By Spy Uganda
The U.N. Security Council voted Monday to send a multinational armed force led by Kenya to Haiti to help combat violent gangs, marking the first time in almost 20 years that a force would be deployed to the troubled Caribbean nation.
The resolution drafted by the United States and Ecuador was approved with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions from China and the Russian Federation.
The resolution authorizes the force to deploy for one year, with a review after nine months. The non-U.N. mission would be funded by voluntary contributions, with the U.S. pledging up to $200 million.
The vote was held nearly a year after Haiti’s prime minister requested the immediate deployment of an armed force, which is expected to quell a surge in gang violence and restore security so Haiti can hold long-delayed elections. Haiti’s National Police has struggled in its fight against gangs with only about 10,000 active officers in a country of more than 11 million people.
“More than just a simple vote, this is in fact an expression of solidarity with a population in distress,” said Jean Victor Généus, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister. “It’s a glimmer of hope for the people who have been suffering for too long.”
A deployment date has not been set, although U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said a security mission to Haiti could deploy “in months.”
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua said last week that the force could deploy within two to three months, or possibly early January. He also noted that key officers are being taught French.
Hours after the vote, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry thanked the U.N. Security Council, the U.N.’s secretary general and Kenya and other countries who agreed to join the force, saying, “The bell of liberation sounded. … We couldn’t wait any longer!”
It wasn’t immediately clear how big the force would be. Kenya’s government has previously proposed sending 1,000 police officers. In addition, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda have pledged to send personnel.
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Federation’s U.N. ambassador, said he did not have any objections in principle to the resolution, but that sending an armed force to a country even at its request “is an extreme measure that must be thought through.”
He said multiple requests for details including the use of force and when it would be withdrawn “went unanswered” and criticized what he said was a rushed decision. “Authorizing another use of force in Haiti … is short-sighted” without the details sought by the Russian Federation, he said.
China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he hopes countries leading the mission will hold in-depth consultations with Haitian officials on the deployment and explained his opposition to the resolution.
“Without a legitimate, effective, and responsible government in place, any external support can hardly have any lasting effects,” he said, adding that a consensus for a transition is urgently needed as well as a “feasible and credible” timetable. “Regrettably, the resolution just adopted fails to send the strongest signal in that regard.”