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UN Security Council Votes to Deploy US-Backed, Kenyan-Led Troops Into Haiti

These UN missions don’t protect the population, they protect multinational investments, says scholar Mamyrah Prosper.

The United Nations Security Council has approved an international armed force to address spiraling gang violence in Haiti, where street battles have paralyzed the capital Port-au-Prince since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. The U.N. mission, which came at the repeated request of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, is being led by Kenya, marking the first deployment of international security forces to Haiti in nearly 20 years. The U.S.-backed proposal received 13 votes in favor, with Russia and China abstaining, and allows foreign troops to remain in Haiti for one year. “This validates the criminal government of Ariel Henry,” says Haitian pro-democracy advocate Monique Clesca, who says the $100 million the U.S. has pledged to support the U.N. mission would have been better used to support civil society. “The big problem right now is the governance system.” We also speak with UC Irvine’s ​​Mamyrah Prosper, host of the podcast Haiti: Our Revolution Continues, who says many Haitians are rightly skeptical given the history of foreign interventions in the country, including by U.N. troops. “This is not the first time that the Security Council has voted to send what Haitians are calling an occupation force,” says Prosper. “These missions don’t really come in, in fact, to protect the population. They are there to protect multinational investments.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The U.N. Security Council voted Monday to deploy a U.S.-backed, Kenyan-led multinational armed force to Haiti as the island nation combats worsening gang violence. The intervention, which came at the repeated request of Haiti’s unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry, marks the first deployment of international security forces to Haiti in nearly 20 years. The proposal received 13 votes in favor, with Russia and China abstaining. The resolution was drafted by the United States and Ecuador, allowing foreign troops to remain in Haiti for one year, with a review after nine months. The Biden administration pledged at least $100 million to fund the operation. This is the U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS: This mission comes at the request of the Haitian government and Haitian civil society to address the insecurity and dire humanitarian crisis the country has faced for far too long. The deployment of this mission will help to support Haiti’s critical near-term needs and to foster the security conditions necessary for the country to advance long-term stability.

AMY GOODMAN: Kenya had previously offered to contribute a thousand police officers. The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda have also vowed to send forces. Many Haitians have opposed the move due to the disastrous history of U.N., U.S. and foreign interventions in Haiti. Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. led a coup to oust Haiti’s democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. More recently, a U.N. mission left behind an outbreak of cholera that killed some 10,000 people in Haiti. U.N. officials were also accused of widespread sexual violence, including the abuse of children. Amnesty International has voiced concerns about the intervention and Kenyan-led armed forces, recently citing Kenya’s “continued unlawful use of force against protesters.”

Meanwhile, peace activists have denounced the move as a U.S.-led invasion. In 2021, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigned to protest the Biden administration’s policies in Haiti. In his resignation letter, the longtime diplomat Daniel Foote wrote, “What our Haitian friends really want, and need, is the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates but with genuine support for that course.”

We’re joined now by two guests. Monique Clesca is Haitian pro-democracy advocate, usually based in Port-au-Prince. She’s joining us from Miami. She worked for many years with the U.N., including at UNICEF in Haiti for 15 years. And in Irvine, California, we’re joined by Mamyrah Prosper. She’s an assistant professor of global and international studies at the University of California, Irvine. She’s also the international coordinator for Community Movement Builders and the co-host of the podcast Haiti: Our Revolution Continues.

Mamyrah Prosper, let’s begin with you. Can you respond to the U.N. Security Council voting to send an armed intervention force to Haiti?

MAMYRAH PROSPER: Yes. Thank you, Amy.

As you said in your introduction, this is not the first time that the Security Council has voted to send what Haitians are calling — right? — an occupation force into Haiti, a multinational one at that. In 2004, as you mentioned, after the coup, as you said, the U.S.-backed coup against democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president, the Security Council voted for the United Nations to send in troops that were led at that moment by the Brazilian Army, about 5,000 troops. And you already started listing the record of this mission that took place between 2004 and 2017. So we’re talking about 13 years of history here of human rights violations.

When the U.N. troops came in, the first thing they did was attack supporters of the president that had just experienced a coup. They followed up over the 13 years with several lynchings of different people in the population throughout the country. As you mentioned, there were too many cases of rape of women and also children, including boys and girls, and there are still feminist groups in Haiti, different social movement organizations, different members of civil society attempting to bring these people to justice. They fathered too many children and left behind. And as we know, U.N. troops have immunity, so they have not been able to be brought to justice for their acts against the Haitian population.

