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Kenya puts deployment of police to Haiti on hold after chaos grips the Caribbean nation

Kenyan police patrol the streets of Nairobi, 12 March 2024   -  
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Brian Inganga/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


Kenya is halting plans to deploy at least 1,000 police officers to Haiti following the unprecedented violence that erupted in the Caribbean nation and the announcement by its Prime Minister Ariel Henry that he would resign once a presidential council is created, a Kenyan official said Tuesday.

Kenya had agreed last October to lead a U.N.-authorized international police force to Haiti, but the country's top court in January ruled this was unconstitutional, in part because of a lack of reciprocal agreements on such deployments between the two countries.

Kenya’s President William Ruto said that he and Henry had witnessed the signing of the reciprocal agreements between Kenya and Haiti on March 1, clearing the path for the deployment.

Under the plan, the U.N.-backed multi-national police led by Kenyan officers was to help quell gang violence that has long plagued Haiti. But violence escalated sharply since Feb. 29, with gunmen burning police stations, closing the main international airports and raiding the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Scores have been killed, and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs. Food and water are dwindling and the main port in the capital of Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

After returning from a trip to Kenya where he had gone to salvage plans for the African country’s deployment, Henry has been locked out of his own country and has remained in Puerto Rico since last week.

“The planned deployment of police officers has indeed been put on hold,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Koriri Sing’oei said Tuesday.

“There has been a fundamental change in circumstances in Haiti as a result of the complete breakdown of law and order,” Sing’oei added.

Henry's announcement Tuesday that he would resign once a transitional presidential council is created indicated he was bowing to international pressure to make way for new leadership in the country overwhelmed by violent gangs.

Henry spoke after Caribbean leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Jamaica to discuss a solution to Haiti’s spiraling crisis.

“The government I’m running will remove itself immediately after the installation of the council,” Henry said in a recorded statement.

Sing’oei said that without a clear administration in place in Haiti, there is no anchor for an international police force. Therefore, the Kenyan government will await the installation of a new authority in Haiti, before making further decisions on its deployment.

On Monday, Kenyan Interior Minister Kindiki Kithure said their officers selected to go to Haiti were ready and awaiting deployment after the top court’s requirement's on bilateral agreements were met.

Critics of Henry, who was sworn in as prime minister nearly two weeks after the July 7, 2021, assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, say he was never elected by the people or Parliament, which remains nonexistent after the terms of the last remaining senators expired in January 2023.

That has also left Haiti without a single elected official.

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