A Kenyan court ruled Friday that plans to send police officers to Haiti to lead a U.N.-sanctioned mission were unconstitutional, casting doubt on the future of an initiative to combat gang violence in that country of the Caribbean.
In October, an opposition party challenged the government’s decision to send 1,000 officers to deal with a deepening crisis in Haiti, where gang violence has killed nearly 5,000 people and forced about 200,000 people to leave their homes last year.
Kenya had hoped to have its officers in Haiti as early as this month after the United Nations Security Council approved the mission in October, but a court suspended the deployment shortly after.
High Court Justice Chacha Mwita said that under Kenyan law, authorities could only deploy officers abroad if a “reciprocal agreement” was in place with the host government.
“Any further action or measure taken by any state organ or state official in pursuance of such decision contravenes the Constitution and the law and is therefore unconstitutional, illegal and invalid,” Mwita said.
The government said in a statement it would appeal the decision and reiterated “its commitment to honor its international obligations as a member of the community and the committee of nations.”
Thousands killed and kidnapped last year
Haiti first requested help in 2022 as gang violence increased, but failed to find a country willing to lead a security mission.
Many governments have been reluctant to support the unelected administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and intervene in a country where previous missions have been marred by human rights abuses.
Canada last year said it would provide $100 million in aid to the Haitian National Police and has sanctioned a number of economic and political actors who it says have facilitated gang violence and corruption, but has been reluctant to lead an armed international stabilization force. Canada participated in such missions to Haiti in the late 1990s and in 2004, the year then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country amid allegations of corruption and violence. rebels.
Kenya finally came forward last July, saying it was doing so in solidarity with a sister nation. The Bahamas then hired 150 people, and Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda said they were ready to help.
The United Nations said this week it recorded 4,789 people killed by gang violence in Haiti last year, an increase of 119% from 2022, and that another 3,000 were kidnapped.
Six Catholic nuns kidnapped last week in the Haitian capital were released Wednesday alongside two other hostages, the archbishop of Port-au-Prince said in a statement Wednesday evening. The statement did not say whether a ransom was paid or provide details on who might be responsible.
The head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, Ghada Waly, warned Thursday of a “vicious cycle” of arms trafficking to increasingly powerful Haitian gangs. A recent UNODC report found that most of the illegal firearms seized in Haiti came from the United States.