Kenya’s Haiti mission faces uncertain costs despite UN approval

Police recruits march during a pass out parade at Kiganjo Training College in Nyeri County, Kenya on March 3, 2017.

The UN Security Council has granted approval for Kenya to lead the Multinational Security Support mission (MSS) in Haiti. However, the mission’s deployment costs remain uncertain and may not be known until the following year.

On Monday, the UNSC passed Resolution 2699/23 with 13 votes in favor and 2 abstentions, allowing Kenya to deploy its promised 1,000 police personnel. Other nations like Jamaica, Antigua and Bermuda, and the Bahamas have volunteered to send personnel as well. Mongolia, Spain, Senegal, and Belize have expressed support, and Canada has pledged to assist in fundraising for the mission.

The Council called upon member states and regional organizations to contribute personnel, equipment, and essential financial and logistical resources based on the MSS’s urgent requirements. Although mandated by the UN, the mission may not receive direct funding from the UN’s security funding channels, indicating its reliance on donor support and voluntary contributions from member states.

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The Council mentioned that the UN Secretary-General might provide logistical support packages to the MSS upon request, subject to full financial reimbursement through voluntary contributions and compliance with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP). The mission’s mandate and viability will be periodically reviewed, with the understanding that the cost will be covered by voluntary contributions.

The US, co-sponsor of the resolution with Ecuador, pledged an initial $100 million in financial assistance and an additional $100 million in technical support for the mission. Canada also committed to providing technical support.

The MSS was initiated almost a year after Haiti requested external assistance to combat gang violence. However, Russia and China abstained from the vote, arguing that elevating the deployment under Chapter VII of the UN Charter was too high a bar and that the lack of a stable government could exacerbate the situation.

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The MSS’s responsibilities include training and equipping local officers, guarding critical installations like the main airport and seaport, and addressing various security challenges in Haiti. The mission will be encouraged to use community policing and report on strategies to combat rights violations.

During the mission’s duration, UN member states are prohibited from selling or transferring arms to Haiti, except to mandated Haitian authorities.

The MSS’s cost is expected to be high due to its incorporation of health, environmental conservation components, and humanitarian support arms.

Kenya expressed readiness to deploy, highlighting its history of peacekeeping missions. The National Peace Support Operations Fund was established to support Kenyan troops deployed abroad, with the government contributing Ksh1 billion ($6.9 million).

The mission, scheduled to begin in January, has sparked controversy due to the challenges faced by the officers. Kenya’s President, William Ruto, pledged to leave a “different footprint” in Haiti, emphasizing the need for local understanding and support.

Amnesty International UK Executive Director Sacha Deshmukh emphasized the importance of an intervention force having a deep understanding of the country’s human rights and context. Some observers believe Kenya should be given the benefit of the doubt, given its experience dealing with local gangs, albeit controversially.

The mission’s success will depend on the genuine commitment of its backers, particularly the USA, in supporting Haiti’s return to stability and functional governance. Kenya’s team will comprise units from its special Administration Police Service, including the Border Patrol Unit (BPU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), and the General Service Unit (GSU), who may not be familiar with the local terrain or languages, potentially posing risks to both locals and officers.

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