Kenyan Elite Units Deploy to Haiti to Quell Gang Unrest

Demonstrators run past tires set on fire during a protest against insecurity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Kenyan special forces with experience battling al-Shabaab militants in East Africa are set to arrive in Haiti in the coming days. This is part of a larger UN-backed multinational mission aimed at stabilizing the Caribbean nation after months of gang mayhem and violence. As the first troops began deploying, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Haiti was on the brink of becoming a failed state.

An advance team of Kenyan officers landed in the capital Port-au-Prince this week as the city’s airport reopened after being shut down for nearly 3 months due to gang uprisings. Around 1,000 Kenyan personnel are expected to join the mission, along with contingents from several other countries like Chile, Jamaica, and Nigeria. Kenyan media reports indicate additional troops will arrive during President William Ruto’s state visit to the U.S.

Blinken claimed there is now an opportunity to achieve enduring stability in Haiti after decades of turmoil. He cited the reopened airport as progress, anticipating U.S. flights resuming there soon. The Kenyan deployment will draw elite counterinsurgency units experienced in fighting Somalia-based militants.

While some see the mission as a vital step toward peace after the 2021 assassination of Haiti’s president, others are skeptical that another foreign intervention can succeed given the troubled history of such operations. The last UN stabilization mission faced allegations of human rights abuses.

Blinken urged Congress to fund the mission despite “policeman of the world” concerns, arguing that multi-national support is crucial to restore order and reduce gang control, which has overtaken 80% of the capital. However, Haiti’s embattled police lament resources going to foreign forces instead of bolstering their own dangerously under-equipped efforts.

About Geraldine Boechat 2737 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia