Controversy surrounds Kenya government's planned deployment of police forces to Haiti

Haiti's national police guard removed makeshift barricades made of steel fences and tree branches protesters placed to block the National Palace entrance. Image by Matiado Vilme from Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

In August last year, the Kenyan government announced its interest in sending about 1,500 police troops to Haiti to lead international security efforts to curb gang violence. This was in response to the Haitian government's appeal for help, which was supported by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the United States. Meanwhile, major international governments including the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, which have the latest technology and best-trained security personnel, preferred to outsource this task instead of volunteering their own people. 

With the UN's greenlight, Kenyans awoke to the reality that their police could soon be fighting heavily armed gangsters in an unfamiliar and distant nation, and started asking questions.

While President William Ruto claimed that the people of Kenya supported this decision, many Kenyans have taken to social media to refute this idea. One user on X (formerly Twitter) said, “We didn't make that decision. You did. And you know why.” Another user commented:

Doesn't Africa have enough conflicts where Ruto can send his troops if he really thinks for peace and stability instead of sending them to a faraway place? Well, the US naming Kenya as a non-NATO ally is just a reward for that loyalty.

Ekuru Aukot, an opposition politician and lawyer who helped draft Kenya's revised constitution, addressed Ruto on X:

Another user added, “He is desperately looking for Western validation. If that comes through sacrificing poor Kenyan sons and daughters, he cares less.”

Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told Responsible Statecraft that the Kenyan forces will face significant challenges which may hinder their effectiveness. These include the lack of clarity around whether the forces are authorized to engage directly in combat, as well as if or how they will be integrated with the Haitian police force and military. As the Kenyan forces do not speak Haitian Creole, the language barrier will be another challenge. According to Johnston, they will also face logistical nightmares as the mission, intended to build local capacity, is proceeding without the involvement of the current government.

Johnston went further to state that past foreign interventions in Haiti, like the U.N.-led MINUSTAH mission, from 2004 to 2017, have largely failed, leading to distrust and skepticism. 

Rights groups have also raised concerns, and in January 2024, Kenya’s high court ruled against it, saying that the mission was illegal. However, the government of Kenya is proceeding with the plan. 

On May 23, a delegation of Kenyan command staff arrived in Haiti ahead of the long-stalled deployment of 1,000 police officers. The delegation was there to check whether equipment and facilities were ready before the arrival of the first batch of Kenya's special forces in Haiti, which is now expected to be later this week. However, according to, the assessment team said that the Caribbean security forces did not have enough infrastructure to help the Kenyan police fight gangs.

The delegation's deployment coincided with President Ruto's state visit to the United States, where he met US President Joe Biden and held bilateral talks to strengthen economic and security ties between the two countries.

During a press conference in the U.S., a Kenyan journalist Ayub Abdikadir posed an important question to Biden and Ruto: “… Kenya is rather doing the heavy lifting in our region, particularly in Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Washington, as you have mentioned, has committed millions of dollars for the cause in Haiti. Isn't it ironic that while America is ending its forever wars in Afghanistan, the latest in 2021 under your leadership, when you withdrew troops from Kabul, and now you're committing Kenya to another foreign war 12,000 kilometers away from Nairobi? I mean why the discrepancy? Why the dichotomy: while you are ending your forever wars overseas yet you are committing Kenya to Haiti?”

In response to this question, Biden did not deny that they were trying to commit Kenya but said, “Haiti is in the area of the Caribbean that is very volatile. There is a lot going on in this hemisphere and we're in a situation where we want to do all we can without us looking like America once again is stepping over and deciding this is what must be done …”

As reported by, President Biden through Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announced on Tuesday, June 18 that Kenya would receive over USD 108 million (KSH 14 billion) for its mission in Haiti, despite opposition from Republican lawmakers blocking the release of funds. These funds will be used to support the Kenyan forces’ mission in Haiti.

The US intends to invest a total of over USD 294 million (KSH 38 billion) into this multinational mission in Haiti. Other countries that have shown interest in being part of this mission include Benin, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh and Chad. The European Union and Canada have also pledged financial support to the Kenya-led mission in Haiti.

According to a report by Ayibopost, the gangs in Haiti are not pleased with the arrival of Kenyan troops and have begun employing various strategies to warn the authorities. These strategies include forcing people to return to places they were violently displaced from, organizing protests against foreign forces, and destroying prisons and police stations.

The report suggests that they intend to use citizens as human shields and have constructed a quay on the sea to strengthen their operational capacity in combating foreign forces.

As reported by The Conversation, Haiti's recent slide into chaos started nearly three years ago with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Since then, rampant lawlessness has allowed gangs to seize control of about 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, resulting in thousands of deaths amid escalating violence.

The current emergency stems from long-standing social inequality, an economic crisis, and a lack of government accountability. As a result, experts contend that while military action might temporarily reduce violence, it won't resolve the root issues causing the instability.

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