(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council on Monday greenlit an international force for Haiti to rein in powerful gangs and clear the way for long-delayed elections.
Under the deal, Kenya will lead a Multinational Security Support mission for a year as backup for the Caribbean nation’s out-gunned and overwhelmed police force.
While the deployment has Security Council backing, it won’t be overseen by UN Peacekeeping and will be funded through voluntary contributions.
Heavily-armed gangs control large parts of the capital as well as swathes of the countryside, and have paralyzed the economy with kidnappings, extortion and turf wars. The US hopes the deployment can help Haiti’s security forces restore stability, and views the extra personnel as a way to support existing police efforts rather than supplant them, senior US officials told reporters on Monday.
Read More: US Wants UN Approval for Kenya-Led Haiti Force Next Week
The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the force would pave the way for long-term stability in Haiti. She called on other nations to join the US in offering support, and said it was imperative that the security forces deploy soon.
“We are committed to surging assistance to this multinational mission,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on Monday evening. “We call on the rest of the international community to join us. We need more countries to step forward. If we act with urgency, the mission can deploy within months. And there is no time to waste.”
The US previously announced it would provide $100 million to support the mission. The Bahamas, Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda have said they would be willing to contribute. With the UN vote out of the way, other nations are also expected to make commitments.
Deploying a force to Haiti is politically fraught, after a UN peacekeeping force that was there from 2004 to 2017 unwittingly introduced cholera that killed thousands. Peacekeepers were also accused of sexual abuse of children.
The US officials said the mission would be monitored closely given rampant corruption in Haiti’s police. Kenya’s security forces have themselves been accused of a series of human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial killings.
Read More: Dominican Republic Closing Its Border With Haiti Amid River Feud
The resolution passed with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions, from Russia and China.
In a statement, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said the mission should begin meeting with the Haitian people and government immediately to build consensus and come up with a credible timetable.
“Without a legitimate, effective, and responsible government in place, any external support can hardly have any lasting effects,” Zhang Jun said.
Wave of Kidnapping
President Ariel Henry has repeatedly asked for security assistance, as the nation has been gripped by violence that has grown worse since the 2021 murder of President Jovenel Moise. Despite multiple promises to hold presidential and legislative elections, Henry has said that the security situation is so dire that they cannot take place.
Through Sept. 9 of this year, the country has seen 3,000 homicides and more than 1,500 kidnappings, the UN reported. In addition, some 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
“It is our fervent wish that Haiti, the first independent black republic, will soon be able to deliver for its people the prosperity they have always deserved,” Jamaica’s UN ambassador Brian Wallace speaking on behalf of the nations of the Caribbean community or Caricom.
(Updates with quote in sixth paragraph.)
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