FILE - Riot police fire tear gas grenades at demonstrators during protests in the capital Nairobi, Kenya on July 7, 2023. The United States is praising Kenya's interest in leading a multinational force in Haiti. But weeks ago, the U.S. openly warned Kenyan police officers against violent abuses. Now 1,000 of those police officers might head to Haiti to take on gang warfare. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Ending Hate in Haiti: Kenyan Court Blocks the UN’s Peacebuilding Mission in Haiti

On October 9th, the Kenyan courts temporarily barred the government from sending 1,000 police officers to Haiti, stopping them from moving forward with the UN’s mission to reduce gang violence. The initial UN resolution was passed by the Security Council almost a year after Haitian representatives directly requested support from the UN, as the country with over 11 million residents only has 10,000 police officers. The mission was created following investigations that found that due to gang violence, around 2,400 Haitians were killed, hundreds were kidnapped and injured, and over 200,000 were displaced from January to August of this year. The Kenyan-led peacekeeping effort involved action from a variety of state actors such as Jamaica and the Bahamas and relied on voluntary funding from UN members like the US, who pledged 200 million dollars. 

While the Security Council voted to approve the plan, many actors outside of Kenya voiced their criticisms. A primary concern held by many, including Russia’s UN representative, is that this plan only aims for a short-term solution and does not account for the deep systemic issues of poverty and governmental instability that have caused the violence and disruption. While Haiti’s foreign affairs minister, Jean Victor Généus, agreed that this resolution may be beneficial for the Haitian people, he was clear on his stance that the current effort is  “not enough.” The second concern widely held by those opposing the mission is that peacekeeping efforts that involved sending officers to Haiti have historically led to a mass amount of sexual assault and harassment of local Haitians. U.S.  Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield reassured the public that this mission will be different since they have “learned from mistakes of the past,” however, many remain skeptical. 

Despite criticism, the Kenyan government  intended to move forward with the UN-approved plan, which President William Ruto claimed was “a mission for humanity.” He, along with many others, stressed the urgent need for the Haitian government to receive support, as the goal of the mission is to stabilize the government and allow the postponed democratic elections to take place by ending the violence that is plaguing local Haitians. However, the government has not enacted the plan, as recent petitions from the Kenyan people claimed that the UN mission is illegal, causing Kenyan courts to block governmental action. The petitioners argued that the motion to dispatch officers was unconstitutional for an assortment of reasons. They first outlined the government’s failure to consult the public. Since there was no public participation in the decision-making process, they argued that the mission was unjust and should not be accomplished. Additionally, opponents claim that the decision was unconstitutional as the Kenyan constitution states that the government can only deploy the military internationally and that the police officers the government pledged to send to Haiti are only authorized to operate within Kenyan borders. Following these petitions, the courts decided to bar the government from dispatching officers until further deliberations take place on November 9th

While people are generally unsure of how the decision will turn out, many point out the different sections of the constitution that the government may use to defend itself in court and continue the UN mission. Opponents of the mission foresee the government’s use of the National Police Service Act, as Sections 107 and 108 of the Act establish the government’s right to deploy officers outside the country if the receiving government specifically requests the action. However, they believe that the defense may not hold up in court since Haiti did not directly ask the Kenyan government in their appeal to the UN for support. The determining factor of the court’s ruling may be the parliament’s decision. While the government could use defenses like those presented in the National Police Service Act, their most substantial claim lies in Article 240 of the constitution, which grants them permission to deploy any officers involved with national security if there is parliamentary approval. It is still very unclear what decision the parliament will reach, but President Ruto remains optimistic that the Haitian people will receive justice and an end to the violence. 

Emma Fulton is from Houston, TX, studying Public Policy

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