a positive peacekeeping experience in Somalia, concerns exist about the Kenyan officers’ linguistic barriers in Haiti, where they neither speak French nor Creole.

Jozef pressed for the international community to support Haiti’s self-sufficiency, highlighting the decline in Haitian rice production since the 1980s. She cited the benefits the U.S. reaps from Haiti’s dependency on imports, advocating for Haiti’s self-reliance in agricultural products like rice.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations informed theGrio of the U.S.’s dedication to supporting Haiti, emphasizing the need for secure streets and a conducive environment for elections. But for Jozef, addressing the root causes, like the influx of arms from international sources, is paramount for Haiti’s stability. She urged the international community to take tangible steps to demonstrate genuine commitment, urging them to “put your money where the mouth is.”

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