Kenya’s government will not wait for an appeals court ruling before deploying forces to Haiti, a senior government official said, further underscoring the government’s determination to press ahead with a proposed multinational force aimed at bringing stability to the Caribbean nation ravaged by gangs.
Abraham Korir Sing’Oei, the principal secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, told The New York Times in an interview that Kenya and Haiti are working to finalize a bilateral agreement in the next two weeks and that, once in place, its forces Kenya will direct development.
Mr Sing’Oei’s statement comes just a week after the country’s Supreme Court blocked the deployment of 1,000 police, saying it could only go ahead if there was a “mutual agreement” detailing the framework under which the force of Kenya can do business in Haiti. .
government of Kenya appealed the decision.
Mr. Sing’Oei said the Supreme Court provided a legal avenue for development, namely the bilateral reciprocal agreement with Haiti. However, he said the government has appealed the decision to a higher court to seek clarification on some findings the government “finds problematic”.
However, he added, “development need not wait for the conclusion of this appeal.”
He did not give a specific timeline for when the officers would leave for Haiti.
Kenyan President William Ruto remained optimistic about the plan, telling Reuters last week that the mission would go ahead despite the court ruling.
Observers say Mr Ruto, who came to power in 2022, is adamant about going ahead with the plan in order to raise his profile as a global political and pan-African leader. He has also described the Haiti plan as “a mission for humanity,” which would help a nation whose people are part of the African diaspora.
His government’s decision to bypass the courts will likely open another legal challenge from activists and human rights groups who have denounced the development plan as unconstitutional. It would also open another door of controversy for Mr Ruto, whose government faces mounting criticism over the East African nation’s mounting economic challenges. By defying the courts, Mr Ruto will also step up his showdown with the judiciary, which he recently accused of obstructing his government’s plans.
One of those plans was the mission to Haiti.
Last July, the administration announced it would lead a multinational force to bring order to Haiti, where gangs have taken over entire neighborhoods and an estimated 5,000 people have been killed in 2023. The United Nations Security Council approved the mission in October, and the Biden administration committed to fund the mission with $200 million.
But the operation quickly became a political wedge issue in Kenya, denounced by activists and opposition leaders. Critics said the plan violated Kenya’s constitution because it would put officers at unnecessary risk and was carried out without wider public debate or the direct authorization of government agencies charged with national security.
Rights groups have also pointed to the dismal record of Kenyan police, who have been accused of killing more than 100 people last year and firing on protesters during anti-government protests. Many also questioned how Kenyan forces would protect civilians in Haiti even as they struggled to contain the threat of bandits and the Al Shabab terror group within their borders.
After a parliamentary session in November, lawmakers approved a proposal to allow the deployment of the force, but a Supreme Court judge blocked the plan in late January, throwing its future into disarray.
Despite the court order, the United States reaffirmed its support for the mission last month.
In a statement, the State Department acknowledged the Kenyan court’s decision and the government’s intention to challenge it, and called on the international community to “respond to the unprecedented levels of gang violence and destabilizing forces preying on the Haitian people.”
But even as Kenyan officials begin to work out a “mutual agreement,” lawyers and activists have begun to consider what that would entail.
Mr Sing’Oei said the agreement would follow the National Police Act, which states that the president can designate a country as a “reciprocal nation” once he is satisfied that it has equivalent laws to those governing Kenya’s forces abroad.
Observers say Mr Ruto now faces pressure to show he carefully assessed all the necessary conditions before making such a decision if he is to avoid further legal challenges.
“When the law gives this power to anyone – in our case, the president – it is prudent not to base the decision on caprice, diplomatic populism or even pure equality,” wrote Waikwa Wanyoike, a constitutional lawyer, in a column on Sunday. in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. “Rather, it must be taken on the basis of prudence and objectivity — with adequate justification offered honestly.”
David C. Adams contributed reporting from Miami.