In a recent development, the United States and Kenya have agreed on a defense partnership. This agreement aims to provide financial and operational assistance to Kenya for its involvement in an international mission to address the violence in Haiti. The deal, signed in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 25, 2023, will guide their defense cooperation for the next five years.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale signed the pact, underlining the significance of the strategic partnership between the two nations. Austin commended Kenya for its efforts in countering Al-Shabaab, an extremist group in East Africa linked to Al-Qaeda. He also expressed gratitude for Kenya’s willingness to lead a multinational mission to help stabilize Haiti, which has been grappling with escalating gang violence.
Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, is largely controlled by criminal gangs, leading to a surge in violent incidents, including kidnappings and sexual violence. Thousands of Haitians have been displaced as a result. In October 2022, Haiti’s de facto President, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, requested international assistance to establish a specialized armed force to quell the violence. Both the U.S. and the United Nations supported the idea, but progress was hindered as no country volunteered to lead the mission.
Critics, including human rights advocates, have raised concerns about foreign intervention, citing past missions that have had mixed results. They have called for robust protection measures to be in place. In July 2023, Kenya stepped forward, offering to lead a multinational force in Haiti pending approval from the UN Security Council. This mission’s objective would be to assist the Haitian police in restoring stability by providing training and support.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the UN Security Council to approve the mission, assuring that it could be ready for deployment within months. He also pledged substantial financial and logistical support from Washington. Kenya committed to sending 1,000 security personnel to aid Haiti. However, human rights advocates have voiced concerns about potential human rights violations during security operations, citing previous incidents in Kenya.