The United Nations Security Council has given the green light to the deployment of a multinational armed force to Haiti, as the Caribbean country grapples with endemic gang violence and political paralysis.
The decision follows repeated calls for military assistance from Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and the United States also strongly urged the international community to support such a mission.
Thirteen Council members voted in favor of the resolution, with Russia and China abstaining.
Although approved by the powerful UN Security Council, the force would not be formally under UN control. It should be led by Kenya, which has promised 1000 police officers to lead the mission. Several Caribbean neighbors of Haiti – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas and Jamaica – also offered their support to the mission.
The “multinational security support” force will have a 12-month mandate in Haiti. The timing of its arrival is not yet set and more countries have been invited to participate. The resolution also calls for a global halt to arms sales to Haiti, except for approved security reasons.
An adviser to Haitian Prime Minister Henry, Jean-Junior Joseph, told CNN that the government welcomed the vote, adding: “We look forward to the mission of combating general insecurity.”
Warring gangs control much of Port-au-Prince – Haiti’s capital and main port – and block vital supply lines to the rest of the country. Gang members also terrorized the metropolitan population, forcing some 200,000 people to flee their homes amid waves of indiscriminate killings, kidnappings, arson and robbing.
The mission is expected to strengthen local security and strengthen the Haitian National Police in its pursuit of gangs. Haitian security forces already receive some international support, but remain understaffed and underequipped.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. On December 22, Prime Minister Henry told his compatriots that it was “urgent” that the Security Council approve a military mission to restore order. The violence has exacerbated broader instability across the country, Henry said, noting that inflation has exceeded 50%, leaving 4.9 million Haitians struggling to eat – a dismal new record for the country.
In a statement released the same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken exhorted the international community to support the plan and provide assistance, including personnel, and said Washington was ready to provide “robust” financial and logistical assistance.
The Security Council has found itself in repeated impasse in recent years amid growing geopolitical rivalries. A statement from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield called Monday’s decision on Haiti “historic” and said the mission “is a testament to the U.N.’s ability to galvanize the Collective action “.
Speaking at the Security Council after the vote, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said his country had “a cautious and responsible approach” to authorizing the use of force – but that in the case of Haiti, China’s abstention represented a “constructive position” with regard to the use of force. resolution.
Russian envoy to the UN Vassily Nebenzia criticized the move in his remarks to the Council, saying that “sending the armed forces of another state to any country, even at its request, is a extreme measure which must be carefully considered”, but noted “some positive elements”. to the approved resolution.
Both Russia and China expressed approval of the arms embargo under the resolution.
Critics of the mission have previously highlighted scandals associated with U.N. peacekeeping missions in Haiti, including allegations of sexual abuse and the introduction of a deadly cholera outbreak, which killed nearly 10 000 people. Some Haitians also question the mandate of Prime Minister Henry, who took over as leader of the country after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021.
Henry said Haiti’s long-awaited elections cannot take place until the country achieves a basic level of security.
The United Nations special representative in Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador, said her office would support the mission “within the limits of its mandate,” while emphasizing that “unlike recent international missions deployed in Haiti, the MSS mission is not not a UN mission. »