KANYADUDI: Haiti mission won’t worsen Kenya security risks

Country has enough personnel to handle crime in Rift Valley and terrorism at the Coast and in the Northeast.

In Summary
  • Kenyans should therefore know that the argument by opponents of the mission conceals more of the benefits and focuses on the few perils.
  • Every venture has advantages and opportunities as well as its fair share of risks. 
Members of Recce squad of GSU. They are part of the team to go to Haiti.
PEACEKEEPING: Members of Recce squad of GSU. They are part of the team to go to Haiti.
Image: FILE

The Caribbean nation of in the Caribbean has been a hotbed of political upheaval for decades. It has experienced leadership instability many times. This has led to formation of organised gangs who also control the nation’s economic and political life.

Since Haiti’s independence was proclaimed in 1804 after the Haitian Revolution and the disestablishment of the French colony of Saint-Domingue, the nation has witnessed many revolutionary actions and coup d’états. They began with the deposition of President for life Jean-Pierre Boyer on February 13, 1843, two decades after the unfortunate suicide of King Henri Christophe on October 8, 1820. The trend continued into the 20th Century with seven unconstitutional government takeovers.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a former Salesian priest and politician who became Haiti's first democratically elected president. As a priest, he taught liberation theology and, as a president, he attempted to normalise Afro-Creole culture, including Vodou religion. As a priest he became a focal point for the pro-democracy movement, first under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and then under the military transition regime that followed. He won the 1990-91 Haitian general election, with 67 per cent of the vote.

Aristide was briefly president, until a September 1991 military coup. The coup regime collapsed in 1994 under US pressure and threat of force under the Operation Uphold Democracy movement, and Aristide was president again from 1994 to 1996. He came back again from 2001 to 2004. He was removed in the 2004 coup d'état after right-wing ex-army paramilitary units invaded the country from across the Dominican border.

Life appeared to have regained normalcy for Haitians in the usual political instability and gangland social decadence. The last legitimate leader was Acting President Ariel Henry. He was deposed on March 15 this year while in Nairobi formalising the agreement to send the Kenyan Police to Haiti. He was unable to travel back to his country. This trend has been a threat to the international order of peace and development. Kenya subscribes to the diplomatic mantra of ‘political instability anywhere in the world is a threat to political stability everywhere.’ It is in this context that Kenya has chosen to extend a helping hand by sending a peacekeeping mission. The contingent comprises about 1,000 policemen to help contain the rising crime and restore stability.

However, the decision by Kenya’s Cabinet and approval by Parliament has received mixed reactions from across the political divide. The ruling party in Parliament has predictably come out to fully support the mission while the opposition has been uncoordinated and disunited in its rejection. The void left by the opposition has been filled by the civil society. In the latest move, Dr Ekuro Aukot has moved to court once again to stop the government from sending the police to Haiti.

Critics have variously argued that the country has not been able to effectively address its own security needs. They say Kenya lacks enough security personnel handle local security requirements. They point to the persistent volatile banditry situation in the North Rift and the incessant al Shabaab menace at the Coast and North Eastern regions. The argument is premised on the assumption that sending some police officers to a foreign assignment will further aggravate an already bad security environment. It is pointed out that the numbers do not favour the decision. Pundits claim that current number of policemen is inadequate to contain the crime situation in the country. They consider that the country needs the police more at the home front than on faraway foreign expeditions.

The biting economic crisis has also been brought into play. Kenya is currently going through an unprecedented economic meltdown. The cost of living is at all-time high owing to runaway inflation. Citizens can ill afford their basic livelihoods and therefore find it difficult to rationalise spending their taxes on a country that has little if no economic relationship with them. In 2006, an analysis by the United Nations indicated an approximate median ratio of 300 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants. For perspective, the ratios of police to population in selected countries are: Australia 264, the US 278, UK 757, Switzerland 278, Kenya 204, Nigeria 187, and South Africa 345. It is instructive to note that while Kenya has not achieved the recommended UN median ratio, the proportion compares favorably with some more advanced economies. In fact, it is better than many in Africa.

Kenyans should therefore know that the argument by opponents of the mission conceals more of the benefits and focuses on the few perils. Every venture has advantages and opportunities as well as its fair share of risks. The government, while embarking on this undertaking, must have considered all these.

Kenya has recently emerged as a strong diplomatic player in international politics. The country is viewed as a leader on the African continent in pushing key global agenda. The raging debate on the ravages of climatic change as championed by President William Ruto has firmly placed the nation at the heart of global power play. The Haiti mission is therefore another diplomatic scoop and provides a rare opportunity for the country to have impactful presence at the world stage. Kenya has demonstrated it has the will and determination to promote global citizenship.

This is through creating bearable living conditions for the distraught citizens of Haiti. In the absence of peace, the protection and enjoyment of human rights as well as other basic needs are grossly compromised. This mission therefore makes Kenya an attractive country to relate with. The diplomatic charm offensive will create more opportunities for direct foreign investment. It will also enable the government to negotiate bilateral partnerships with relative ease.

The face of the country has become more easily recognisable at international fora and nations will be more receptive to the government’s agenda. This has the huge potential to spur economic growth and turn around the fortunes of our local investors. The contention that sending the police officers to Haiti will greatly compromise the government’s capacity to deal firmly with insecurity is fallacious. The available human capital in the National Police Service has been assessed to be adequate. What experts have advised is change in tactics and strategy in deployment and approach in operations. The presence of the 1,000 officers to be sent to Haiti has not altered the current security situation. Their absence from will not create gaps for criminals to exploit. Kenyans should therefore undertake an objective cost-benefit analysis and take advantage of the bigger picture.

Public policy and political analyst

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