Contractors arrive in Haiti to build base for Kenyan-led forces

FILE PHOTO: A view of a makeshift barricade built by residents out of abandoned vehicles to block a road and prevent gangs from entering their community, in Port-au-Prince

By Aaron Ross

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Civilian contractors have arrived in Haiti to build living quarters for a Kenyan-led international security force meant to counter gang violence in the Caribbean nation, the U.S. military's Southern Command said.

The U.N. Security Council approved in October the creation of the Multinational Security Support mission to help Haitian police wrest back territory from alliances of gangs who control most of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Kenya pledged 1,000 officers to lead the force last July, but their deployment has been repeatedly delayed, first by court challenges and then by a surge of violence in Port-au-Prince that forced the Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign in March.

Kenyan President William Ruto told Reuters last week that the swearing-in of a transition council in Haiti on April 25 had addressed that concern and Kenya was discussing how to proceed.

U.S. military aircraft flew civilian contractors to Haiti from May 3 to May 5 to secure equipment and supplies arriving in the country, Southern Command said in a statement to Reuters.

"Additional contractors who have recently been transported are there to set up the temporary living area for the eventual arrival of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) Mission," it said.

Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Bangladesh have also pledged personnel to the force.

The Kenyan contingent that will deploy reassembled this week for the first time since the Kenyan government announced in March that the deployment would be delayed, said a Kenyan security official, who asked not to be named.

A Kenyan government spokesperson said in a text message that the deployment was "on course" but did not respond to a question about when it would happen.

Foreign governments have been reluctant to participate in the mission. Many Haitians have also been wary of international interventions after previous U.N. missions left behind a devastating cholera epidemic and sex abuse scandals.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Susan Fenton)