Kenya’s Police Are No Match for Haiti’s Urban Warfare Nightmare

Kenya’s Police Are No Match for Haiti’s Urban Warfare Nightmare
Police officers take cover during an anti-gang operation in the Portail neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 25, 2023 (AP photo by Odelyn Joseph).

In early August, Kenya volunteered to lead a multinational force to reestablish security in Haiti. Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said Nairobi would deploy 1,000 police officers to assist Haiti’s police to “restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations.” The U.S. and Canada immediately welcomed the offer, while Jamaica and the Bahamas pledged to contribute another 350 officers. The mission, which would be organized outside the auspices of the United Nations, would represent the foreign intervention that Haiti’s government first pleaded for in October 2022.

The country’s crisis has been devastating, with no end in sight. In July 2021, then-President Jovenel Moise was assassinated by Colombian mercenaries.* After Haiti’s chief prosecutor accused then-interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry of helping the killers, Henry fired him and has since ruled unelected. Crime has soared, with gangs kidnapping 300 people for ransom this year, close to the total for all of 2022 and triple the total in 2021. They have also blockaded ports and highways, crippling the economy: Nearly half the population is going hungry, and 90 percent live below the poverty line. Many schools and hospitals have closed, and cholera has returned.

When Kenya’s assessment team arrives in the country in the coming weeks, it will therefore discover that Haiti’s crisis is not just a policing challenge. It is an urban warfare nightmare.

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