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On joint podium with Biden, Ruto intensifies defense of police deployment in Haiti

By NYABOGA KIAGE

By BRYGETTES NGANA

Kenyan President William Ruto on Thursday stepped up his defense of deploying 1,000 police officers to troubled Haiti, rejecting criticism that Nairobi was doing the heavy lifting for Washington.

Instead, on a joint podium with US President Joe Biden, Ruto told the audience that his country is a willing contributor to what humanity needs. The two leaders spoke at a joint press conference in Washington after a bilateral meeting that formed part of Ruto’s state visit.

But Haiti was always going to emerge. Journalists on both sides questioned Nairobi’s priorities or whether Washington was delaying the process. The event came as Haitian civil society groups also wrote an open letter to Ruto, asking him to rescind the measure.

Read: Contractors arrive in Haiti to build base for Kenyan-led forces

In Kenya, Ruto said he believes the responsibility for peace and security is the responsibility of all nations “because we have been participating in establishing and maintaining peace in 47 countries like what we faced in Haiti.”

“Engaging Kenya with Haiti has less to do with what happened in the past. We do not find that the United States is engaging Kenya with Haiti. I am the president of Kenya and I decide. It is up to the people of Kenya to commit their troops through their own established (legal) structures,” Ruto said. He was adding a comment to Biden’s response to a question about Washington refraining from sending troops directly to Haiti.

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The president of the United States had indicated that they avoided sending boots there because it could raise “a lot of questions…. that will be “used by those who disagree with us.”

Haiti, the Caribbean country, has been plagued by coups and assassinations for decades. But the immediate problem is the rise of gangs and lawlessness. In October of last year, the United States, which was the “pen bearer” on Haiti in the UN Security Council, managed to push a resolution authorizing the Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS).

If it were led by Kenya, it would not be a UN peacekeeping mission in the strictest sense of receiving UN funding, but the United States promised $300 million in equipment, capacity building and cash to help the Kenyan troops and other countries volunteer to enter Haiti. .

The initial 200 troops from Kenya were expected this week, but the move was delayed until the relevant equipment was sent to Haiti.

Read: Kenya’s first police deployment to Haiti delayed

Kenya was also expected to present a clear document on operational procedures, including how troops will protect the rights of civilians and adhere to the law.

However, some Haitian groups have raised their voices and asked Kenya to reconsider the measure.

A group identified asDessalines Jean Jacques Unforgettable Movement(MUDJJ) argued on Thursday that his country’s problems must be resolved internally.

The movement is named after Dessalines Jean Jacques, who was the emperor of Haiti who proclaimed his country’s independence in 1804. Jacques was born in West Africa and was brought to the Caribbean country as a slave.

“As an esteemed African leader, we have always considered you a brother in our shared journey towards progress and unity. However, recent actions have given us reasons to pause and reflect on this perception,” reads the open letter signed by Eliphete Joseph, who is the leader.

According to MUDJJ, it was unfortunate that all plans to lead a foreign army in Haiti were being handled by President Ruto as they said it would likely cause more harm than good.

He said Haiti is a proud country that has a rich history of resilience and bravery.

“Our ancestors, under the leadership of Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines, fought bravely to defeat Napoleon’s army and secure our freedom, making Haiti the first free black nation,” the statement said.

“From now on, any foreign military presence on Haitian soil will be considered an act of aggression, making every Haitian life a direct responsibility of its government,” the statement revealed.

In Kenya, a legal challenge brought by lawyer and Third Way Alliance leader Ekuru Auko thwarted initial steps after courts blocked the previous program, citing constitutional loopholes.

Read: Kenyan lawyers take steps to block police deployment in Haiti

In Washington, Ruto argued that the loophole has since been filled after both sides signed a bilateral agreement. But the lawyer has sustained the challenge before the court, alleging illegalities.

However, Ruto argued that Haiti, despite being 10,000 kilometers from Nairobi, was as needy a case as banditry in Kenya or a troubled neighborhood in East Africa.

This state visit was also supposed to commemorate 60 years of diplomatic relations between Kenya and the US, and Washington followed it up by elevating relations, naming Kenya as the 19thth country considered a non-NATO ally.

As the only region in sub-Saharan Africa with that title, Nairobi will not yet have a defense pact with the United States. But labeling allows Kenya to enjoy some kind of privilege in defense cooperation, including working relationships with US defense agencies.

Ruto was expected to return to Nairobi on Friday.

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