UN Security Council approves multinational force for gang-ravaged Haiti

Last multinational force posting ended in disastrous cholera outbreak

Armed members of 'G9 and Family' march in a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. AP
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The UN Security Council adopted on Monday a resolution authorising a multinational force to help restore security to Haiti, the Caribbean nation that has been ravaged by gang violence and political instability for years.

Co-sponsored by the US and Ecuador, the resolution authorises the Multinational Security Support mission “to take all necessary measures” and “adopt urgent temporary measures on an exceptional basis” to prevent deaths and help to secure the country.

The new MSS mission will be led by Kenya, with the Bahamas, Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda also pledging troops.

They will assist Haiti's underfunded and under-resourced National Police, which has only 10,000 active officers for a population of more than 11 million.

Thirteen Security Council members voted in favour, while Russia and China abstained.

“Haiti's history contains a lot of experience of irresponsible foreign interference,” Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, told council members.

"That was what gave rise to the downward spiral that Haitians have not been able to overcome for years.

“Authorising another use of force in Haiti without a precise understanding of the parameters of the mission … is short-sighted.”

Haitians are wary of having an armed UN presence because of past incidents.

In 2004, after a rebellion that led to the removal and exile of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti.

They withdrew in 2017 and were replaced by UN police, who left in 2019.

In the autumn of 2010, a cholera outbreak killed more than 9,000 people.

Experts determined UN peacekeepers who were sent there after a devastating earthquake inadvertently introduced the disease by disposing of infected sewage in a river.

The resolution warns countries taking part in the mission to implement wastewater management and other environmental controls to avert the emergence and dissemination of waterborne illnesses, such as cholera.

In the absence of functioning state security institutions, criminal gangs have overtaken 80 per cent of the capital Port-au-Prince.

They have fuelled levels of violence that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described in his report on Haiti as “comparable to countries in armed conflict”.

Since the start of 2023, more than 2,400 people have been killed in Haiti, the UN says.

The country lacks a single democratically elected official, and the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been unable to reach a political settlement with opposition groups on organising elections.

Mr Henry and the UN chief have been appealing for the past year for an “international specialised force” to temporarily reinforce the efforts of the Haiti National Police to battle armed groups.

The initiative stalled in the absence of a country willing to lead such a mission. But a breakthrough occurred in July when Kenya offered to lead the force and send 1,000 personnel.

However, the East African nation’s offer depended on receiving a mandate from the UN Security Council.

The Security Council began negotiations on the issue this month.

“Let us be clear our work is far from finished,” said US ambassador Jeff DeLaurentis.

"Our focus now turns to making this mission operational and successful in restoring the security conditions the Haitian people have called for."

A senior US official said that other countries have also expressed their commitment to backing the multilateral national security effort.

The resolution as seen by The National states that the “cost of implementing this temporary operation will be borne by voluntary contributions and support from individual member states and regional organisations, and in strict compliance with international law".

The resolution does not specify the size of the mission, but says it will initially be sent for one year, with a review after nine months.

Updated: October 03, 2023, 7:16 AM