What's In Blue

Posted Wed 24 Jan 2024

Haiti: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (25 January), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Haiti. Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) María Isabel Salvador is expected to brief on recent developments in the country and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH, which was issued on 15 January and covers developments since 16 October 2023. UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Ghada Fathi Waly and a civil society representative are also expected to brief.

Salvador is expected to update the Council on recent political activity aimed at finding a Haitian-led solution to the country’s multidimensional crisis. The Secretary-General’s report describes ongoing efforts to expand and strengthen the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections, which interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry signed along with representatives of several political parties, civil society organisations, and the private sector on 21 December 2022. The document—also known as the 21 December Agreement—outlined steps for holding elections in the country, stipulating a 14-month transition period leading to elections that were to be held in 2023 and a new government that would take office on 7 February 2024. The plan did not garner full domestic support, however, as the Montana Group—a coalition of civil society organisations that had previously put forward a transition plan seeking a two-year transitional government under different interim leadership—rejected the agreement. Its implementation has subsequently languished.

During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) continued to mediate between signatories and non-signatories of the accord with the aim of reaching a broader deal to enable the holding of elections. On 23 November 2023, CARICOM’s Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Haiti—comprising three former prime ministers from the region: Perry Christie of the Bahamas, Bruce Golding of Jamaica, and Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia—proposed a draft framework agreement for a new 18-month electoral transition period, which would include the establishment of a national unity government alongside a seven-member transitional council. The council would be endowed with presidential authorities, including the power to appoint a new provisional electoral council, co-sign government decrees, designate a constitutional review commission, and preside over a newly established national security council.

Between 6 and 14 December 2023, the EPG conducted its fourth visit to Haiti to facilitate talks between the parties on its proposal. According to the Secretary-General’s report, Henry and other signatories of the 21 December Agreement were broadly supportive of the draft framework, while representatives of the Montana Group rejected it, expressing disappointment that the proposal did not call for Henry’s resignation. Despite the lack of agreement, the EPG said in a 15 December 2023 statement following its visit that the parties had achieved consensus on “several aspects” of the draft framework and had agreed to continue discussions on “the key areas of the balance of power and representation within the proposed transitional arrangements”. The statement indicated the EPG’s willingness to return to Haiti once the parties had made additional progress on these issues and were ready to enter the “last phase” of negotiations.

An agreement does not appear imminent at the time of writing, however. As the inauguration date for a new government originally stipulated by the 21 December Agreement approaches, the Montana Group and other opposition figures have voiced increasingly strident demands for Henry’s resignation. On 15 January, supporters of former rebel leader Guy Philippe—who led the 2004 coup against then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was recently repatriated from the US, where he had served time in federal prison on drug charges—held protests against Henry’s government that forced the closure of schools, business, and government offices across the country. Henry has insisted that he will remain in power until elections can be held.

At tomorrow’s briefing, Salvador is also expected to update the Council on the country’s security situation, which continues to deteriorate amid rampant gang-related violence. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the number of reported homicides in 2023 increased by nearly 120 percent compared with 2022, rising from 2,183 to 4,789. Similarly, the number of reported kidnappings increased by 83 percent, from 1,359 to 2,490. The Secretary-General’s report notes that internal displacement caused by the violence has increased the need for basic social services, while the delivery of such services has become increasingly challenging due to ongoing insecurity. More recently, in mid-January, gangs staged a multi-day siege of Solino, a strategically located neighbourhood in the capital Port-au-Prince, reportedly killing two dozen people and forcing the city into lockdown.

Salvador may also brief Council members on ongoing preparations for the deployment of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission that the Council authorised Kenya to lead in accordance with resolution 2699 of 2 October 2023. (For more information on the resolution, see our 2 October 2023 What’s In Blue story.) Although the mission will not be a UN operation, the organisation is providing logistical and advisory support. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the UN trust fund that resolution 2699 requested the Secretary-General to establish to facilitate voluntary contributions to the MSS mission was set up in December 2023. The UN has also advised Kenyan police on the development of pre-deployment training curricula for the mission. Additionally, BINUH is advising the Haitian government on measures to address the increased strain on the country’s judiciary and correctional systems that is likely to result from higher rates of arrests following the mission’s deployment.

Preparations are also progressing bilaterally between involved countries. On 5 December 2023, a Kenyan delegation visited Haiti for the third time since September 2023, meeting with representatives of the Haitian National Police (HNP) and Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security. Between 13 and 15 December 2023, Haitian and US officials visited Nairobi for additional joint planning sessions. In an 18 December 2023 statement delivered at an informal UN General Assembly briefing on Haiti, US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the visit had resulted in agreement on “several key requirements” for the MSS mission, including further development of the concept of operations required by resolution 2699.

Many Council members are expected to focus on the MSS mission in their statements at tomorrow’s briefing. While commending incremental progress toward deployment, members may stress the need to promptly determine outstanding operational details. One key question is the expected size of the mission: while Kenya has committed to providing 1,000 officers, estimates of the total number of required personnel have varied from 2,500, to 5,000, to as many as 20,000. Relatedly, the mission’s final composition and budget also remain unclear, as several countries have signalled their intention to provide either personnel or financial support, but a total tally of commitments has not been announced. Kenya and the US are also reportedly still seeking additional pledges. Finally, while Kenyan officials have indicated that they plan to deploy the first contingent of approximately 300 officers as soon as February, the domestic legal status of the mission is still in flux pending a lawsuit brought by an opposition lawmaker arguing that the mission is unconstitutional. The High Court of Kenya is expected to issue a ruling in that case on Friday (26 January).

Tomorrow, Waly is expected to brief the Council on UNODC’s quarterly report on sources and routes of illicit arms and financial flows in Haiti and on relevant UN activities and recommendations. Resolution 2692 of 14 July 2023, which most recently renewed BINUH’s mandate, requested UNODC to report to the Council on these issues concurrently with BINUH’s reporting cycle. The most recent report, which was circulated to Council members on 17 January, considers the regional dynamics of firearms trafficking into Haiti and provides additional details on the main smuggling routes identified in UNODC’s previous report of 18 October 2023. It also reviews the domestic characteristics of weapons and ammunition trafficking within Haiti, with a particular focus on discerning how Haitian gangs and related criminal networks procure and distribute firearms between and within groups. In addition, the report considers actions undertaken by Haiti’s Anti-Corruption Unit and Financial and Economic Affairs Office to counter these flows.

The civil society briefer, who is apparently from an international non-governmental organisation that is present in Haiti, is expected to focus on the country’s human rights situation. The Secretary-General’s report notes that human rights abuses perpetrated by armed gangs and criminal groups have continued to intensify, especially in Port-au-Prince. Abuses include killings, rape, kidnapping, extortion, and destruction of property, as gangs continue to employ violent tactics to expand their territorial control. Civilians, including children as young as five years old, have been killed in their homes or in the streets by stray bullets and during indiscriminate mass shootings. The report also notes that gangs continue to use sexual violence systematically to consolidate control over populations, targeting women and girls as young as 12 years old. Furthermore, while Port-au-Prince remains the most affected area, a report issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and BINUH in November 2023 detailed a “shocking rise” in gang violence and its expansion to rural areas beyond the capital, particularly the Lower Artibonite region.

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