Experts Warn That Foreign Armed Forces Headed To Haiti Will Face Major Obstacles

(AP) — An international armed force slated to fight violent gangs in Haiti this year will face multiple challenges including shifting gang allegiances and widespread corruption among police, politicians, and the country’s elite, a new report warned Friday.

The multinational force, which will be led by Kenya, has yet to deploy as it awaits a court ruling in the East African country.

If given the green light, a small team of Kenyans is expected to arrive in Haiti early this year, with a total of up to 5,000 personnel eventually participating in the mission.

Burundi, Chad, Senegal, Jamaica, and Belize also have pledged troops for the multinational mission.

“Major challenges lie in wait for the mission once it is on the ground,” the report by Belgium-based International Crisis Group stated.

“Haiti’s gangs could ally to battle it together. Fighting in Haiti’s ramshackle urban neighbourhoods will put innocent civilians at risk. Links between corrupt police and the gangs could make it difficult to maintain operational secrecy. For all these reasons, preparation will be of critical importance.”

Some 300 gangs control an estimated 80% of the capital of Port-au-Prince, with their tentacles reaching northward into the Artibonite region, considered Haiti’s food basket.

Last year, gangs were suspected of killing nearly 4,000 people and kidnapping another 3,000, a spike compared with previous years, according to UN statistics. More than 200,000 people also have been forced to flee their communities as gangs set fire to homes, killing and raping their way across neighbourhoods controlled by rivals.

Haiti’s National Police is no match for them: less than 10,000 officers are on duty at any time in a country of more than 11 million people. Ideally, there should be some 25,000 active officers, according to the UN.

“The police are completely outnumbered and outgunned by the gangs,” said Diego Da Rin, with International Crisis Group, who spent nearly a month in Haiti late last year to do research for the report.