News of the Kenyan High Court’s decision to reject as unconstitutional the Kenyan government’s plan to send a thousand police officers to Haiti to head up a multinational security support mission (MSS) has not caused much of a stir in Haiti. People have less and less faith in the effectiveness of these missions and are also beginning to tire of the numerous meetings in hotels to discuss the fate of a country that is slowly dying. They do not understand the unconditional attachment of the “international community” to a government that is doing nothing to protect its population or defend its territory, and which is sitting on its hands waiting for the hypothetical arrival of an international security mission.
Since mid-January 2024, protests and demonstrations have been held across the country, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his entire cabinet for, in their words, “incompetence, irresponsibility and failure to honour commitments made after more than two years in power”. They see the 7th of February as the deadline for the government to pack up and leave. Meetings are being organised with various sectors to prepare an alternative way of running the country after Ariel Henry’s resignation.
In view of the striking capacity of the armed groups, which are spreading throughout the capital without any real resistance from the State, some detractors go so far as to think that the bandits are acting in perfect synergy with sectors close to the government, which wants to speed up the arrival of this multinational force by proving Haiti’s inability to take responsibility for itself by organising its own defence. The rare operations carried out by the police to counter the gangs generally fail, while an armed force that has been remobilised, with a thousand soldiers headed by a general and a Minister of Defence, remains confined to its offices. For their part, the various ministries are doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of the people, or to provide a minimum level of service. Despite the many forced displacements of the population, the government has given no warning or instructions to the people so that they know what to do when they are attacked by bandits.
It is in this same context that we need to understand the enthusiasm shown by many groups who agree to support Mr Guy Philippe, a former police commissioner who toppled ex-president Aristide from power in 2004 and who has just spent six (6) years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking. Freshly returned to the country, Mr Philippe presents himself as a “saviour and revolutionary” and claims to want to free the nation from the yoke of the gangs to which it is subjected. Since his return, Mr Philippe has been criss-crossing all the departments, gathering crowds in every place, and calling on the Haitian people to practise civil disobedience by shutting down government offices, and to revolt against the current government and the entire political and economic system, including those from inside and outside the country who support it. In this move, Mr Philippe has the blessing of the BSAP (Brigade de Surveillance des Aires Protégées), a unit of the Ministry of the Environment that suddenly finds itself playing politics. The BSAP seems to have succeeded in recruiting troops from all over the country and equipping itself with a large number of weapons, some of them brand new, without it being known how or by what means they entered the country. All this is creating a great deal of confusion, an explosive atmosphere and further dividing the nation. While Guy Philippe has found supporters in all sectors, critical voices, particularly in human rights circles, are also calling on the Haitian people to be careful not to fall into adventures that would be even worse than those they are currently experiencing by propelling an ex-convict to the forefront of the political scene.
The Kenyan High Court’s decision comes at a time when the Haitian people feel betrayed and humiliated by the very people who should be defending them, and they are looking for ways out of this quagmire. Some citizens are furious to see a State completely abandon its obligations to protect its citizens and defend its territory, in favour of relying entirely on the probable arrival of a multinational force. People refer to the history of the country, which came into being by fighting against slavery and colonialism, to claim their right to take their destiny into their own hands. Some sectors that have commented on the Kenyan court’s decision see it as a slap in the face for the government of Mr Ariel Henry and the “international community”, which swear by the arrival of this multinational force decided on 2 October 2023 by the United Nations Security Council. Those close to the Prime Minister believe that all is not yet over, as the Kenyan government will be appealing against this court decision, and say they hope that the deployment of Kenyan troops will finally be authorised. Diplomats have spoken out in the same vein. In an official statement published on 29 January 2024, the United States “expressed its strong support for the MSS”, while its Assistant Secretary of State for the Southern Hemisphere, Brian A. Nichols, stated that The United States renews its position in favour of holding elections in the country. “The only path to long-term stability is through free and fair elections”, he said.
The international community, which unreservedly supports the de facto prime minister, had deployed a whole panoply of activities in the run-up to 26 January 2024, the date set by the Kenyan court for ruling on the case. In France, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) took up the baton, organising a conference with senior international officials. At the end of this meeting, the OAS representative affirmed that “there will be no transition within the transition”, a way of rejecting out of hand any demand for Mr Ariel Henry to resign and be replaced by a more active and credible government. For its part, the United Nations Security Council had also met during the same period to analyse the situation in Haiti and reiterate its wish to see the rapid deployment of the MSS. On that occasion, the Secretary General, António Guterres, described in great detail the catastrophic situation in Haiti, which is sinking under the weight of gangs that kill, rape, steal, pillage and burn with complete impunity.
At the start of 2024, Haiti finds itself between a rock and a hard place, trying to find a way to avoid disappearing under the pressure of so many conflicting interests. Will it find the strength it needs to climb back up the slope and take its destiny into its own hands?