Exploitation and Controversy of US Military’s Presence in Kenya and Deployment to Haiti

Baya Osborn Osborn Baya (X.com and Policurate.com) from Kenya writes about Conflicts and Security Studies in the World of Politics. "In an era of rapidly changing global dynamics, staying informed and engaging in insightful discussions is crucial to navigating the complex world of international relations." Feel free to support Baya on PayPal or Buymeacoffee.
publicerad 25 oktober 2023
- Osborn Baya
Haiti policemen. Photo: Democrazy Now
Haiti policemen

ANALYSIS. While the possible Kenya-led police mission to Haiti prompts growing calls for safeguards due to their domestic record, questions arise about the possible deal with the US, which is UN-backed. In light of the prospect of the mission taking place, calls are being made to ensure that policies will safeguard the Haitians from being exploited.

This is because sexual abuse claims and money laundering marred the previous UN peacekeeping missions.

The UN Security Council-approved intervention must be a clear framework for accountability, oversight, and ensuring that the police professionally discharge their duties. There should be a remedy for victims if abuses are committed.

Kenya’s potential leadership role in a multinational force has sparked concerns from Haitian civil society, which has remained wary of a new foreign intervention.

Kenya announced in late July its willingness to lead the foreign force and contribute 1,000 police officers to train and assist Haiti’s police. Their main aim was to restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations.

The Bahamas and Jamaica have since offered to provide personnel, and US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is committed to finding resources to support the mission.

Several questions surround the mission; its makeup and mandate remain unanswered.

  • Will the force take offensive action against gangs or serve the more static role of protecting key infrastructure?
  • What funding would it receive and from whom, and what type of support would it get from the US and UN?

The U.S. and Kenya signed a defence agreement Monday to see the East African nation get resources and support for security deployments. It is poised to lead a multi-national peacekeeping mission to Haiti to combat gang violence.

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Kenya’s Defence Minister Aden Duale signed the accord at a meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The agreement guides the countries’ defence relations for the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group intensifies.

Austin thanked Kenya for volunteering to lead the Haiti multi-national force. He reiterated that the U.S. government would work with Congress to secure the $100 million in funding that it pledged on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

With this deal in place, it could not include all the safeguards or standards we expect from any UN operation. It can potentially be a channel for exploitation, as previously witnessed in the diplomatic relations between Kenya and the United States.

The US has maintained a military presence in Kenya. Manda Bay, sometimes referred to as Camp Simba, has been their main camp for several years now. Other US troops have also been reported to operate from Isiolo.

The US forces primarily contribute to anti-insurgency missions in neighbouring Somalia. However, their presence has and continues to face claims of exploitation and controversy in their activities.

A Nairobi court temporarily suspended the plan to deploy the 1,000 police officers to Haiti. The case brought to court was brought by three petitioners who claimed that the proposed deployment was unconstitutional.

The mission is different from what many people expect. It is not a mission for humanity and has no special significance or critical urgency. Aukot cites two articles in the Kenyan constitution.

It specifically states that only Kenyan Defence Forces can be deployed to another country and that the National Police Service will only function throughout Kenya.

There is a clue in Sections 107 and 108 of the National Police Service Act that says the National Police may be deployed but must be upon a request from a reciprocating government. It’s one of the questions being raised and is a matter of determination.

Kenya Defence Forces have been making money smuggling alongside those militants for years. It is a partner of the United States in eastern Africa and a force in fighting Islamist militants in Somalia.

A group of journalists found the KDF earning millions of dollars as it cut into an illegal trade network with connections to the militants. It involves up to $400 million per year in sugar. The revenues are shared among local administrators, the army, and the Islamist militants.

It highlights recent growth in the illegal smuggling of up to 150,000 metric tonnes of sugar per year into Kenya from Somalia. It is done through the Somali port of Kismayo, facilitated by Kenyan forces.

The accusations follow reports by United Nations investigators alleging similar cooperation in illegally exporting charcoal from the same port to the Persian Gulf.

The partnership between Kenya and the United States has revealed dizzying corruption within Kenya. A parliamentary committee was given details this month on government spending for items like a $16,000 television and $85 ballpoint pens.

The mandate and objectives of the Haitian mission should be clearly defined. It’s essential to have a well-defined mission to avoid potential confusion and ensure the force is used for its intended purpose. It’s crucial to establish clear frameworks for accountability and oversight.

Foreign nations involved in peacekeeping missions should maintain that perspective. It will minimise cases of exploitation, corruption, and embezzlement of funds. The history of UN peacekeeping missions, including allegations of sexual abuse and money laundering, underscores the need for robust safeguards.

The mission should prioritise transparency, accountability, and addressing the concerns of Haitian civil society.

Defence agreements, like those signed between the U.S. and Kenya, should be subject to rigorous oversight and scrutiny. Such agreements are in the best interests of both countries and prioritise security and peacekeeping rather than enabling illicit activities. However, this is the opposite of what happens.

The agreement should not compromise the standards and safeguards expected in UN operations. Concerns about exploitation and the controversial activities associated with the U.S. military presence in Kenya must be addressed.


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Tags: haiti