By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A “robust use of force” by a multinational police force and the use of military means is needed to restore law and order in Haiti and disarm gangs, UN chief Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a report seen by Reuters. on Tuesday.
Haiti last year asked for international help to fight violent gangs that have taken over much of the capital Port-au-Prince. Guterres suggested in October that countries send a “rapid action force” to support Haiti’s police force.
The council last month encouraged countries to provide security support and asked Guterres to report within 30 days on a full range of UN options, including support for a non-UN multinational force or a possible peacekeeping operation.
Guterres’s report was circulated to the 15-member council on Tuesday and outlined two possible UN options: provide logistical support to a multinational force and Haiti’s police force, and strengthen a UN political mission already present in Haiti.
“Haiti’s current context is not conducive to peacekeeping,” Guterres wrote, adding that law and order must be restored, gangs disarmed, strategic installations and roads secured, and a state presence established to provide basic services.
“Nothing less than the robust use of force, supplemented by a range of non-kinetic measures, by a skilled specialized multinational police force, enabled by military means, coordinated with the national police force, could achieve these objectives,” said Guterres, who last month visited Haiti.
UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti in 2004 after an uprising led to the ousting and exile of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Peacekeepers left in 2017 and were replaced by UN police, who left in 2019.
Haitians are wary of an armed UN presence. The Caribbean country was cholera-free until 2010, when UN peacekeepers dumped contaminated sewage into a river. More than 9,000 people died from the disease and about 800,000 fell ill.
‘ACT NOW’ SAYS UN CHEF
Guterres again called on countries to “act now” to contribute to the deployment of a non-UN multinational force and on the Security Council to support such a move. The United States has already said it is ready to submit a Security Council draft resolution to support a deployment.
Countries have been hesitant to support Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s unelected government, who has said fair elections cannot be held with the current insecurity. Haiti has been without elected representatives since January.
Kenya last month said it was willing to consider leading an international force and promised to send 1,000 police officers. Kenyan officials will soon travel to Haiti to assess the needs for such a deployment. The Bahamas has since committed 150 people if the United Nations approves the force.
Guterres said Jamaica had also renewed its pledge to contribute a force and also welcomed Antigua and Barbuda’s announcements to consider contributing. He urged member states, particularly in America, “to build on this new momentum”.
Guterres called the “extreme violence” of gang attacks. “The capital is surrounded by gangs and effectively cut off from the northern, southern and eastern parts of the country.”
International security assistance must provide safeguards to prevent abuse, Human Rights Watch said Monday.
In his report, Guterres said that all targeted operations against gangs should also protect people and respect human rights and due process.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Ismail Shakil and Grant McCool)