UN hopes Haiti force will start in early 2024
GENEVA, Switzerland, (AFP) — The United Nations (UN) said Friday it hopes the multinational security force heading to Haiti to help combat violent gangs will deploy before April next year.
Ulrika Richardson, the UNs’ resident coordinator in Haiti, said the force should be around 2,500 strong, though the composition has not been finalised.
The UN Security Council gave the go-ahead in early October for the Kenya-led mission to help the overwhelmed Haitian police.
Richardson told a media briefing in Geneva she hopes they will be able to deploy “during the first quarter of 2024.”
The force will include around 1,000 Kenyan police, whose involvement has been criticised at home. The government is currently barred from deploying any police to Haiti due to an ongoing court challenge.
Judge Enock Mwita last month said the orders blocking the deployment would stay in force until he issues a ruling on January 26.
Richardson said the Kenyan authorities had nonetheless gone ahead with preparations for the mission.
Several discussions have taken place between the United Nations and Kenya to set up the force, which is not being run by the UN.
A Kenyan delegation has already gone to Haiti to prepare for the deployment, Richardson said.
– Gang control –
Rampant gang violence is just one of the challenges facing the poorest state in the Americas, whose political, economic and public health systems are in tatters.
So far in 2023, more than 8,000 people have been killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti according to the UN human rights office — far surpassing the figures for the whole of 2022.
The UN estimates that almost 80 per cent of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area is either under the influence of or directly controlled by armed gangs.
Haiti has descended into “absolute, brutal violence”, Richardson said.
“Many Haitians often think that we’ve now reached the peak of violence, and then we see just the next week: even more brutal.”
Richardson said more than 5.2 million people, almost half of the population, needed humanitarian assistance, including nearly three million children.
The UN’s 2023 humanitarian response has received only 33 per cent of the required funding.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council on Thursday that Haiti “is caught in a vicious cycle of state collapse, escalating gang violence, and a growing illicit trade of firearms smuggled into the country.
“The illicit trade incentivises gangs to gain control of ports, highways, and other critical infrastructure,” he said.
His spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres was concerned by the limited progress in talks towards a lasting and inclusive political solution to restore the country’s democratic institutions.
Guterres urged leaders in Haiti “to come together and reach a broad consensus as a matter of priority”, the spokesman said.
Richardson said it would take 12 to 18 months to organise elections once the security situation stabilises.
The 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise plunged Haiti further into chaos. No elections have taken place since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.