Kenyan court blocks police deployment to crisis-racked Haiti

A Kenyan court on Friday blocked the deployment of some 1,000 police officers to Haiti, putting at risk the future of a multinational security force to break the stranglehold of armed gangs that have taken over vast swaths of the Haitian capital in a campaign of killings and kidnappings.

The U.N. Security Council approved the force in October, a year after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry appealed for international intervention. Kenya last year offered to lead the mission after several other countries, including Canada and the United States, declined.

But on Friday, Kenyan High Court Judge Chacha Mwita agreed with opponents who brought the legal challenge that such a mission would be illegal, in part because the Kenyan national security council does not have a mandate to deploy police officers outside Kenya.

“Any decision by any state organ or state officer to deploy police officers to Haiti and any further action or steps taken … in furtherance of such a position contravenes the constitution and the law, and is therefore unconstitutional, illegal and invalid,” Mwita said in a decision that was read in court.

U.N. authorizes Kenya-led force for Haiti; key questions remain

Isaac Mwaura, a spokesman for the Kenyan government, said it plans to appeal the ruling.

Henry’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The purpose of the international security mission is to support the Haitian police, a force that has been overwhelmed and outmatched by the gangs that have grown in power since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. This support would include conducting joint security operations against the gangs, protecting critical infrastructure and establishing a level of security that would allow the country to hold elections.

The United States, which backed Henry’s plea for assistance, pledged at least $200 million to the international mission, half of it contingent on congressional approval.

Several Caribbean nations promised to send hundreds of troops or police officers, but many other countries have been reluctant to participate, in part because of the failure of past international interventions in Haiti to bring lasting stability to the country.

A U.N. mission from 2004 to 2017 had a mixed record and is mostly remembered for allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, whose poor sanitation practices also started a cholera outbreak that killed nearly 10,000 people.

But others in Haiti view such as mission as the only option to restore order. The United Nations this month reported nearly 4,800 killings in Haiti last year, up 119 percent from 2022. It recorded 2,490 kidnappings in 2023, up 83 percent from the previous year.

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