Biden: International police force will provide ‘much needed relief’ to Haiti

Biden: International police force will provide ‘much needed relief’ to Haiti

President Biden announced Tuesday that an international police force led by Kenya has deployed to Haiti to fight armed gangs and that the troops will provide “much-needed relief” to the crime-stricken Caribbean island.

An initial wave of 400 Kenyan forces arrived Tuesday, the first phase of the eventual deployment of 1,000 troops.

The police force will now have to take on heavily armed gangs, who have taken almost complete control of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and have run amok since February, when gang members consolidated power and freed prisoners.

Biden said that “rampant gang violence” has killed or wounded thousands of Haitians, left more than half a million people displaced and has forced nearly 5 million to face severe food insecurity.

“The people of Haiti deserve to feel safe in their homes, build better lives for their families, and enjoy democratic freedoms,” he said in a statement. “Haiti’s future depends on the return to democratic governance. While these goals may not be accomplished overnight, this mission provides the best chance of achieving them.”

The Kenyan-led force will work with the Haitian National Police fighting against the gangs, but who have been overwhelmed by the strength and numbers of the criminal groups.

While the police force is led by Kenya, several countries are contributing to the mission: Benin, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Algeria, Canada, France, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Spain.

The U.S. is not deploying forces but has committed more than $300 million for the mission, along with another $60 million for equipment.

Biden hosted Kenyan President William Ruto at the White House last month and said he was confident that the police force could break the backs of the armed gangs.

Ruto has also fully supported the mission, which was first approved by the United Nations last fall. The Kenyan president held a press conference with his troops on Monday ahead of the deployment.

“Your presence in Haiti will bring hope and relief to communities torn apart by violence,” Ruto said at the briefing.

Kenya has dealt with delays and court challenges related to the deployment, and some are opposed to it in the country. On Tuesday, as Kenyan forces deployed, protests swept Nairobi against a proposed bill authorizing a tax hike, which is not related to the Haiti deployment.

Haiti has been consumed by overwhelming gang violence since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, but the conflict has only deepened in recent months and has now plunged the small island of around 11 million people into a severe humanitarian crisis.

Haiti’s former prime minister, Ariel Henry, was forced to resign in the spring, when gangs swept into power in Port-au-Prince. A transitional government was formed in April to create a new governmental body when peace is restored.

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