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US releases funding for Kenya-led Haiti police mission

Overriding Republican opposition in Congress, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ordered the release of $109 million in US funds to pay for a UN-approved and Kenyan-led police support mission tasked with reining in rampant gangs and restoring order in Haiti.

 

The move will cover the purchase of equipment that a Kenyan security team – sent to check the barracks in Port-au-Prince in advance – said was needed before the mission could start. It is expected to pave the way for the deployment of up to 1,000 Kenyan police from next week.

 

Eight other countries have pledged to contribute personnel: The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Chad, Jamaica, and Suriname. Benin offered up to 2,000 soldiers, the Bahamas 150, and Jamaica 500. Figures for the other nations are still to be confirmed. 

 

The United States has been by far the main political and financial backer of the Multinational Security Support mission, pledging a total of $300 million to support it despite opposition in the US Congress, from many Haitians, and in the Kenyan courts.

 

In Kenya, the deployment has faced fierce criticism from opposition lawmakers, human rights groups, and from lawyers, who termed it unconstitutional and accused President William Ruto of neglecting regions in his own country crippled by unrelenting decades-long insecurity.

Haitians are wary because of US involvement in past interventions, especially a 13-year UN “stabilisation” mission (MINUSTAH) that left a legacy of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as a cholera epidemic that claimed more than 10,000 lives.

The mandate of the MSS is to provide “operational support” to the Haitian police by planning and conducting joint security operations to counter gangs, secure key infrastructure, and “help ensure unhindered and safe access to humanitarian aid for the population assistance”, but it’s not clear how this will work in practice.

 

The gang violence, which killed at least 2,500 people in the first three months of the year alone, has seen displacement soar by 60% since March to nearly 580,000 people.

 

It has also worsened a humanitarian crisis that has left more than one in ten Haitians on the brink of starvation, with aid agencies struggling to help them amid the rampant insecurity.

 

For more background and information, read our in depth coverage of Haiti: Haiti in-depth: A transition beset by challenges and uncertainty

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