A Kenyan court has temporarily halted the government’s plan to deploy police officers to Haiti as part of a UN-backed mission aimed at restoring order in the gang-infested Caribbean nation.
Last week, the UN Security Council approved a Kenyan-led multinational security force for Haiti, with Nairobi committing to provide 1,000 police officers. However, a Nairobi court granted an interim injunction on Monday following a case brought by opposition politician Ekuru Aukot. Aukot argued that the deployment was unconstitutional as it lacked legal or treaty support.
Aukot, a lawyer who played a role in drafting Kenya’s revised constitution in 2010, contended that Kenya was sending its police force abroad while struggling to address insecurity within its own borders.
High Court judge Enock Mwita ruled in favour of Aukot’s argument, stating, “I am satisfied that the application and petition raise substantial issues of national importance and public interest that require urgent consideration.”
The court issued a conservatory order, temporarily restraining the government from deploying police officers to Haiti or any other country until October 24, 2023.
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has experienced years of turmoil marked by armed gangs seizing control of parts of the country, widespread violence, and a struggling economy and healthcare system.
The details of Kenya’s deployment to Haiti are not yet finalised, as parliamentary approval is still pending, a requirement by law.
The UN-backed mission initially approved for one year, envisions Kenyan police working alongside their Haitian counterparts in offensive operations against heavily armed gangs. The force aims to provide operational support to the Haitian National Police and facilitate joint security support operations.
Additionally, the mission seeks to create conditions conducive to holding elections in Haiti, which have not occurred since 2016.
Kenya’s involvement in the mission has faced criticism domestically, with concerns raised about the risks associated with such an operation. Rights groups have also expressed reservations, citing the Kenyan police’s history of using lethal force against civilians. They argue that deploying Kenyan police to Haiti, where past foreign interventions have seen abuses, poses an unacceptable risk.
President William Ruto defended the deployment as a “mission for humanity,” while Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki assured that parliamentary approvals would be sought, and the nation’s safety would not be compromised.
Kenya, known as a democratic anchor in East Africa, has a history of participating in peacekeeping operations both in its immediate region and globally, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.