UN Security Council approves sending a Kenya-led force to Haiti to fight violent gangs

Armed members of "G9 and Family" march in a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Sept. 19 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.N. Security Council voted Monday to send a multinational armed force to Haiti led by Kenya to help combat violent gangs, marking the first time in almost 20 years that a force is deployed to the troubled Caribbean country.

The resolution drafted by the U.S. and Ecuador was approved with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions from China and the Russia Federation.

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The resolution authorizes the force to deploy for one year, with a review after nine months. The vote was held nearly a year after Haiti’s prime minister requested the immediate deployment of an armed force, which is expected to quell a surge in gang violence and restore security so Haiti can hold long-delayed elections.

“More than just a simple vote, this is in fact an expression of solidarity with a population in distress,” said Jean Victor Généus, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister. “It’s a glimmer of hope for the people who have been suffering for too long.”

A deployment date has not been set, although U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said a security mission to Haiti could deploy “in months.”

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Alfred Mutua, said last week that the force could deploy within two to three months, or possibly early January. He also noted that key officers are being taught French.

It wasn’t immediately clear how big the force would be. Kenya’s government has previously proposed sending 1,000 police officers. In addition, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda also have pledged to send personnel.

“With this action, the council has ignited a beacon of hope for the beleaguered people of Haiti,” said Martin Kimani, Kenya’s U.N. ambassador.

Last month, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden promised to provide logistics and $100 million to support the Kenyan-led force.

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Federation’s U.N. ambassador, said he did not have any objections in principle to the resolution, but said that sending an armed force to a country even at its request “is an extreme measure that must be thought through.”

He said multiple requests for details including the use of force and when it would be withdrawn “went unanswered” and criticized what he said was a rushed decision. “Authorizing another use of force in Haiti … is short-sighted” without the details sought by the Russian Federation, he said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he hopes countries leading the mission will hold in-depth consultations with Haitian officials on the deployment of the security force and explained his opposition to the resolution.

“Without a legitimate, effective, and responsible government in place, any external support can hardly have any lasting effects,” he said, adding that a consensus for a transition is urgently needed as well as a “feasible and credible” timetable. “Regrettably, the resolution just adopted fails to send the strongest signal in that regard.”

Généus, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister, said he’s grateful the resolution was approved because a foreign armed force is essential but noted that it’s “not enough.”

“Socioeconomic development must be taken into account to take care of extreme poverty,” he said.

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