A number of Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries are preparing to send small contingents of troops or police officers to Haiti in the coming weeks as part of the region’s contribution to a multinational force to help authorities regain control of parts of the country now under siege by heavily armed gangs.
Chief among those in a hurry for the force to be deployed is the neighboring Bahamas, which has borne the brunt of large numbers of Haitian economic migrants arriving by boat, seeking a better life. Local officials say their arrival has put a strain on health, housing, and other services, so any move to stabilize the situation and reduce the power of the gangs is welcomed by the Bahamas. The Turks and Caicos (TCI) and Jamaica are the others that often complain about having to find money to receive, feed, and settle migrants and care for them, either before they are deported or allowed to settle in their new home.
At the weekend, Bahamian Security Minister Wayne Munroe told the Tribune newspaper that Bahamian preparation for deployment is at an advanced stage, with 150 troops already identified and being trained for the mission.
“I imagine that we would have selected some who are Creole speakers,” Munroe said. “We do have Creole speakers in all of our security forces, but all of that we would disclose once the decision is made after the preliminaries have been gone through. We will then have to get down to the details of a commitment. What is proposed? What rules have to govern it? Depending on that, then we’ll make decisions, so we’re still at the preliminary stage.”
A United Nations Security Council resolution from a week ago has cleared the way for the international deployment, which is being led by Kenya. The East African country has already committed not only to leading the mission but also to contributing 1,000 troops. The force had been delayed by the reluctance of the U.S. and other western nations to lead the mission for fear of once again being blamed for organizing and participating in a military mission to the Caribbean island nation of more than 11 million people.
Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname, Antigua, and Trinidad have given signals that they too would send military or police personnel, with Guyana insisting that its forces would be limited only to assisting local police rather than participating in combat missions of any kind.
Haiti is the last nation to become a member of the 15-nation Caricom bloc.
A major part of the groundwork for the multinational force was accomplished at the regional leaders summit in the Bahamas in February. A special guest at that conference was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had pledged financial and other assistance to Haiti to help it cope with the gangs.
Playing its part outside of a multinational force, Caricom has tried to mediate in the Haitian situation by bringing multiple stakeholders for talks. In June, more than 50 representatives from various groups had flown to Jamaica for talks with Caricom’s so-called eminent persons group, comprising former prime minister Bruce Golding of Jamaica, Perry Christie of the Bahamas, and Kenneth Anthony of St. Lucia. They also visited Haiti in the past month, but complained afterward that some of the stakeholders had attempted to amend agreed-upon arrangements in some key areas, including who should be in a room with the ex-leaders, in addition to demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Haiti right now has no functioning parliament, president, or any elected official. It has been in additional turmoil ever since gunmen invaded the private residence of then-President Jovenel Moise and assassinated him two years ago.