UN approves international mission to Haiti to counter gang violence

Click to play video: '‘As bad as I’ve seen it’: How can Haiti emerge from years of unrest?'
‘As bad as I’ve seen it’: How can Haiti emerge from years of unrest?
WATCH: 'As bad as I've seen it': How can Haiti emerge from years of unrest? – Aug 24, 2023

The United Nations Security Council voted on Monday to send a multinational force to Haiti to combat violent gangs that have overwhelmed the Caribbean country.

Kenya will lead the mission that will deploy to Haiti for one year, according to the resolution approved by 13 council members. China and Russia abstained from the vote.

The resolution drafted by the U.S. and Ecuador authorizes the so-called Multinational Security Support mission “to take all necessary measures” — not ruling out the use of force if necessary.

“More than just a simple vote, this is in fact an expression of solidarity with a population in distress,” said Jean Victor Geneus, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister. “It’s a glimmer of hope for the people who have been suffering for too long.”

Haiti’s national police force has been struggling to restore order to the country in order to hold long-promised elections.

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A deployment date has not been set, although U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said a security mission to Haiti could deploy “in months.”

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua said last week that the force could deploy within two to three months, or possibly early January. He also noted that key officers are being taught French.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau wraps up New York City trip with focus on Haiti'
Trudeau wraps up New York City trip with focus on Haiti

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council in August that a “robust use of force” by a multinational police deployment and the use of military assets was needed to restore law and order in Haiti and disarm gangs.

Earlier this year, Canada rejected calls from Western allies to lead such a mission, prompting the UN to seek out other countries who could do so.

Kenya stepped forward in July with a pledge of 1,000 police. The Bahamas then committed 150 people, while Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda are also willing to help. Despite those pledged numbers, it wasn’t immediately clear on Monday how large the force might be.

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Last month, the Biden administration promised the U.S. would provide logistics and US$100 million to support the Kenyan-led force.

Canada has opted to send humanitarian aid and military resources to help train Haiti’s national police to combat the gangs, who have blocked ports and effectively brought the capital of Port-au-Prince to a standstill as civilians flee increased killings and kidnappings.

From Jan. 1 until Aug. 15, more than 2,400 people in Haiti were reported killed, more than 950 kidnapped and another 902 injured, according to the most recent UN statistics.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau announces additional $100M for police support in Haiti, Biden says situation ‘difficult’'
Trudeau announces additional $100M for police support in Haiti, Biden says situation ‘difficult’

At the United Nations last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged another $80 million in humanitarian aid and security help for the overmatched Haitian police, and said a solution to the crisis must come from within the country.

“The only lasting solutions will come through working with the Haitian people themselves, empowering the Haitian people themselves to direct and take responsibility for the future,” he told reporters.

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The 15-member council on Monday also expanded a UN arms embargo to include all gangs. The embargo previously only applied to designated individuals. Haitian officials have said guns used by gangs are believed to be mostly imported from the United States.

Haitians are wary of an armed UN presence. The Caribbean country was free of cholera until 2010, when UN peacekeepers dumped infected sewage into a river. More than 9,000 people died of the disease, and some 800,000 fell ill. The mission ended in October 2017.

Click to play video: 'Haiti crisis: International community hesitant to intervene'
Haiti crisis: International community hesitant to intervene

In abstaining from the vote, Russia’s representative Vassily Nebenzia said he does not have any objections in principle to the resolution, but said that sending an armed force to a country even at its request “is an extreme measure that must be thought through.”

China’s representative, Zhang Jun, said he hopes countries leading the mission will hold in-depth consultations with Haitian officials on the deployment of the security force, adding that a “legitimate, effective, accountable government” needs to be in place in Haiti for any resolution to have effect.

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He also said the resolution does not contain a feasible or credible timetable for the deployment of the force.

A review of the mission will be required after nine months, according to the resolution.

—with files from the Associated Press and Reuters

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