The Biden administration pledged $100 million on Friday to support a proposed Kenyan-led multinational force to restore security in conflict-torn Haiti and urged other nations to make similar contributions.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the US would provide logistical support, including intelligence, airlift, communications and medical support to the mission, which still needs to be approved by the UN Security Council. In addition to Kenya, which would lead the operation, personnel from several Caribbean states would also be deployed to the country.
Blinken urged the international community to commit additional personnel as well as equipment, logistics, training and funding to make the effort a success.
“The Haitian people cannot wait much longer,” he told fellow foreign ministers from more than 20 countries that have expressed support for the mission.
Blinken said it was imperative that the Security Council authorize the mission as soon as possible so that the force could be operational in the next several months. He stressed, however, that international aid could only be part of Haiti's recovery from years of corruption, lawlessness, gang violence and political chaos.
“Improved security must be accompanied by real progress to resolve the political crisis,” he said. “The support mission will not replace political progress.”
On Wednesday, Kenyan President William Ruto said his country was committed to leading a multinational force in Haiti to quell gang violence as it established diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. The U.S. has said it will submit a U.N. resolution authorizing such a mission, but no timeline has been set as international leaders and U.N. officials call for immediate action, noting that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry made the request for an immediate deployment of a foreign force on October.
“The safety, the security, the future of the people of Haiti and people throughout the region depend on the urgency of our action,” Blinken said.
Kenya's offer to lead a multinational force was met with some skepticism by both Haitians and Kenyans.
Gang violence has increased in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in recent months, with 1,860 people reported killed, injured or kidnapped from April to June, a 14 percent increase compared to the first three months of the year, according to the latest UN statistics.
Gangs are now estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince and have become more powerful since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Nearly 200,000 Haitians have been forced from their homes as gangs ransack communities and rape and killing people living in areas controlled by rival gangs, increasing tenfold in the past two years, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
More than 20,000 displaced Haitians live in dilapidated and unsanitary shelters where gangs prey on young children and try to recruit them.
Gangs have also seized key roads leading to Haiti's north and south, disrupting food distribution as Haiti this year joined Somalia and other countries already facing or expected to face famine. More than 4 million people out of more than 11 million living in Haiti are experiencing high levels of acute hunger and 1.4 million are at emergency levels, according to the UN World Food Programme.
Associated Press reporter Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed reporting.