Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said on Tuesday that his country is willing to join a U.N.-proposed multinational military force to intervene in Haiti and fight the criminal gangs that control most of its territory. Jamaica is the first nation to publicly commit troops to the effort.
“Jamaica will be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace, which would be necessary for any inclusive democratic process to take root,” Holness said in an address to the Jamaican House of Representatives on Tuesday.
— Kate Chappell (@KateChappell) February 1, 2023
The prime minister said Jamaica’s police and military forces have already been put on alert for potential deployment to Haiti, but he stressed that “the full backing of the international community” will be needed for the effort.
Holness hoped the intervention would “support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace, which would be necessary for any inclusive, democratic process to take root.”
Among Haiti’s many problems is its inability to hold elections. The last of its elected officials completed their terms and retired in early January. Prime Minister Ariel Henry was not elected – he became “acting” head of state following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. Many Haitians regard Henry as an illegitimate leader and will likely be hostile to international forces they perceive as propping him up in office.
The United Nations has called for military intervention into the horrific Haitian situation several times, most recently and forcefully last week, when Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that only such a force could stop “the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades.”
Guterres warned the Haitian government cannot stabilize the situation on its own, as its security forces are outnumbered, under-equipped, and riddled with corruption.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on December 6, 2022. (ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Guterres demanded international intervention on the same day a U.N. report said murders in Haiti rose by 35 percent and kidnappings surged by 100 percent in 2022. Gangster control of ports and infrastructure has made it almost impossible for humanitarian aid to address Haiti’s plagues of poverty, starvation, and cholera.
Haitian police rioted in Port-au-Prince last Thursday, blocking roads and inflicting considerable damage on the airport and prime minister’s residence as they unsuccessfully attempted to confront Henry. The police were enraged by the brutal gangland slayings of 14 officers over the past month and blamed Henry for not doing enough to support them.
Police officers besiege the official home of the Prime Minister during a demonstration after the death of six police officers, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 26, 2023. (RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Leon Charles, former chief of the Haitian National Police, told an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting on Wednesday that the world does not understand just how bad the situation in Haiti has become, or else it would be more eager to intervene.
“It is our impression that the international community has not yet taken stock of the urgency of the situation that the Haitian people are facing. My country is experiencing one of the most difficult moments in its history,” he said.
Jamaica is willing to send soldiers and police officers to Haiti as part of a proposed multinational security assistance deployment, PM Andrew Holness says https://t.co/VkVonmfKM0 pic.twitter.com/APUBtHChpb
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 1, 2023
Charles said it was futile to send vitally needed humanitarian aid to Haiti as long as the gangs are in charge, comparing it to fighting an out-of-control fire with buckets of water. He described the U.N. report on gang violence as “truly chilling” and said “the situation in Haiti is extremely urgent.”
Reuters noted on Wednesday that U.N. efforts to establish a “rapid action force” for Haiti have stalled because no regional power, including the United States, is eager to put boots on the blood-soaked ground, especially when there is no guarantee of support from either Henry’s tottering government or the Haitian people at large.
Last week’s police riot did nothing to improve the prospects for international intervention. In fact, the 20-state Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade organization denounced the police demonstrators as vigorously as the gangs in a statement released on Saturday:
CARICOM strongly condemns the killing of police officers and expresses its condolences to the families of the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. The anger and dismay of the police at the gruesome killings of their colleagues, 78 killed since July 2021 and 14 to date this January, are shared by all. However, abandoning the role of the security forces to protect every citizen and maintain public order further destabilizes the country. The protest actions by members of the police service against the Prime Minister cannot be condoned.
CARICOM urges the members of the Haitian National Police to safeguard peace and order and refrain from actions which could only serve to foster even greater damage to the country and its people.
Despite Prime Minister Holness’ remarks to his parliament, the U.N. has not yet received a formal commitment of support with a specified number of troops from Jamaica. The only other country to discuss sending personnel to Haiti as of Thursday is El Salvador, whose Vice President Felix Ulloa floated the possibility of sending in a “technical team” on a “study mission” to share El Salvador’s expertise at fighting organized crime.
Haiti needs help fighting gangs. El Salvador has had success and is offering help https://t.co/NlndGu6sab
— Jacqueline Charles (@Jacquiecharles) January 30, 2023
Ulloa explicitly ruled out deploying its own security forces to Haiti, however.
“We are using all of our armed forces and the national police in our internal war against the gangs. So we have no extra elements to send out, therefore there isn’t any possibility of El Salvador sending troops or police groups to Haiti,” he said on Monday.
U.N. Security Council chair Vanessa Frazier of Malta welcomed Holness’ declaration of support on Thursday and said a multinational force is “required on the ground in order to stabilize the situation in Haiti and protect the interests of the population” – but the Security Council has scheduled no meetings to discuss the Haitian crisis or organize such a force.
“The Biden administration had hoped that Canada would take the lead. However, after several assessment trips and discussions, Ottawa has not said if it is willing, but recent comments by its ambassador to the U.N. have indicated hesitancy,” the Miami Herald reported Tuesday. » …