Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the US would increase its military ties with Kenya. Washington agreed to provide additional security assistance to Kenya after Nairobi agreed to lead a UN mission to Haiti.
Austin traveled to Kenya to ink the new Defense Cooperation Agreement on Monday. “Signing the framework for defense cooperation between our two countries today reinforces the importance of our strategic partnership with Kenya, and it will help guide our bilateral defense relationship for the next five years,” he said.
The Defense Secretary thanked Nairobi for agreeing to send troops to Haiti at the event. According to a Defense Department readout, Austin noted Kenya and the US must work together to fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Kenyan Defense Minister Aden Bare Duale represented Nairobi at the signing ceremony. He stated, “In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, our ability to work seamlessly together is paramount. This cooperation will enable us to respond effectively to the ever-evolving security challenges in our region.”
Last week, the US hosted a conference in New York and rolled out a plan to provide $100 million to Nairobi in support of the Kenyan soldiers’ deployment to Haiti. The US hopes to get a resolution passed at the UN Security Council to authorize the mission. Kenya says it plans to send at least 1,000 soldiers.
UN Peacekeepers and Kenyan soldiers have track records of committing human rights abuses, raising concerns that the US-sponsored UN mission to Haiti will leave the Caribbean nation worse off.
In August, 65 Haitian groups wrote a letter to the African Union calling on the body to block the Kenyan mission to Haiti. “None of the countries of the land of our ancestors (Africa) must serve as a sounding board or armed arm of the former colonial, slave-owning powers, transformed into imperialist powers and today actively engaged in a criminal project of destabilization of ‘Haiti, systematic sabotage of its sovereignty of which the American-UN occupation constitutes a dangerous step,'” the letter said. “It is your duty to find the most effective strategy to explain to the leaders of this brother country that such a choice is likely to encourage, to reinforce in Haiti the already unacceptable interference of imperialist powers including the United States of America. America especially.”
Washington has sought a country to lead the deployment to Haiti for nearly a year. The White House attempted to pressure Canada into deploying its soldiers to Haiti, only to be rebuffed. In the letter, the Haitian organizations explained that the mission will likely fail. “Has the Kenyan government asked itself why Canada and other countries have, in fact, refused, despite pressure or advantages offered, to engage in this dubious enterprise?” it asked rhetorically.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has repeatedly asked for the UN deployment. At times, Haitian people have protested the Prime Minister’s requests for international soldiers. Henry rose to power in Port-Au-Prince – with Washington’s support – after President Jovenal Moise’s assassination.
Last week, two Haitian organizations based in the US called on the Joe Biden administration to drop support for Henry over the UN mission. The National Haitian-American Elected Officials Network and Family Action Network Movement penned a letter on Friday. “Any military intervention supporting Haiti’s corrupt, repressive, unelected regime will likely exacerbate its current political crisis to a catastrophic one,” it said. “It will further entrench the regime, deepening Haiti’s political crisis while generating significant civilian casualties and migration pressure.”
The letter added, “If your Administration were to withdraw its support for Dr. Henry, he would have been forced to negotiate with Haitian civil society and other groups toward a peaceful solution to Haiti’s current political crisis.”