By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Until recently, Kenyan forces had mainly concentrated on the immediate threats to the country, especially from violent extremism.

2. In 2011, Kenyan forces had unilaterally entered neighbouring Somalia to neutralize threats posed by Al-Shabaab. After what appeared to be a controversial operation, the East African country joined African forces to help stabilize Somalia.

3. In recent times, however, Nairobi has shown interest in conflicts beyond its borders. It has sent forces to Eastern DR Congo to help prevent a chaotic situation that has state and non-state actors as major players.

4. A lot more audacious move by Kenya has been its resolve to help bring some order to Haiti. Located thousands of miles from East Africa, Haiti has become important to Kenya. Weeks back, the country sent a reconnaissance team to survey the situation in the Caribbean state.

5. And so what?

6. The United Nations Security Council has given the green light for international forces to help stabilize Haiti. In a time of pronounced geopolitical fluidity and great power competition, the decision by the most consequential organ of the UN to make this happen is positive.

7. Kenya is leading the mission by contributing hundreds of soldiers (about a thousand) to it. This notwithstanding, stabilizing Haiti is going to be a herculean task due to complex reasons now and in the past.

8. What are these?

9. Firstly, so many grounds have been covered by gangs and rogue vigilante groups that it will be difficult to make dramatic gains in the short term. Some reports are that 80% and over of territory is controlled by these gangs.

10. Also, the situation in Haiti does not require force only to reverse. While force is needed to stop further bloodshed and obstinate actors, dialogue and political engagements will have to augment it. Currently, the conflict is complicated by the actions of some actors who are resorting to retaliatory actions. Dialogue and trade-offs would be needed to mitigate this.

11. Also, the history of the country and its people psychologically make the conflict a difficult one to tame. Historically, Haiti has experienced revolts and brutal dictatorships that have created a worldview of unending struggle in the minds of many. These make the power relations between the people and authority adversarial most of the time. For a stabilization force to be successful, these dynamics must be fact ignored.

12. On Kenya’s part, there is a force that received consistent training on insurgency and asymmetrical warfare the kind of which it is likely to meet in Haiti. With Al-Shabaab next door, Kenya has concentrated on counterterrorism in recent decades.

13. Also, the fact that forces from an African country will lead efforts to return Haiti to a more orderly society could be embraced by some people in the country. With the people’s African ancestry, this could prove consequential–albeit without certainty.

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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