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Kenya’s decision to send police to Haiti voluntary, US ambassador

Kenya did not succumb to external pressure on her decision to send 1,000 police officers to stabilize lawless Haiti, US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman has said.

Ms Whitman has also stated that the much-awaited deployment of a multinational force to the troubled Caribbean nation is still on course despite glaring logistical hurdles.

The envoy who was addressing the press after making a courtesy call on Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said Kenya’s inclusion in the mission followed an international request to help bring sanity to the country which gained independence from France on January 1, 1804.

“Kenya was actually asked by the international community to see if they would lead a multinational force to Haiti to help destabilize the country. Haiti is a very troublesome country and so the international community asked a number of countries including Kenya and the President (Dr William Ruto) as you may have seen from his speech four months ago said ‘we have an opportunity to help our brethren and sisters there’. He wanted to step out to help. There’s obviously been increasing challenges with the change of government in the last couple of days. I know the government will make sure they feel comfortable going when Haiti is ready to receive them (police officers),” she told reporters.

Among issues Whitman said need to be addressed first before a stabilization force can land in Port au Prince include conducting of prior reconnaissance surveillance, setting up of temporary operation bases and ensuring there is a functioning governing structure in the country.

She nevertheless said President Joe Biden’s government is fully in support of the deployment of the multinational force in Haiti and was willing to support any commitment from international partners to help rebuild the lawless country.

“This is a very complicated mission. This is not a United Nations peacekeeping mission. It’s a different kind of mission where Police need to be trained, the Department of Defence needs to set up a camp in Haiti where the Police officers will go, trust funds need to be set up so that Kenya can be given the money to take this mission. These things take time. Nothing is untoward, nothing unusual,” she explained.

The Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti was authorized by the United Nations Security Council on October 2, 2023, under Resolution 2699.

Other countries that have pledged forces for the Haiti mission include Benin, Chad, Bangladesh, Barbados and The Bahamas

The US which lies 3,398.74 kilometres northwest of Haiti has not committed any military assistance to the tiny nation whose population was 11.4 million people in 2021.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henri was forced to resign on March 12 this year after feuding gangs who control over 80 per cent of the country ordered him to vacate office to avert a possible blood bath in the impoverished country.

On the bilateral front, Whitman said the US government will continue to partner with Kenya in areas of agriculture, trade and high-end technology to ensure there is fair balance of trade between the two countries.

She singled out Semiconductor Technologies Limited (STL) and avocado production as some of the key sectors her government is keen to invest in and which she described as a win -win pact between Kenya and the US.

Amb Whitman lauded Kahiga for spearheading the STL industry for allowing two US technological companies to set base in Nyeri, a move that has seen more than 2,000 youths from the area get gainful employment.

“I think this is a big opportunity to help grow tourism with new hotels, rejuvenation of hotels like Treetops. I am excited to be here and I think there is a lot we can do to accelerate trade between the United States and Kenya. Our new item as an opportunity will be avocadoes. That’s a big growth opportunity for Kenya,” she said.

Governor Kahiga thanked the envoy for putting Nyeri among top beneficiaries of US aid with special emphasis on health and agriculture.

The County boss said over the last four years, Nyeri has benefited immensely from the US government in terms of programs geared towards care and treatment for 20,000 persons living with HIV in the county through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

“We have discussed quite a number of issues more so focussing on health where they are very strong in their assistance. We have had quite some help from companies especially with US Centre for Disease Prevention and Control coming up with a program called PEPFAR. We are looking at about Sh140 million spent on the program of HIV/Aids,” he said.

“We really want to appreciate that when Covid-19 hit us pretty badly, USAID came in to get us ventilators. We have had extensive discussions on areas we can partner like coffee, dairy farming and avocados and we are glad that the US and Kenya work together in removing protocols that do not allow us to export our avocados to the US,” he said.

By Samuel Maina

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