Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry greets Kenyan Foreign Secretary Alfred Nganga Mutua as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on in New York, September 22, 2023 (Bing Guan, Pool photo via AP)
Kenya has stated it will lead a potential intervention in Haiti backed by the US and the UN. The move is yet another attack on the sovereignty of Haiti in service of imperialist interests and which will plunge the country further into instability.
Originally published in People's Dispatch.
Haiti and Kenya have established diplomatic relations amid the looming possibility of an intervention in the Caribbean country by a “multinational force” supported by the US and the United Nations. As negotiations began in the UN Security Council (UNSC) this month, Nairobi declared that it is willing to lead the mission.
The press release shared by Haiti’s de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry states that the ties between Kenya and Haiti are “guided by the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, International Law and Treaties, particularly with regard to the promotion of international peace and security, equality among States, national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other States…”
The pact between the two countries was signed at Kenya’s mission in New York, US, where the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly is currently underway.
The support security mission is being deliberated upon in response to a request to the international community in October 2022 by Henry for the establishment of a “specialized armed force” to respond to a surge in violence by armed groups. The move was widely condemned within Haiti, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets and chanting “Down with Ariel Henry, Down with the Foreign Occupation!”
The UNSC could now vote on the deployment of the multinational force as early as next week, US Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols told Voice of America in an interview, as quoted by Reuters. The decision could see the redeployment of foreign forces to Haiti, less than a decade after the end of a 13-year-long UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH), which was itself marred by instances of abuse, sexual violence, and a deadly cholera outbreak.
A further cause for concern is the emphasis on the multinational force being a “non-UN force,” which raises questions about its structure and accountability.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 19, US President Joe Biden thanked his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto for “his willingness to serve as the lead nation of a UN-backed security support mission.”
“I call on the Security Council to authorize this mission now,” Biden said, adding that “The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer.” However, the people of Haiti have explicitly and consistently rejected any kind of foreign intervention in their country.
Haitians reject foreign occupation amid rising insecurity
Ariel Henry was appointed prime minister of Haiti soon after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Prior to his death, Moïse himself had been the target of mass demonstrations opposing his attempts to undermine the country’s institutions and stay in power beyond his term under the constitution.
Since then, Haiti has witnessed a period of intense political turmoil and growing insecurity, marked by sustained popular unrest against the failure of the government to respond to rising violence and poverty.
In a statement released at the end of last month, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that at least 71 people were killed in violence between armed groups in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince between August 15 and 29. Since January 2023, more than 2,500 people have been killed and another 200,000 have been displaced, it added.
Peoples’ movements and organizations within Haiti have maintained that this violence must not be used as a pretext to legitimize foreign intervention, especially given the role of foreign agents in escalating the violence in the country.
“The violence that has been encouraged wants to impose a new occupying force on the country… The weapons used by the armed groups in the working class neighborhoods come from the United States. The Haitian people are not just desperate, they are fighting,” Emmanuel Exuma, a communicator for Radio Resistance and the Haitian People’s News Agency, told Brasil de Fato.
The US, with its own history of direct occupation and interference in Haiti, is now pushing for an intervention in the name of the Haitian people, the very people that the US Border Patrol has violently attacked and expelled and the administration has put on deportation planes.
African and Caribbean countries should not be a front for imperialism
Kenya’s decision to lead the foreign intervention has also been fiercely condemned. In August, Nairobi dispatched an “assessment mission” to Port-au-Prince to meet with PM Henry and the Haitian police, as well as diplomats from other countries.
“Kenya’s motive to send a small contingent of police officers to Haiti is not to solve the so-called problems of insecurity that beset Haiti. Just as it has been done in the past through recruitment of Caribbean and African countries, it is to prevent accusations of racism and oppressive grip of Western foreign powers by having third world nations give their support for the exploitation of Haiti,” the Communist Party of Kenya (CPK) said in a statement on August 30.
“By agreeing to send troops into Haiti, the Kenyan government is diminishing the sovereignty and self-determination of Haitian people, while preserving the neo-colonial interests of the United States, the Core Group [Germany, Brazil, the US, France, Canada, Spain, the European Union and the Organization of American States] and the United Nations,” the CPK warned.
Meanwhile, President Ruto announced on September 19 that the Dominican Republic has also agreed to offer “assistance” for the proposed security mission, and that the two countries had “resolved to work together to bring peace and stability to Haiti.”
Dominican President Luis Abinader has been a consistent proponent of a military intervention to “pacify” Haiti and has called on the US, Canada, and France to take a “leadership” role. In June, Canada reached an accord to boost “assistance” to Haiti by way of increasing the staff at its embassies in Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince. This was after disputed reports emerged suggesting that Ottawa would be setting up an office to coordinate this assistance.
Both Canada and the US have already sent armored vehicles and supplies to Haiti.
The Dominican Republic’s involvement in the UN security mission follows a few days after it closed all its borders with Haiti and suspended issuing visas to Haitian nationals.
It is also taking place in a context where President Abinader is continuing with severely racist policies and rhetoric against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the country. This includes the mass deportations of over 170,000 people, the majority of whom are Haitian, in 2022 alone, besides routine harassment, detention, and abuse.
Other countries in the Caribbean, namely Jamaica and the Bahamas, have also announced that they will contribute forces in the event of a Kenya-led intervention.
“It is for African and Caribbean nations to break free from the shackles of Western imperialism and exploitation. Let us unite in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti and work towards a world where every nation can thrive without interference from outside,” the CPK had implored in a statement in May.
Tanupriya Singh is a writer for People's Dispatch.