Kenya and Haiti Sign Security Deal

A Potential End

Kenya and Haiti have signed a security deal, a ‘reciprocal arrangement’, aimed at finally allowing Kenya to deploy a force of 1,000 police officers in an attempt to combat Haiti’s plethora of gangs.

The agreement is what the government hopes is the last qualifier it needs in order to satisfy requirements for the deployment from the Nairobi High Court, which had ruled the deployment as unconstitutional. Part of the reason for this ruling was that no such reciprocal agreement between Kenya and Haiti existed.

The agreement was finally signed after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry made a visit to Kenya, with the goal of signing the agreement. It remains unclear at this time if the agreement will be enough to finally greenlight the deployment, which Kenya announced its intention to head in July of 2023.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate Kenya’s commitment to contribute to the success of this multi-national mission. We believe this is a historic duty because peace in Haiti is good for the world as a whole” -Kenyan President William Ruto

Following the announcement of the agreement, PM Henry stated that him and President Ruto “discussed the next steps to enable the fast-tracking of the deployment.” Although presently no specific date has been set for the deployment, the two nations have constantly spoken of fast tracking the process as pressure has been on to get boots on the ground.

Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry (back left) and Kenyan President William Ruto (back right) witness the signing of the reciprocal arrangement between the two nations in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 1st, 2024 (Photo from the Kenyan State House).

On the Backdrop of Violence

As PM Henry and President Ruto were meeting in Kenya, major violence erupted in Haiti resulting in a terrified populace. On February 29th the gangs of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, launched a wave of attacks against both civilians and police. Gunfire rang out throughout the capital, prompting shops to close and airlines to halt flights, given the danger that was presented. Thousands of people were witnessed fleeing the downtown either on foot or in the city’s public transports.

Ensuing clashes killed four police officers. It is unknown how many civilian and gang casualties there were.

One of the most prominent gang leaders, Jimmy Cherizier (aka ‘Barbecue’), has vowed to overthrow PM Henry.

“We have chosen to take our destiny in our own hands. The battle we are waging will not only topple the Ariel government. It is a battle that will change the whole system” -Jimmy Cherizier

The show of force, meant as a way of ‘protest’ by the gangs, showcases the dire need for the deployment.

A group of Hatian gang members, headed by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier (Photo from Matias Delacroix/AP).

The Deployment

Kenya is to head a multi-national UN deployment to Haiti with 1,000 police officers, however they are to be joined by police from Jamaica, Belize, Chad, Senegal, and Burundi, who all have pledged forces to the deployment.

A multi-national deployment, UN or not, was initially requested by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in 2022. The call was not answered until July 2023, when President Ruto announced Kenya’s intention to head the force, in cooperation with the UN.

The “mission for humanity”, as President Ruto described it, will be funded and supplied by the UN, with the US being the primary backer having already pledged 200 million USD to the mission.

Many nations have been reluctant to commit to the mission in Haiti with the convoluted political situation the nation has, having gone three years without an elected president since President Jovenal Moise was assassinated in 2021. Presently, PM Ariel Henry is the acting President.

Delays Upon Delays

The deployment, which was initially requested by Haiti, has been approved by the UN, and approved by the Kenyan parliament. However, on several occasions, it has been denied by Kenyan courts.

The court first rejected it in October of 2023, mere days after the UN approved the mission, stating that it was unconstitutional citing both the current issue of deploying police outside of Kenya, as well as on the grounds that it does not invoke public participation.

Following a survey of public views on the deployment in early November the Kenyan parliament approved the mission on November 16th, stating that the need for public participation had been met, and argued that since Haiti had specifically requested police officers that satisfied any legal requirements for deploying police officers outside of Kenya.

Kenyan police forces pictured in Nairobi, 2023 (Photo from YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/File).

The court again rejected the deployment, just a few hours after the parliamentary approval. At the time, the court had stated a final decision would be made on January 26th, 2024. January 26th came, and passed with a third rejection of the deployment.

The court had again stated that the deployment of police officers outside of Kenya would be a violation of the constitution and Kenyan law. However, they said should there be a “reciprocal arrangement” with the host country, that it would be allowed.

Said reciprocal arrangement was just signed between Kenya and Haiti. As stated, it is the hope of the government and President Ruto that this agreement will be the last piece of the puzzle to allow for Kenya to finally deploy to Haiti.

Election Promises

Since President Jovenal Moise’s assassination in 2021, PM Ariel Henry has acted as the nations leader. Previously, he had stated that he would step down in early February. Since then, PM Henry has instead stated that security must be re-established before the nation is able to hold elections, and has remained in office.

Elections in Haiti to elect a new President were supposed to take place in 2022 and 2023, however never took place and as such Haiti has technically gone without a President since 2021.

PM Henry claimed that elections would take place by August 2025. This is not the first time PM Henry has promised election dates, and as such skepticism remains around if an election will truly happen on such a date.

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Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.