[EXCLUSIVE] Kenya-Led Security Mission in Haiti Faces Potential Extension to 2026

President William Ruto during a past visit to the Border Police Unit in Kanyonyoo, Kitui County.

The eagerly awaited Kenya-led Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti is poised for deployment within the next three weeks, with the mission's tenure potentially extending until 2026.

This development marks a significant yet cautious step in addressing the spiraling violence and instability that have gripped the Caribbean nation since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

In an exclusive interview with Kenyans.co.ke, the United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Haiti, Ambassador William O'Neill, highlighted the complexities and potential duration of the mission. Initially authorized for a 12-month period starting in October 2023, the peacekeeping initiative has faced considerable delays, pushing its effective deployment to mid-2024.

"I mean, the problem now is the mission was supposed to be, it was authorized in October. It's now basically June and there's still nobody has set foot in Haiti. So I mean, that only leaves four months or so. So clearly, uh, 12 months wasn't enough," O'Neill remarked.

He emphasized the likelihood of extending the mandate, potentially through 2026, to ensure stability and support for Haiti's forthcoming elections in late 2025. Before stepping down, troubled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to hold general elections by Aug. 31 next year.

However, O’Neil explained that the deployment is more complicated, arguing that regaining the country will be one thing, but ensuring stability and dealing with decades-long challenges will be another challenge altogether.  

"The development issues we’re talking about are a decade or so. The security issue, I think, could be relatively quick, but you have to make sure you stabilise it. People need to stay around and make sure,” he asserted.

Ambassador William O'Neil addressing a past press conference.

O'Neill elaborated on the mission's strategic approach, distinguishing between the roles of soldiers and police officers. "Soldiers are very good at guarding territory. Police are not good at guarding. They deal with public security, violence, and gangs, but they're not trained to take and hold territory. And that's what soldiers do," he explained. This strategic deployment aims to secure key sites, such as the fuel terminal, airport, and presidential palace, allowing the police to focus on combating gang violence.

Kenya's commitment to lead this UN-backed force, announced last year, represents a critical effort to restore order in Haiti. The mission, which will eventually comprise around 2,500 personnel, including 1,000 Kenyan troops and 1,500 soldiers and police officers from other nations, has garnered financial and logistical support from the United States. This support was solidified through a defense agreement signed between Kenya and the US in September 2023.

President William Ruto confirmed the imminent deployment in an interview with the BBC, noting that a planning team was already in Haiti, coordinating with local police to finalise arrangements. "Once we have that assessment that we agreed with the Haitian police and the Haitian leadership, we are looking at the horizon of between three weeks and there about for us to be ready to deploy, once everything on the ground is set," Ruto stated.

The United Nations reports a staggering toll from the violence in the first quarter of the year, with 2,500 people, including 82 children, either killed or injured.

Nearly half of these casualties resulted from bullets during gang clashes or attacks on neighborhoods. Kidnappings have surged, with 438 reported cases within the same period, and sexual violence against women and girls is on the rise.

The humanitarian crisis is equally severe. Over 362,000 people, half of them children, have been displaced due to the violence. The escalating insecurity has also disrupted education, leaving tens of thousands of children unable to attend school.

President William Ruto and former Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry, at State House, Nairobi on February 29, 2024.
President William Ruto and former Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry, at State House, Nairobi on February 29, 2024.
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