Haiti has shown “significant interest” in a proposal from Kenya to lead a multinational force of 1,000 troops aimed at strengthening security in the violence-ravaged Caribbean nation.
“Haiti appreciates this expression of African solidarity,” a statement from Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said Sunday, “and looks forward to welcoming Kenya’s proposed evaluation mission.”
Kenya announced Saturday that it was prepared to deploy 1,000 police agents to help train and support their Haitian counterparts in combating the violent gangs that have taken control of much of capital Port-au-Prince.
“Kenya has accepted to positively consider leading a Multi-National Force to Haiti,” said the Kenyan statement, posted by Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua.
A Kenyan-led deployment would still require a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, as well as formal agreement by local authorities.
The council has asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to present by mid-August a report on possible options for Haiti, including a UN-led mission.
US diplomats have been actively seeking a country to head a multinational force.
Mutua said Kenya would send an “evaluation mission” to Haiti in coming weeks.
Kenya, seen as a democratic anchor in East Africa, has participated in peacekeeping operations in its own region, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Gangs in Haiti control roughly 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, and violent crimes including kidnappings for ransom, carjackings, rapes and armed thefts are common.
With a weak government and its security forces overwhelmed, the country — the poorest Western Hemisphere nation — has seen compounding humanitarian, political and security crises.
Both Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the UN’s Guterres have for nearly a year called for an international intervention. Up to now, no country had stepped forward.
A UN peacekeeping mission was in operation in Haiti from 2004 to 2017 but fell out of favor after a cholera outbreak traced to infected UN personnel from Nepal claimed 9,500 lives.
This week, the United States ordered nonessential embassy personnel and their families to leave Haiti as soon as possible.
On Thursday, a young American nurse and her infant child were kidnapped in Haiti, according to the Christian aid group for which she works.