Kenyan police could make Haiti's problems worse

Haiti has a history of disastrous foreign interventions. Kenyan police are accused of brutality. Now the two will mix.

Haitian mother holding her son.
A displaced Haitian mother holds her son inside a former church. Thousands of Haitians have been displaced as of late thanks to a surge in gang violence.
(Image credit: Giles Clarke / Getty Images)

Haiti has a long history of violence and chaos. It also has a long history of outsiders coming in ostensibly to bring order, but instead creating even more problems for the country's people. Will that history continue? CNN reported this week that the United Nations has given approval for Kenyan police to lead a multinational force to help get Haiti's gang violence under control. But critics say the Kenyan police force has a pattern of brutality that includes "extrajudicial killings and arbitrary execution of protestors."

There's no doubt that Haiti is in dire need of help. "Gangs have terrorized civilians" for two years, committing thousands of murders since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, Ellen Ioanes of Vox pointed out. Haitian police are "outgunned and underpaid," so many observers believe "an external force of some kind" is necessary. But previous interventions by outsiders are remembered mostly for their exploitation of the country — along with more killings, a cholera epidemic and widespread sexual abuse. All of which raises a question: "Will this be different from previous international interventions?"

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.