Kenyan president says police will arrive in Haiti in three weeks

video subtitles, The president of Kenya “trusts” the deployment of the police in Haiti

  • Author, Caitriona Perry
  • Role, bbc news
  • Reporting from Washington D.C.

Kenyan President William Ruto says his peacekeeping police force is expected to arrive in Haiti to help quell rising gang violence in about three weeks.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Ruto confirmed that a planning team was already in Haiti and had met with local police to secure arrangements before Kenyan troops are deployed.

Ruto’s comments came at the conclusion of a three-day trip to Washington DC, the first official state visit by an African leader to the United States in more than 15 years.

During his trip, the White House called for the rapid deployment of the Kenyan-led multinational force, after an American couple was named among three missionaries killed in Haiti on Friday.

“As I speak to you, I already have a team in Haiti,” Ruto told the BBC on Friday.

“That will give us an idea of ​​what things look like on the ground, the capabilities available, the infrastructure that has been put in place.”

He added: “Once we have that assessment that we agreed to with the Haitian police and the Haitian leadership, we are looking at the horizon of between three weeks and approximately so that we will be ready to deploy, once everything on the ground is ready.”

Last year, Kenya offered to lead a UN-backed multinational security force to restore order on the Caribbean island.

Gangs have taken over much of Haiti, bringing violence and destruction to its besieged capital, Port-au-Prince, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

On Friday, two American missionaries were murdered in Haiti by gangs.

Ruto told the BBC that these types of events are “exactly” why his country was preparing to send in its police force.

“We shouldn’t lose people. We shouldn’t lose missionaries,” he said.

“We are doing this to prevent more people from losing their lives at the hands of gangs.”

The United States is also part of the multinational coalition working with Kenya.

“The security situation in Haiti cannot wait,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday.

They said President Joe Biden pledged to support the “accelerated deployment” of the force in his talks with President Ruto.

Ruto said a base where troops and equipment will be stored, which is being built jointly with the United States, is “70%” complete.

The situation on the ground is becoming desperate in Haiti and last year UN Secretary-General António Guterres described it as “a living nightmare”.

However, the process of sending armed assistance has suffered delays.

President Ruto said his government has acted cautiously to ensure security concerns are addressed, including plans for equipment, infrastructure and building relationships with Haiti’s police force.

Kenya’s High Court has also set a date of June 2 to hear concerns from the opposition party questioning the legality of the deployment of the Kenyan police force.

But President Ruto assured the BBC that there is a written agreement with Haiti’s transitional presidential council to ensure that Kenya’s presence is received as a “peacekeeping” force and not an occupying force.

The council has signaled that it intends to respect the agreement signed by Mr Ruto, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry.

Henry resigned in March after weeks of increasing pressure and violence in the country.

Haiti is not the only country in crisis attracting Mr Ruto’s attention.

The president said he has Kenyans “in 15 different missions around the world,” including in neighboring Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ruto said he was also in talks with warring factions in Sudan, a country where the “level of human suffering is unacceptable.”

Asked by the BBC if he thinks the international community has lost focus on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Ruto replied: “Yes, it has.”

“I think what’s happening in Ukraine, what’s happening in the Middle East, has diverted attention from what’s happening in Sudan and our region,” he said.

Ruto said all of these situations require the same attention, a point he discussed with Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their visit this week.

On Thursday, the White House named Kenya a non-NATO ally, making it the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to receive that designation.

Non-NATO ally status will allow Nairobi to engage in closer security cooperation with Washington and obtain more sophisticated American weapons.

Although the move strengthens diplomatic ties between the United States and Kenya, Western influence in Africa has been declining, polls suggest, giving way to Russia and China.

When the BBC asked Ruto if the United States was his preferred ally, he replied: “It’s not about people trying to say whether we are looking west or east.