Kenya Court Extends Pause On Haiti Deployment

(AFP) — A Kenyan court on Tuesday extended an order barring the government from deploying hundreds of police officers to Haiti on a United Nations-backed mission aiming to pacify the troubled Caribbean nation.

The ruling came a day after the UN warned that security in Haiti, where violent gangs control large swathes of the country, has collapsed even further, with major crimes hitting “record highs”.

The UN Security Council gave the go-ahead in early October for the deployment of the non-UN multinational mission, led by Kenya, to help the overwhelmed Haitian police.

But the High Court in Nairobi subsequently granted an interim injunction in a case brought by opposition politician Ekuru Aukot, who argued the deployment was unconstitutional as it was not backed by any law or treaty.

“This court became seized of this matter earlier than everyone else and it would not make sense for it to set aside or allow the interim orders to lapse,” High Court judge Enock Mwita said, adding that doing so would amount to “an academic exercise”.

He said the matter would be heard in an open court session from November 9 in “a quicker way”.

Aukot told AFP he was “very happy and excited” about the new court order as it stopped deployment until the case was heard and determined.

“The judge has made the orders even better,” said Aukot, a lawyer who helped draft Kenya’s 2010 constitution.

Details of Kenya’s deployment are still not finalised, with parliament yet to approve the move as required by law.

Kenya’s cabinet said on October 13 that it had “ratified” the deployment and submitted the resolution to parliament for approval.

But Aukot said the decision was in contempt of court and that he would launch a legal challenge against all members of the cabinet.

“They are doing a cleanup and seeking approvals after we got the court injunction.”

– ‘Guinea pigs’ –

Kenya’s involvement has been criticised at home, with many questioning the wisdom of such a risky mission.

Rights watchdogs also say Kenyan police have a history of using sometimes lethal force against civilians, and that they pose an unacceptable risk in Haiti where foreign troops have committed abuses in past interventions.

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki defended the deployment earlier this month, saying they “are not taking our officers to Haiti as guinea pigs”.

Kenya is seen as a democratic anchor in East Africa, and has participated in peacekeeping operations in its immediate region including in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia as well as other parts of the world.

Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, and the economy and public health system is also in tatters.