Kenya Delays Deployment to Haiti Following Haitian PM’s Resignation

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien is a published journalist and historicist with over six years of experience in freelance journalism and research. His primary expertise is in African conflict and politics, with additional specialization in Israeli/Palestinian and Armenia/Azerbaijan conflicts. Sébastien serves as the deputy desk chief for Africa.

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Another Delay

Kenya’s police deployment to Haiti, which has already faced several months of delays, has faced yet another delay as the Kenyan government announced that they were delaying their deployment to Haiti after the Haitian Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, resigned on Monday.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Secretary, Korir Sing’oei, stated that the PM’s resignation has made a “fundamental change in circumstances”, which has resulted in the delay.

In addition to the change of the political situation, which has resulted in Haiti having no leader, the rapidly deteriorating security situation has emboldened opposition politicians who had already said that the mission was too dangerous, and Kenyan police not trained nor equipped enough to handle the challenge.

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

Kenya has stated they will wait for an interim government to be established before going ahead with the deployment. Without the existence of an interim government, they will not be able to coordinate with Haitian security forces in order to carry out operations.

“Without a political administration in Haiti, there is no anchor on which the police deployment can rest, hence Government will await the installation of a new constitutional authority in Haiti, before taking further decisions on the matter. Kenya reiterates commitment to providing leadership to the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission” -Foreign Affairs Secretary Sing’oei

Regardless of the political situation, there are still hurdles at home for the Kenyan deployment to overcome. On January 26th, Nairobi’s High Court ruled the deployment unconstitutional, however ruled that if Haiti and Kenya were to sign a “reciprocal agreement” that such an agreement may meet the legal requirements for such a deployment. The now former PM Henry and Kenyan President William Ruto earlier in March signed this agreement in Kenya.

Beforehand, whether the agreement signed would fulfill legal requirements or not would have been up to Kenya’s Court of Appeal, in a court hearing that has yet to have an assigned date.

Now the waters are further muddied as the legitimacy of the signed agreement has been called into question with PM Henry’s resignation. Opposition lawmakers were already claiming the agreement as illegitimate due to PM Henry technically being unelected. It is unclear at the moment if Kenya will have to sign a new reciprocal agreement with the interim government, once it is formed, in order to satisfy the courts needs.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry pictured with Kenyan President William Ruto in Kenya (Photo from the Kenyan Presidency).

Ekuru Aukot, the opposition politician who first launched legal challenges against the government’s planned deployment, has vowed further challenges to the deployment, claiming that the unelected PM Henry did not have the authority to enter into such an agreement. Aukot’s original challenge is what has led to several months of delays for the deployment.

The US has expressed faith that the deployment will take place soon after the establishment of the interim government.

“We think those are steps that will happen, as I said, in the very near future, and that would pave the way for this mission to go forward without delay” -State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller

The US has a lot of stakes in both the deployment and Haiti in general, with being the primary funder of the mission as well as the primary location for migration from Haiti, which has the potential to get worse due to the deteriorating security situation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced the deployment of 250 additional police officers and national guardsmen, as well as the deployment of 12 aircraft and ships in anticipation of an increased migrant flow from Haiti. Florida is the closest US state to Haiti, and remains a hotspot for migration from the country.

The Deployment

Kenya has offered to head a multi-national UN deployment to Haiti with 1,000 police officers. Kenya’s police 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 PM 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 pledged 300 million USD to the mission, 200 of which is to come from the Department of Defence.

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. PM Henry became the acting President following President Moise’s assassination. Haiti has not had an election since 2016.

Rapid Deterioration

While PM Henry was out of the country travelling to Kenya in order to sign the reciprocal agreement, the nations gangs, primarily the G9 headed by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, launched attacks nation wide. Attacks were largely concentrated in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the gangs launched attacks against airports, prisons, police stations, businesses, and the city port. The gangs were successful in a number of these attacks, which began as a rather violent method of ‘protest’ against both PM Henry and the deployment, and quickly turned into attacks aimed at bringing about PM Henry’s resignation, as was demanded by Cherizier.

Undisclosed gang members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Photo from Collin Mayfield).

The attacks successfully freed several thousand prisoners from Haitian jails in attacks on March 2nd. Several days later, on March 5th, PM Henry was attempting to return to Haiti after having travelled to Kenya. He boarded a charter flight in the US, and headed for Haiti. However, attacks by the G9 against the Port-au-Prince airport, with the purpose of preventing PM Henry from returning, grounded flights and prevented the PM’s plane from landing. The neighbouring Dominican Republic refused the planes request to land there, prompting them to fly to Puerto Rico, where it is believed PM Henry remains. Several days later, with mounting internal and external pressure, PM Henry resigned on March 11th.

Haitian authorities announced they managed to regain control of the port.

For several years, Haiti has experienced a rising trend in homicides, and kidnappings. Kidnappings frequently take place as civilians, including foreign nationals, are ransomed. In 2023, Haiti experienced approximately 4,800 homicides. This was more than double that of 2022. Three months into 2024, and Haiti is already set to again beat out the previous year, with more than 1,000 homicides having taken place this year.

Although the US and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have stated that an interim government will be established in the wake of PM Henry’s resignation, there has been no established timeline for when this will come to fruition.

President Ruto stated that in conversations between him and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he was told “a new Presidential council will be formed shortly”. He further reaffirmed Kenya’s commitment to leading the UN mission.

With the extreme security situation, the EU and Germany have completely evacuated their embassies. The US, Canada, and France have all evacuated non-essential embassy staff. The US has deployed the Marine Corps FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team) to Haiti in order to ensure the protection of its embassy.

The World Bank has also evacuated a number of its personnel from Haiti.

Haiti’s police number around 9,000, leaving them vastly undermanned, and also underequipped to deal with the security situation in the country. Several police officers have been killed in the last two weeks clashes between gangs and security forces. Following the initial attacks launched by gangs, Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency.

Initially the gangs stated goal was to force PM Henry’s resignation. Since they have succeeded in this, it is unclear what exactly their next goals are, however Cherizier has stated ambitions for a complete change of the Haitian political system.