As you mentioned also, troops were increased in 2010 after the earthquake, and that ended up leading to a cholera outbreak, and I just want to say specifically, because troops defecated in clean water sources that Haitians were using to do a number of things, including drink and to cook with, right? So this is a complete disregard for Haitian dignity. And this led to 10,000 deaths. And today Haiti is still fighting cholera outbreaks.

And when the U.N. troops arrived, what they did was secure certain multinational assets throughout the country, rather than coming in to actually provide so-called stability. And we see that there are about, you know, $7 billion and more were spent during this time that the U.N. was in Haiti, and yet we do not see any sort of positive impact of these troops of this mission in Haiti today. And, of course, the troops have since dwindled, and now we have a more political U.N. mission in Haiti that’s supposed to organize elections. However, again, what we’ve seen, the U.N. serve as a cover for fraudulent elections that led to the establishment of the party that is currently in power in its third iteration, as you mentioned, Amy, led by a prime minister who also is an acting president, who was never voted in by the Haitian people. So the U.N. has really been complicit in supporting the erosion of democracy in Haiti. Today there is no parliament. There are no checks and balances against Ariel Henry and his Cabinet of ministers. And so, this is some of the record of what we’re seeing the U.N. mission brought to Haiti.

And I will also signal the fact that during this time that they were in Haiti on the ground, they were supposed to be training this police that’s supposed to be able to take on the gangs. Instead, we see 500,000 illegal guns circulating in the country coming from the United States. And you mentioned before, or at least the clip that you played says that — right? — civil society has asked for this occupation. And I think Ms. Clesca will talk about that, but, actually, they have — if there are a faction that asks for support to the police force, the majority of people are saying what we need is the United States to control its borders and prevent illegal guns from flooding Haiti. And, of course, we know in the United States there’s a whole issue with gun control, and the gun producers, in the end, are the other ones who are winning in this war against people in general, and specifically the people of Haiti. So, these are some of the things that I wanted to highlight.

And in 2004, when the U.N. mission is voted in, they have the support of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM. In this case, they also still have it. We know we have Jamaica and the Bahamas who have also pledged to participate in this multinational intervention. But as I said earlier, what they did was essentially erode democracy in Haiti. And it was established in 2004, and this group, this council, continues to oversee and to operate on top of the state. And this is what we call the Core Group, and it’s composed of, of course, Brazil, Spain, Germany, the United Nations representative, the Organization of American States representative, the United States, Canada and France. And these folks have essentially been there ones who are pronouncing decisions over the Haitian people, over the Haitian state, have also overseen the dismantling of parliament. So I think that this is already something that Haitian people have experienced, this type of occupation. And —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mamyrah?

MAMYRAH PROSPER: — what we’re seeing right now — yes?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mamyrah, I wanted to ask you about another aspect of this. We keep hearing all the narratives here in the United States about Haiti in chaos and gang rule, and yet what we don’t hear is the investment that has — the foreign investment that has come into Haiti specifically around minerals, the reports of as much as $20 billion in deposits of gold and copper, and especially of a rare earth metal, iridium, with Canadian and American companies moving in. Could you talk about that, what you know about that?

MAMYRAH PROSPER: Yeah, absolutely. So, as I was saying earlier, when we see the U.N. troops coming in 2004 and we see also that the Kenyan — the Kenyan delegation that came to Haiti recently, they said very clearly they’re coming in to protect certain key assets, key infrastructures. So these missions don’t really come in, in fact, to protect the population. They are there to protect multinational investments. And in the case of Haiti, we’re talking about — right? — garment industry, garment factories. We’re talking about big plantations. We’re talking also about mines, as you said, and all of that — right? — towards exportation, not leaving anything behind for the Haitian people themselves. And we know that the particular state that’s in power has already been called out for all kinds of fraud, all kinds of money laundering, if you will.

And we understand, or the Haitian people understand, that this U.N. mission is not, in fact, coming to combat gangs, because, again, as I said, during the time that the U.N. has been there, we’ve seen an increase in the number of gangs, 200 gangs, including 95 that control the metropolitan area of the capital. And really what we’re seeing is that the U.N. bases, if you look at where they have been placed, they’re usually strategically close to these multinational investments, these free-trade zones, in particular. And I’ll say that it’s not just multinational investments. Typically, the state, this particular state that’s in power in its third iteration, has helped to subsidize some of these multinational investments — right? — instead of investing in infrastructure, instead of investing in social programs for Haitians. And so, this is part of the denouncement of the Haitian people, is that they understand that this occupation is not really coming to establish order or stability or to enforce democracy, but it’s to protect the certain interests that are allowing certain people, transnational people, Haitians included, to become richer, while the rest of the population becomes poorer. And so, there are records —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to —

MAMYRAH PROSPER: — right? — of people already coming in and — go ahead. Sorry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, no, I just wanted to bring in also Monique Clesca, who —

MAMYRAH PROSPER: Yes, please.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — has worked as a pro-democracy advocate in Port-au-Prince and worked for UNICEF in Haiti for 15 years. Monique, your response to the Security Council decision to send in a military force into Haiti? And your sense of what the impact will be on the civil society groups in Haiti?

