Fri | Dec 1, 2023

UN to vote on resolution to authorise one-year deployment of armed force to help Haiti fight gangs

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2023 | 12:12 AM
Armed members of ‘G9 and Family’ march in a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last month.
Armed members of ‘G9 and Family’ march in a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last month.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – The United Nations Security Council is scheduling a vote tomorrow on a resolution that would authorise a one-year deployment of an international force to help Haiti quell a surge in gang violence and restore security, so that the troubled Caribbean nation can hold long-delayed elections.

The United States-drafted resolution obtained by The Associated Press yesterday welcomes Kenya’s offer to lead the multinational security force. It makes clear this would be a non-U.N. force funded by voluntary contributions.

The resolution would authorise the force for one year, with a review after nine months.

The force would be allowed to provide operational support to Haiti’s National Police, which is underfunded and under resourced, with only some 10,000 active officers for a country of more than 11 million people.

The resolution says the force would help built capacity of local police “through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations as it works to counter gangs and improve security conditions in Haiti.”

The force would also help secure “critical infrastructure sites and transit locations such as the airport, ports, and key intersections”.

Powerful gangs have seized control of key roads leading from Haiti’s capital to the country’s northern and southern regions, disrupting the transportation of food and other goods.

Passage by the Security Council would authorise the force to “adopt urgent temporary measures on an exceptional basis” to prevent the loss of life and help police maintain public safety.

Leaders of the mission would be required to inform the council on the mission’s goals, rules of engagement, financial needs and other matters before a full deployment.

A spokesman for Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he wasn’t aware of the resolution or the upcoming vote and said the government did not immediately have any comment.

The resolution condemns “the increasing violence, criminal activities, and human rights abuses and violations which undermine the peace, stability, and security of Haiti and the region, including kidnappings, sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants, homicides, extrajudicial killings, as well as arms smuggling”.

If adopted, it would mark the first time a force has been deployed to Haiti since the UN approved a stabilisation mission in June 2004 that was marred by a sexual abuse scandal and the introduction of cholera. That mission ended in October 2017.

Concerns have also surrounded the proposed Kenyan-led mission, with critics noting that police in the East Africa country have long been accused of using torture, deadly force and other abuses.

The resolution stresses that all those participating in the proposed mission must take necessary action to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse as well as vet all personnel. It also demands swift investigations of any allegations of misconduct.

In addition, the resolution warns that those involved in the mission must adopt wastewater management and other environmental control to prevent the introduction and spread of water-borne diseases, such as cholera.

It wasn’t immediately clear how big the force would be if approved, although Kenya’s government has previously proposed sending 1,000 police officers. In addition, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda have pledged to send personnel.

In August, it was announced that members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were preparing to deploy to the neighbouring country, as Haitian immigrants continue to seek refuge in Jamaica.

CARICOM’s Eminent Persons Group of three former prime ministers – Kenny Anthony of St Lucia; Perry Christie of The Bahamas; and Bruce Golding of Jamaica – is also working to find solutions to end the crisis in the country.

Last month, the administration of United States President Joe Biden promised to provide logistics and US$100 million to support a Kenyan-led force.

The resolution notes that the Security Council intends to impose additional sanctions on Jimmy Chérizier, known as ‘Barbecue’, who heads Haiti’s biggest gang alliance. Chérizier, a former police officer, recently warned that he would fight any armed force suspected of abuses.

The proposed resolution comes nearly a year after Haiti’s prime minister and other top government officials requested the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force as the government struggles to fight violent gangs estimated to control up to 80 per cent of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

From January 1 to August 15, more than 2,400 people in Haiti were reported killed, more than 950 kidnapped and 902 injured, according to the most recent UN statistics.

More than 200,000 others have been displaced by violence, with many crammed in makeshift shelters after gangs pillaged their communities.

Haiti’s political, social and economic instability are as long-standing as their causes are complex. They, however, were exacerbated two years ago by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.