Here we go again?
The UN approves another armed force for Haiti--this time with an African face
After a year of debate and dithering, the U.N. Security Council yesterday authorized another U.S.-sponsored armed intervention in Haiti. The vote wasn’t close—13-0—with China and Russia abstaining. But since as permanent members either one of them could have singlehandedly vetoed the measure, they had to effectively buy into the plan as well.
So what is the plan? Who knows! All that has been made public so far is that the “Multinational Security Support Mission” will be led by a thousand Kenyan police officers, with troop/officer contributions from at least three other British Commonwealth nations in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda). And that much (most? all?) of the mission’s funding will come from the United States, to the tune of $100 million. The U.S. also recently signed an expanded defense agreement with Kenya in exchange for their agreeing to lead the Haiti mission, which will also help fund the East African country’s ongoing war against the Islamists of al-Shabab.
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Everyone at the big round table in New York agreed on the surface-level problem in Haiti: “Chaos” and “steadily worsening conditions” affecting Haitian civilians. The official summary of the draft resolution (the actual text is not yet available on the UN website) notes that “there have been more than 3,000 homicides reported [in Haiti] this year, and over 1,500 instances of kidnapping for ransom,” while “around 200,000” people have been forced to flee their homes. It also made mention of increasing sexual violence and “tens of thousands of children” being unable to go to school. Many of these crimes are being committed by armed gangs that have become paramilitary forces, if not effectively (and deadly) municipal governments, often on behalf of or at least at the pleasure of sponsors in the Haitian elites or what passes for the Haitian state.
No mention was made of the statistic that is really driving policy here: more than 580,000 Haitian citizens with pending “humanitarian parole” immigration cases in the United States. That was, as of May, by far the largest single national contingent of migrants to the metropole, more than the next three—Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans—combined. It’s equivalent to 5% of the entire national population of Haiti. And while that isn’t a ton compared to the U.S. population as a whole (about 0.17%, if you’re keeping track), it’s a big enough exodus to sound alarm bells in the White House, which is dealing with an immigration headache bolstered by both reactionary fear-mongering and centrist Democratic griping in the run-up to Biden’s reelection campaign.
But as even several of the members who voted for the resolution noted, there was little on the table to address what Brazilian ambassador Sérgio França Danese called the “underlying causes of violence and instability” in Haiti. What no one could say out loud yesterday was that the principal underlying cause is the complete breakdown of democracy and governance in Haiti—both generally, over the last twenty years, and acutely since 2021. They couldn’t say that out loud because the biggest indication of that breakdown is not the gangs but the current, unelected Haitian government, whose representative they all kept welcoming to the table, and whose de facto leader nominally requested the armed mission they were approving in the first place.
For those who’ve forgotten (and it’s fine, it’s a busy world), July 2021 saw the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse—apparently at the hands of Colombian and a couple of Haitian-American mercenaries, though on whose orders and why remains an extremely pertinent mystery. It isn’t as if the Haitian state was particularly robust before the fatal shots