After a year of delay, the UN Security Council gave the green light Monday to sending a multinational mission to Haiti led by Kenya to help police overwhelmed by gangs, a decision hailed as a “ray of hope” by Port-au-Prince.
This vote “is a glimmer of hope for the people who have suffered for too long the consequences of a difficult political, socio-economic, security and humanitarian situation,” immediately greeted the Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Victor Généus, present in the council room.
Rapes used as a weapon of terror, snipers on roofs, people burned alive, kidnappings for ransoms… While the violence of the gangs which control the majority of the capital Port-au-Prince continues to worsen, the Prime Minister Haitian Ariel Henry and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have been calling for a police support mission for a year almost to the day.
But, within an international community burned by past experiences in the country and the risks of finding itself trapped in a deadly quagmire, it was difficult to find a volunteer to take the lead.
Until the end of last July when Kenya finally announced that it was ready to lead this non-UN force and deploy 1,000 men in the poor Caribbean country.
Kenya’s Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said the resolution was “the start of a new chapter for the fathers, mothers and children of Haiti” and that “this mandate is not only about peace and security, but also the reconstruction of Haiti – its politics, its economic development and its social stability.
The resolution adopted Monday by 13 votes in favor and 2 abstentions (China and Russia) validates the creation of this “multinational security support mission”, non-UN, for “an initial period of twelve months”, with a re-evaluation at the end of nine.
It aims to “provide operational support to the Haitian police” in their fight against gangs, and to improve security sufficiently to organize elections, although no elections have taken place since 2016.
In cooperation with the Haitian authorities, the mission will be able, to save lives, to employ temporary and proportionate “emergency measures” “on an exceptional basis”, in particular through arrests, in compliance with international law.
In a recent report, Antonio Guterres underlined that the economic, political and security crisis that Haiti is going through has further worsened over the past year, with gangs “more numerous and better armed” than the approximately 14,000 police officers counted at the end of June 2023.
In total, nearly 2,800 murders were counted between October 2022 and June 2023, including nearly 80 minors, according to this report.
This certainly “historic” resolution is “only the first step. Now the work to get the mission off the ground begins,” commented American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
China, which has a right of veto in the Council, was less enthusiastic. “Without a legitimate, effective and accountable government, any external support can hardly have lasting effects,” warned its ambassador Zhang Jun.
In recent months, the Chinese had already been skeptical, believing that such a mission made no sense without stopping arms trafficking to gangs, mainly from the United States, particularly Florida. via the Haitian diaspora.
Under pressure from China, the resolution also generalizes the embargo on small arms and ammunition, until now only applicable to gang leaders targeted by the sanctions regime put in place in October 2022 and which does not concern this stage than an individual.
“Arms trafficking is an issue that the United States takes very seriously, including in Haiti,” assured a US administration official.
Washington also intends to provide logistical and financial support for the new mission but not security forces on the ground.
The resolution leaves it to future participants in the force to determine the schedule and composition of the mission, in cooperation with Port-au-Prince. The figure of 2,000 members of the police has, however, often been mentioned in recent months.
The resolution welcomes “several countries” considering participation, but at this stage few of them are known, apart from Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda.
The draft resolution also calls on the future mission to “take appropriate measures regarding wastewater management”.
The peacekeepers of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), present from 2004 to 2017, brought cholera, leading to an epidemic that caused more than 10,000 deaths. This episode partly explains that the future force does not operate under the UN flag.