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The High Court of Kenya on Monday ruled against a decision to send Kenyan police officers to lead a United Nations-backed mission in Haiti that would assist the country in combatting its endemic gang violence, throwing the future of an international mission to help the country into doubt, the Associated Press reported.
The court quashed a government initiative to deploy 1,000 officers as part of an international force in Haiti, which parliament had approved last November, one year after the Caribbean country requested foreign help to cope with gang takeovers and lawlessness.
Judge Chacha Mwita said that Kenya’s National Security Council, led by President William Ruto, does not have the competence to order a deployment abroad and that such a move had to abide by the constitution.
The verdict came after weeks of disputes between President Ruto and Kenya’s judiciary branch. Analysts described it as a show of independence from the judges after Ruto’s administration had allegedly tried to “intimidate” them, the BBC reported.
The government said it would appeal the court’s decision. But the length of that procedure has left Haitians doubting whether the promised international effort will ever reach the country.
Kenya was supposed to lead a 3,000-officer force backed by the UN and joined by Belize, Burundi, Chad, Jamaica, and Senegal. Without Kenya, it is unclear whether the other states could embark on the mission.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the need for this force “remains extremely high,” with envoy Maria Isabel Salvador saying the situation in Haiti has “reached a critical point.”
An estimated 8,400 people were killed, injured, or kidnapped by gangs last year in Haiti – more than double the 2022 figure. About 300 criminal groups have captured 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The victims include police officers. Haiti’s National Police has been overwhelmed and as a result become ineffective in fighting the gang violence.
However, the blocking of the multinational force was hailed by some. Mercy Corps Country Director for Haiti, Laurent Uwumuremyi, explained that previous similar international efforts, such as the 2004-2017 United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, had caused more damage than good for Haiti.
Former rebel Guy Philippe argued that the forces would have supported a government despised by the Haitians, and he accused of “helping gangs.”
Meanwhile, reacting to the Kenyan High Court’s ruling, Pastor Malory Laurent lamented, “Every day, you feel there is no hope.”