Image: REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

By Alex Pollock

On Sunday 20 August, a group of 1,000 Kenyan police officers arrived in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to begin a year-long effort to help Haitian authorities retake control of the country that has fallen further into the hands of armed gangs. Almost 80% of Port-au-Prince and 50% of the country is under gang control. The violence and unrest increased significantly in recent weeks as the limited capacity of Haitian law enforcement continues to dwindle. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, reported that from 1 January to 15 August 2023, over 2,400 people have been killed, 950 kidnapped, 902 injured, and thousands displaced due to the gang violence and consequent humanitarian crisis. With just 10,000 police officers for a population of over 11 million people, the Haitian authorities are reliant on foreign assistance to counteract gang control. Since former president Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021, Haiti’s social, economic, and political stability has plummeted.

In the week before the Kenyan delegation arrived, 5,000 Haitians fled the capital district of Carrefour-Feuilles following the death of 30 people in gang-related violence. Many local and international aid organisations have left Haiti because of the lack of security. The lack of law enforcement presence throughout Haiti has led to civilian vigilante groups attempting to bring justice themselves. Shamdasani reported that 350 people have been lynched by vigilante groups since April this year, including 310 alleged gang members and one police officer. Many countries have considered helping Haiti combat its gang problem but have stopped short of sending security or law enforcement personnel due to the lack of protection and assistance from the Haitian government. The Kenyan force will be charged with restoring order by working with the few community organisations and government offices that are still functioning, however, the severe power vacuum will present challenges for the Kenyan forces. Kenya has volunteered to lead the proposed multinational force that will be under UN consideration in the upcoming weeks. Although Kenya is one of few countries willing to assist Haiti, there are concerns over Kenya’s police force’s human rights record. The Kenyan police have been accused of violence against their people in recent years. However, they should be recognised and appreciated for being willing to step into a volatile situation and assist where many other nations are not. Kenya does have the advantage over other nations, such as the United States and Canada, in its efforts to help Haiti due to the similarities the countries share in culture, history – fighting for independence from colonial powers – and religious make-up. However, one of the challenges Kenya faces is the estimated cost of $200 – $400 million required to support this intervention for a year. For it to be sustainable, much investment into the Haitian infrastructure, which has crumbled under gang control, will be needed.

Due to the prolonged nature of Haiti’s conflict, efforts from Kenyan forces will need to include humanitarian aid – 97% of households in the capital are suffering from ‘severe hunger’ – as well as the rebuilding of schools, hospitals, and religious institutions. Haiti is a deeply religious country, but it also has a very complex and muddled religious history. The presence and practice of vodou and animism – the belief that everything in nature has souls or spirits – is often mixed with Christianity. According to the Joshua Project, just under 95% of Haitians identify as Christian. Many Christian ministries operate in Haiti, as well as several prayer movements covering the island nation. However, the seemingly never-ending calamity facing the country reminds the Church that its fight is not against earthly adversaries but is fought within the spiritual realm (Eph. 6:12).  Haiti’s spiritual battle is thought to have begun following a vodou ceremony during Haiti’s fight against French colonial forces in which Haitian leaders “implored Satan to help them defeat the French.” The need for prayer for Haiti is great amidst its many challenges, however, the Church can find hope in the promise that even though trouble persists, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and the darkness within it (John 1:5).

Please join us in prayer for the following:

  • For the Kenyan forces to work honourably alongside Haitian forces to bring stability so that infrastructure can be rebuilt, and the humanitarian crisis can end
  • For encouragement and strengthening of Christian communities in Haiti and spiritual healing throughout the country
  • For Haitian believers to be beacons of hope for those who are suffering and for all Haitians to come to a saving knowledge of Christ