Kenyan Court Blocks Deployment of Police Force to Haiti

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A Kenyan court on Friday prohibited the deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti, jeopardizing a multinational security force charged with stabilizing the chaos-hit Caribbean island nation before it even got off the ground.

The force, which is backed by the United Nations and financed by the United States, had been stalled since October, when Kenyan opponents of the mission challenged it in court, calling it unconstitutional. The High Court upheld some of those arguments on Friday, throwing into doubt the latest international effort to rescue an impoverished country that is spiraling ever deeper into violence and instability.

“An order is issued prohibiting the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti or any other country,” Justice Chacha Mwita said at the conclusion of a judgment that took 40 minutes to read.

The international force was meant to help break the grip of the armed gangs that control most of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and have turned Haiti into one of the world’s most dangerous nations. Haiti’s government has pleaded for foreign military forces to be sent in to restore order, but the United States and Canada have been unwilling to commit their own troops.

Kenya agreed last summer to lead the mission, with backing from Washington, which pledged $200 million. The force was intended to eventually increase to 3,000 security officers.

But just a handful of Caribbean nations have stepped forward to contribute troops, and the court order on Friday threw the mission even further into doubt. The Kenya government is expected to appeal the decision.

The daunting task facing any mission to Haiti was highlighted by the latest violent eruption in the capital last week.

Flaming barricades sprang up across Port-au-Prince as police officers clashed with armed gangs, sending the city into lockdown as residents retreated into their homes, seeking shelter. About 24 people were killed — not an unusual toll in a country of fewer than 12 million people where about 5,000 people died violently last year, twice as many as in 2022, and about 2,500 were kidnapped, the United Nations said this week.

Haiti’s political system is teetering on the verge of collapse. Calls have been growing for the resignation of the interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, who has been in charge since the assassination in 2021 of President Jovenal Moïse.

In advance of Friday’s ruling, a spokesman for Kenya’s police declined to answer questions about the composition of the force. But Western officials briefed on the force said it was intended to initially include 400 officers drawn from Kenya’s Border Police Unit and the paramilitary General Service Unit — officers whose work normally involves fighting Islamist militants, border smugglers and cattle rustlers.

All of that is now in doubt, even though Kenya’s Parliament approved the mission in November.

Andre Paulte contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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