MONIQUE CLESCA: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for inviting me.

I think this validates the criminal government of Ariel Henry, because make no mistake about it: Ariel Henry is part of the criminal regime that has been in power since 2011 with Michel Martelly, and then with Jovenel Moïse. He has been in power for two years. And I believe, in the two years that he has been in power, he has really managed several massacres. There have been more than 15 massacres. There have been gang rapes of women and of girls — all of this under his watch. And I say this: Not only is he prime minister, but he is also the head of the police overboard, a group, so he has double responsibilities, in this sense. So this validates a criminal regime.

And Madame Prosper talked about the Core Group, etc. I want to talk about the United States, that is leading this. And the United States is pledging $100 million. Imagine if this $100 million had been invested maybe two years ago to help bring about humanitarian situation, or perhaps the consensus government that the Montana Accord, that I’m honored to be part of, has been pushing. We have been pushing, we have been striving, we have been talking about putting together a coalition, and we have put together that coalition. And we are working so that there can be even more people part of this coalition to have a transition government that is clean, a transition government that is not criminal, a transition government that is not helping the gangs. You have stories of gang members in police cars. You have stories of gang members saying they met with Ariel Henry. You have stories of people saying that Ariel Henry — there are phone calls that Ariel Henry had, supposedly, with some people who were associated with the assassination of a president. So we are talking about a criminal regime.

But more importantly, we are talking about a governance, a criminal governance system. And we have been saying for over two years, “We need a change.” We need a change from the criminal governance system, from the structural system, so that we can move towards a governance system that has values, that is not into corruption, that is not into stealing, that is into human rights. So the big problem right now is the governance system. So, you are, with this Kenyan — a thousand Kenyan policemen, how are they going to resolve any problem of the governance system that we have? How are they — even if you bring in 15 Bahamian, you bring in 150 Jamaicans, how are they going to resolve this? No, they are going to push forward. They are validating the rule of Ariel Henry.

So, today we are saying that Ariel Henry is not credible. He does not have good faith. He hasn’t done anything. He asked for the troops back in October, and since then, he hasn’t done anything. If we take one example, Carrefour Feuilles, the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles, about a month ago, people from the neighborhood went to the police station asking for help to fight off the gangs. They were tear-gassed. The police actually tear-gassed them. So then the gangs took over the neighborhood, burned houses. So you have thousands of people who left their homes. And what did the police do? After everybody vacates, after everybody leaves, then the police come, and you have the police chief, who has a helmet on and who has a mask on, etc., saying, “We have come to help you.” Everybody was already gone.

So, we have a dire humanitarian situation. We have a dire situation in which women and girls have been gang-raped, sometimes in front of their children. We have a dire situation of people displaced, hungry. But Ariel Henry is not the person who can resolve this. And a thousand Kenyan troops, who say they are learning to speak French, when Creole actually is the language spoken in Haiti, more so than French, are not going to be helping. What we need, in contrast, I would like to see the same resolve from the U.S. government that they have in pushing this resolution, I would like to see them push for negotiated settlement, so that Ariel Henry can be gone, out of there, and so we can have a transition government that has values, that is not into corruption, that is not in cahoots with the gang, that is not in cahoots with others who are pushing the gang members to work economic sector, for example. That’s what we need, a negotiated settlement.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute. Mamyrah Prosper, I want to ask about the migrants coming into the U.S. who were deported back to Haiti, even as the U.S. says U.S. citizens should leave Haiti for their safety. We just have 30 seconds.

MAMYRAH PROSPER: Yeah. I mean, we see Biden, in the first month that he came in, deporting more Haitians in one month than Trump had done during his entire presidency. So the Biden administration has very much been deporting Haitians, hundreds at a time per month, since it’s been established, including — right? — sending back unaccompanied minors. At the same time, as you said, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti is closed until 2025 because of security issues, kidnappings, massacres, etc. And Biden now has a parole program, which is really a sort of cover for a workers’ program — right? — that Haitians can come in for two years and work, and they’re ending up in Amazon warehouses, on farms in New England. And so you see that there is this hypocrisy in the Biden administration towards Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: Mamyrah Prosper, we’re going to have to leave it there, assistant professor at University of California, Irvine, and Monique Clesca, Haitian pro-democracy activist. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.

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