21st October 2022
A growing number of countries and organisations are calling for armed external intervention in Haiti as the country struggles with violence and social unrest.
One of the most high-profile figures to support foreign boots on the ground in recent weeks is UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The Secretary General urges the international community, including members of the Security Council, to urgently consider the Haitian Government’s request to deploy without delay a specialised international armed force to deal with the humanitarian crisis,” said Guterres through his spokesperson.
He sent a 12-page letter to the members of the UN Security Council detailing potential options for enhanced security support in Haiti in accordance with the Council’s request in its resolution 2645 (2022).
“Considering the extremely grave situation, international efforts to enhance support for the HNP [Haitian National Police] must aim to reduce the ability of armed gangs to
block access to and carry out attacks on strategic infrastructure and threaten the livelihood of communities,” said Guterres in the letter.
The Secretary General made it clear that any foreign force would not be under the umbrella of a UN peacekeeping mission, but would instead be agreed bilaterally between Haiti and the nations providing troops. He also noted that as with other similar missions, the UN Security Council would “welcome” the force, and not need to authorise it.
The call comes after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry made a plea to the international community and to CARICOM Member States to help bring an end to the violence after he was authorised to do so by his government. Henry requested the immediate deployment of an international specialised armed force to help the country control criminal gang activity.
“In this effort, the Haitian authorities underscored those solutions need to be Haitian-led and have the HNP in the lead, supported by international partners to improve its ability to provide security,” said Secretary General Guterres.
He noted that Haitian authorities had cited the lack of adequate and sufficient individual protection gear, weaponry, ammunition and other tactical equipment, and training in their use.
Calling for urgent action, VOA News reported that the UN Head suggested a rapid reaction force be deployed under the leadership of one country and composed of forces from one or more countries.
“The force would, in particular, support the HNP primarily in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area in securing the free movement of water, fuel, food and medical supplies from main ports and airports to communities and health care facilities,” wrote Guterres.
The Washington Post has reported on a draft UN Security Council resolution by the US which supports “the immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” to Haiti. The Post noted that this is the first sign that the Biden Administration “may be willing to participate in a Haiti mission that has a military component”.
This comes days after a joint operation involving US Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft delivered “vital” equipment to Haiti. A statement by the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) said that the equipment included tactical and armoured vehicles purchased by the Haitian police from Canada.
The mission is largely being viewed as an outcome from the two-day visit of US Air Force Lieutenant General and SOUTHCOM Military Deputy Commander Andrew Croft, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, to Port-au-Prince which ended three days prior. The delegation met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, the Montana Group, private sector leaders and broader civil society groups.
In the longer term, the expectation is that foreign forces will be withdrawn gradually as local police restore security in the country. However, Haiti’s Senate has reportedly approved a resolution urging Prime Minister Henry to postpone his request calling for external intervention.
With the country facing a cholera outbreak and 4.7mn people at varying degrees of hunger – including 19,000 at catastrophic levels – according to the World Food Programme, the stakes are rising for the interim Henry Government. However, the complicated history with external forces including UN peacekeeping missions serves as a poignant reminder of what can go wrong.
Photo by Chris Henry
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