US president calls for approval of a ‘security support mission’ as Caribbean nation faces deadly gang violence.
United States President Joe Biden has called on the United Nations to approve a “security support mission” to Haiti to help the Caribbean nation stem months of surging gang violence.
Speaking during the UN General Assembly on Tuesday morning, Biden urged the UN Security Council to “authorise this mission now”.
“The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer,” the US president said during his address at UN headquarters in New York City.
Biden is the only top leader from the five Security Council permanent member states to be in attendance at the high-profile UN event.
In October of last year, Haiti’s de facto leader, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, called on the international community to help set up a “specialised armed force” to quell a surge in gang violence that has disrupted daily life for millions of Haitians.
More than 2,400 people have been killed in Haiti since the start of the year amid rampant gang violence, the UN said earlier this month.
Gangs control roughly 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and violent crimes have soared, including kidnappings for ransom, carjackings, rape and armed theft.
The request for an international mission to Haiti enjoyed the backing of the US and the UN, but a deployment has been stalled for months because no country had agreed to lead such a mission to the country.
Civil society groups also have rejected the prospect of foreign intervention, saying past missions have brought more harm than good, and instead called on countries to bolster the Haitian police force and stem the flow of weapons into the country.
However, in July, Kenya said it was prepared to lead a “multinational force” in Haiti – provided the mission gets a mandate from the UN Security Council – to help train and assist the Haitian police to “restore normalcy”.
The Security Council began negotiations on the issue earlier this month.
Kenya’s statement was welcomed by Haiti’s government and several world leaders, but it also raised new concerns about potential abuses by Kenyan security forces.
Kenyan police have been long accused of killings and torture, including gunning down civilians during a COVID-19 curfew. One local group said officers fatally shot more than 30 people during protests in July, all of them in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Renzo Pomi, Amnesty International’s representative at the UN, told Al Jazeera last month that rights groups will be closely watching to ensure safeguards are in place when a Haiti mission proposal emerges.
“This is non-UN force and, therefore, we fear that this is going to be ruled by an agreement between Haiti and Kenya,” he said. “And that could not include all those safeguards or standards that we expect from any UN operation.”
It remains unclear when a Security Council resolution would be put forward to consider the possible foreign mission. The US Department of State said in late July that it would introduce such a motion alongside Ecuador in the near future, but no clear date has been set.
A State Department spokesperson also said in August that Washington would make “significant financial contributions” to a multinational force in Haiti.
“We are actively engaging international partners to contribute funding, equipment, training and personnel to this effort as well,” Vedant Patel told reporters.