A view of police officers from the first Kenyan continent, part of the multinational mission (MSS) to be deployed to Haiti, at the Administration Police Training College in Embakasi, Nairobi, on Monday, June 24, 2024. Photo credit: Kenyan presidency.

Overview:

Media in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, has reported that a first contingent of 400 elite police officers was set to leave the East African country for Haiti to join the UN-backed Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission. The estimated arrival time of the police forces has not been confirmed as the construction of their base is still unfinished.

Editor's Notes: This story has been updated below with new information on Kenyan troops arriving in Haiti.

The first contingent of Kenyan police forces forming the UN-backed multinational security mission landed in Haiti on Tuesday, around 9:20 a.m. local time.

The arrival of the Kenyan officers, equipped with expertise in anti-gang operations and community policing, was seemingly met with cautious optimism by Haitians who have been grappling with rampant violence and political turmoil in recent months.

As the officers disembarked from their aircraft at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the streets buzzed with anticipation. The hope was that this mission would integrate seamlessly with local security efforts and support the National Police (PNH) in restoring order and stability in Haiti.

The Kenyan force's deployment has been stalled since January due to numerous challenges. Initially agreed upon in October 2023, the deployment faced legal, funding and logistical difficulties, including a ruling by the Kenyan High Court deeming the plan unconstitutional due to the lack of reciprocal agreements between Kenya and Haiti.

Original story below.


PORT-AU-PRINCE— Kenyan media confirmed Monday that a first contingent of 400 police officers was set to leave the East African country for Haiti to join the UN-backed Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission, which aims to support the Haitian Police (PNH) in efforts to combat gang violence in the Caribbean nation. While the Kenyan officers are scheduled to depart from Nairobi on June 25 to Port-au-Prince, their base is still being built by U.S. contractors.

Kenya has offered to lead the mission and send a thousand police officers to stabilize Haiti alongside personnel from other African, Asian and Caribbean nations, including Benin, Chad, Bangladesh, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica.

On Monday, Kenyan President William Ruto held a briefing session with the police officers ahead of their deployment to Haiti. Following this meeting, Ruto recalled on his X account that his country's participation in the MSS is part of a broader commitment to promoting peace and resolving conflicts worldwide.

“Our police officers' presence in Haiti will give relief to the men, women, and children whose lives have been broken by gang violence,” Ruto said. “We will work with the international community to bring lasting stability to Haiti.”

At the time of this writing, Kenyan and Haitian authorities have yet to officially communicate any information about the arrival of the 400 police officers in Haiti. The media have mainly based their reporting on anonymous sources. The Haitian Prime Minister's communications office did not respond to Go West Now’ request for comment.

“We are reliably assured that the 400 police officers will leave Nairobi this [Tuesday] evening,” a source in Kenya told Go West Now. “However, I am unsure of their arrival time in Port-au-Prince.”

Kenya President William Ruto addresses the first contingent of Kenyan police officers set to be deployed to the multinational security support mission in Haiti before they depart from Embakasi, Nairobi, on Monday, June 24, 2024. Photo credit: Kenyan presidency.

This deployment follows the signing of an agreement on the MSS status and functions in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 21, between Kenya and Haiti’s diplomatic representatives. Go West Now has yet to receive a copy of the signed document. But according to a source close to the discussions, who requested anonymity, the agreement, called the “Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA),” is a legal contract between the two countries that aims, among other things, to clarify how troops must behave and function in the country. The agreement also specifies details about the troops’ locations and movements throughout the country.

According to some estimates, the multinational force will consist of 2,500 police officers and soldiers. Kenya has pledged 1,000 troops, including elite police officers from the anti-terrorist Recce Squad, the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, and the Border Patrol Unit (BPU).

The source in Kenya added that along with Kenyan Deputy Inspector General Noor Gabow, the police commander responsible for this deployment, two other senior Kenyan police officers have been designated to lead the troops in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. Commander Geoffrey Otunge, director of operations within the Kenya Police Service, will be the overall team leader in the Haiti operation. Next to him will be Commander Stephen Chebet, a high-ranking General Service Unit officer with a reputation for handling difficult terrorism situations.

A UN Security Council resolution approved the mission last October, but in Kenya, the operation sparked intense criticism and legal challenges. The Kenyan Supreme Court postponed the deployment until January, ruling that the Kenyan government had no authority to send police officers abroad without special authorization.

The government obtained this authorization on March 1, but the Kenyan opposition party, Thirdway Alliance, led by former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot, filed a new appeal on May 16 to try to block the process.

After a hearing on June 12, Judge Chacha Mwita ordered both parties—the government and the opposition—to file documents and return to court on October 7.

“With Kenyan troops on their way to Haiti ahead of this scheduled hearing, President Ruto has seemingly decided to ignore the court order which prohibited Kenya from sending police officers to Haiti,” sources in Kenya said.

I am Juhakenson Blaise, a journalist based in the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I cover the news that develops in this city and deals with other subjects related to the experience of Haitians for the Haitian Times newspaper. I am also a lover of poetry.

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