A Showdown with Gangs is Imminent as First Kenyan Police Arrive in Haiti

AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File

It has taken quite a while to get to this point but the first group of Kenyan police have arrived in Haiti this week and hundreds more will be arriving later this week.


A small advance group of Kenyan officers – part of a larger UN-backed “multinational security support mission” designed to stabilize Haiti after months of mayhem – landed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, late on Monday as the city’s airport reopened nearly three months after a gang uprising forced it to close. 

Kenyan media reports said another 200 officers were due to arrive later this week with their deployment coinciding with a state visit the country’s president, William Ruto, is making to the US. A total of about 1,000 Kenyan agents are expected to join the mission, as well as officers from Chile, Jamaica, Grenada, Paraguay, Burundi, Chad, Nigeria and Mauritius... 

The first Kenyan officers to arrive will reportedly come from an elite paramilitary unit called the recce squad, the rapid deployment force and members of a police special operation group who have spent time fighting Islamist insurgents on Kenya’s eastern border with Somalia. “They are no strangers to violent armed actors,” reported the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Ultimately, there will be 1,000 Kenyan police who will lead a total force of 2,500. The hope, at least at the UN, is that once the gangs realized they are facing an experienced fighting force they will simply give up.

In a recent interview, the UN’s top expert on human rights in Haiti, William O’Neill, said he hoped many of the young gang combatants who have been sowing terror in Port-au-Prince would stand down once a superior fighting force arrived. “A lot of them are teenagers. You’re talking about 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds – and there’s no ideology. It’s not like the Taliban or al-Shabaab,” O’Neill said.


That may be the hope but so far it looks as if the gangs aren't planning to fade away. On the contrary, they seem to be gearing up for a fight with new military clothing and weapons.

In recent years, one of Haiti’s most powerful and best armed gangs, 5 Segonn, promoted itself with brash rap videos posted on social media.

But videos and photos recently posted by the gang to TikTok show a shift: It’s trying to present itself as an organized security force.

The gang members are now uniformed and wielding more powerful weapons...

Earlier this month, 5 Segonn’s leader took to social media to taunt and threaten the incoming security force, which will be based at the capital’s airport.

The upgraded weapons seem to be coming from South American, though that's not certain.

Aiding the gangs is an arsenal more powerful than any they have ever possessed before, according to two Justice Department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence assessments. Since February, some gangs have acquired automatic weapons — possibly a mix of arms stolen from regional militaries and others converted from semiautomatic rifles, the officials said...

Haitian gangs appear to be using weapons also used by the Gulf Clan, a Colombian cartel, which operates along the country’s Caribbean coastline and uses neighboring countries to traffic cocaine. President Gustavo Petro of Colombia said last month that thousands of military weapons had been stolen and sold to armed groups, like cartels, and may have gone to Haiti.


It doesn't sound to me as if the gangs are about to give up. On the contrary, it sounds like they are looking to start a war against the incoming police force. It sounds as if some of the Kenyan police are experienced dealing with paramilitary groups but then the gangs have effectively been at war with the Haitian police for months. So most of the people involved here have real experience. My only guess, and that's all it is, is that the Kenyans will make progress restoring order but probably not without a significant body count.

There's a saying attributed to Mike Tyson that "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." In this case the Kenyan police seem to have a plan and the gangs also seem to have a plan. I'm not sure either plan is going to survive once the shooting starts.

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024