The Kenya-led multinational security mission to Haiti attracts more people and money

The slow-moving effort to deploy an armed multinational mission to help Haiti’s police force combat warring gangs has garnered an additional $120 million in commitments, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The contributions, made during an international pledging conference hosted by the U.S., Brazil and the United Nations, come as the fate of the mission continues to be up in the air even as troops from the Bahamas Defense Force travel to Jamaica for training to prepare for the mission.

Kenyan officials this week abruptly canceled a video conference with their Haitian counterparts in which the two sides were expected to finalize a bilateral security-assistance protocol. The lack of mutual agreements between Kenya and Haiti has been at the crux of a Kenyan court ruling blocking the deployment of 1,000 police officers, who are supposed to serve as the backbone of the Kenya-led Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti.

Blinken said more than a dozen countries participated in the event, which took place Thursday on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro. Foreign ministers from the world’s 20 richest and developing countries met ahead of the group’s November summit. Each of the countries in attendance at the Haiti pledge session “is contributing or plans to contribute significantly” to the Multinational Security Support mission with personnel, equipment, training and financial resources, Blinken said.

“I think today we had at least another $120 million committed to that effort,” he said in a press availability after the meeting.

Among those offering up new pledges are Benin, Germany and Canada. A source familiar with Benin’s offer told the Miami Herald the French-speaking West African nation will contribute security personnel to the mission, which already has police or military officers from Jamaica, The Bahamas and other Caribbean and African nations. Meanwhile, Germany announced that it is pledging $5.41 million to the mission.

Canada Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said that Ottawa will allocate about $60 million — $80.5 million Canadian — to support the mission. The country also committed another $31.5 million for various security efforts to support Haiti. This includes helping U.N. agencies procure personal protective equipment, logistics and communication gear for the Haiti National Police, and to address justice and anti-corruption initiatives.

“Canada believes in Haitian-led solutions to the political, security and humanitarian crises and remains committed to working with Kenya and other international partners to support a successful deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission and ensure that our efforts are mutually reinforcing,” Joly said in a statement. “I am pleased to announce Canada’s support for these important projects that will contribute to pave the way to more meaningful interventions to protect the people of Haiti and encourage Haitian-led efforts to restore peace and prosperity in the country.”

The U.N. has set up a trust fund for contributions, and had already received a donation of about $3.23 million from France, which also provided almost $1 million for French-language training for the English-speaking Kenyans. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed attended Thursday’s pledging session.

“We welcome the financial, personnel, and in-kind commitments announced by several member states during this event for the Multinational Security Support Mission to Haiti,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “We urge all member states to build on these positive developments and ensure that efforts are expedited towards a successful deployment of that support mission in the shortest possible time frame.”

Dujarric said the U.N. is still going through the numbers.

“Once... checks have been cashed and money is actually in the trust fund, we will update you, but some of that money that was pledged for support of Haiti, from my understanding, may not all be going through the U.N. Trust Fund,” he told reporters on Friday during the body’s regular press briefing in New York.

In opening remarks, Blinken spoke about the increasingly dire situation in Haiti, where the delay in the Kenya mission’s deployment is leading to fears of a worsening death toll. In January alone more than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped, and armed groups now control 80 percent of the capital and use sexual assault and rape to terrorize the population, the secretary of state said.

“The violence has also had the effect of blocking trade routes and aid routes, and shuttered schools. Criminal groups have cut off access to food, to clean water, to health care, to electricity,” Blinken said. “Half the country is eating just one meal a day. Three million children need immediate humanitarian aid. And the conflict is spreading north to Haiti’s breadbasket, threatening the food supply for the entire country.”

The situation in Haiti, he later said, “continues to deteriorate, particularly when it comes to the profound insecurity as a result of gangs that are running rampant not only in Port-au-Prince but increasingly beyond.”

“We see a state that’s on the verge of becoming a failed state, and the result is that people are suffering tremendously— not only from the violence, including sexual violence, but just from the inability to get the basic necessities of life,” he added.

The additional pledges have been welcomed by Haiti, whose foreign ministry, in a statement, called the Brazil meeting “a success.”

“The various speakers all recognized the urgency of the deployment of the [Multinational Security Support mission], given the deterioration of the security situation. They agreed on the need to send a robust and dissuasive force, capable of effectively combating gangs,” the foreign ministry said. “They confirmed a strong commitment to Haiti and specified concretely what their participation will consist of, which will be, for the most part, in personnel, equipment, training and financial contributions. Some countries also took the opportunity to inform that, alongside their contribution to the Mission, they will strengthen their bilateral cooperation with Haiti in order to enable the country to consolidate its institutions and quickly improve the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation of the population.”

It has been four months since the U.N. endorsed a U.S. resolution at the Security Council to deploy the Multinational Security Support mission led by Kenya after the East African nation raised its hand and offered to send 1,000 of its police officers. But a legal challenge was filed soon after and in late January the High Court in Nairobi blocked any deployment of police officers. The court ruled that such a deployment is unconstitutional because the two countries lack a police-sharing agreement between the two. The court also raised other concerns, which diplomats involved in the discussions promised would be addressed.

Last week, ahead of the pledging session, police and justice officials from Haiti met with a Kenya delegation in Washington, D.C. along with individuals from the State Department and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to hammer out some of the concerns. They also came to an agreement on how the mission and its leadership command would be structured.

But waiting for the legal hurdles to clear up is not the only concern. Republican lawmakers in Congress have expressed concerns about the mission and objected to a request by the Biden administration to disburse an initial $50 million out of $200 million the U.S. has pledged.