UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas
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UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas

A motorcyclist passes by burning tires as people demonstrate over the rise in the cost of living in Petit-Goâve, Haiti on September 14, 2023.
A motorcyclist passes by burning tires as people demonstrate over the rise in the cost of living in Petit-Goâve, Haiti on September 14, 2023.

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) - The United Nations Security Council on Monday approved a Kenyan-led mission aiming to bring stability to Haiti, a year after the violence-ravaged Caribbean nation's leaders first pleaded for an international force.

The Western Hemisphere's poorest nation has been in freefall, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, and the economy and public health system also in tatters.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been calling since late 2022 for international support to back the fledgling police force, but much of the international community had been jaded by the failure of earlier interventions in Haiti.

Monday's resolution passed with 13 votes in favor, with China and Russia abstaining.

A breakthrough in plans for the force came in July, when Kenya volunteered to lead the force and send 1,000 personnel.

The resolution calls for the deployment of a "multinational security support mission" -- not officially a UN force -- with a "lead country" coordinating with the Haitian government.

The mission is initially approved for one year, with a review after nine months.

The force aims to provide "operational support to the Haitian National Police, including building its capacity through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations" and will work to "counter gangs and improve security conditions in Haiti," the resolution says.

The mission will also aim to create conditions to hold elections, which have not taken place in Haiti since 2016.

The force will work to "adopt urgent temporary measures on an exceptional basis" and, in coordination with Haitian police, will have the authority to make arrests.

Haiti has suffered horrific violence, including people being burned alive and rape used as an instrument of terror.

Guterres in a recent report said that the situation has only grown worse with the gang members both more numerous and better armed than the police.

Nearly 2,800 homicides were recorded in Haiti between October 2022 and June 2023, with 80 minors among the dead, the UN report said.

- Addressing concerns of China -

The United States has been advocating a multinational force and recently proposed $100 million in support, but President Joe Biden has made clear he will not put US troops in harm's way.

To succeed, China had to choose not to veto the resolution. Haiti is one of a dwindling number of nations that recognizes Taiwan, which Beijing claims and has been seeking to isolate on the international stage.

China, in the run-up to the Security Council meeting, voiced doubts and pointed a finger at the United States, highlighting the role of weapons from Florida in aggravating the violence.

Under pressure from Beijing, the resolution expands an embargo on light weapons and ammunition.

The resolution does not specify the size of the mission, although discussions have revolved around a force of about 2,000 personnel.

Jamaica, The Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda have all offered support to the mission.

The resolution also calls for the support mission to "adopt appropriate wastewater management."

A UN peacekeeping force in Haiti that lasted from 2004 to 2017 introduced cholera to the country, setting off an epidemic that killed more than 10,000 people.

The experience fueled even greater pessimism in Haiti on interventions and contributed to resistance against another force under the UN flag.

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