Reporter's Notebook Top

Can Haiti trust the foreign police to help quell gang violence?

Isabel Shen/YJI

Port-au-Prince, HAITI – Hundreds of police officers from Kenya arrived in Haiti this week to help our country in the face of gang terror and young people have mixed feelings about it.

Even before Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned in April, the government was reaching out to the international community asking for support to restore peace and order.

Our own national police force couldn’t handle the job due to a lack of equipment and officers.

Since then, the Kenyan government was the first of several countries to agree to help the Haitian police force fight against gangs by sending some of its officers on a mission to Haiti.

More police reinforcements are expected to join them from other countries, but the support began Tuesday when about 400 Kenyan officers entered Haiti in an atmosphere of mutual fraternity.

But we should remember that Haiti has had a few foreign interventions in the past that failed to fulfill their mission while fulfilling the foreign nation’s own interests. The major illustration of this is the American occupation from 1915 to 1934.

While there has been a lot of discussion about the incoming police force, we unfortunately barely hear what young Haitians think and feel about it.

I interviewed two of my peers in Port-au-Prince about it.

Jean Kensley Altime is a 23-year-old Haitian college student majoring in management and economy at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Technologie.

Altime said that the decision to bring a foreign security force to Haiti is complex. According to him, on one hand, it could help restore order and security in a country plagued by violence and instability.

But on the other hand, Altime said, it raises legitimate concerns about national sovereignty, long-term effects and the actual effectiveness of such interventions, especially in light of previous historical experiences often marked by failures and resentment.

His opinion didn’t differ from that of Hatsar Rixandre, a 19-year-old work colleague who is taking a gap year. She said getting some help isn’t wrong, but pointed out the same area of concern.

Won’t the Kenyans do the same thing that foreign interventions have historically done, she wondered.

But Rixandre raised a particular reflection that the fact that the foreign police are Kenyan changes the perspective.

“Because we are the same, the same Black people, the same African roots,” said Rixandre. “I think that changes the way many of us see them.”

My own perspective is largely in agreement with my peers. We don’t completely trust the Kenyan police.

But we can acknowledge that solving the security problem in Haiti without foreign assistance is very difficult, and for the first time, at least this foreign force looks like us.

Naika Jean is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She wrote this article.

Isabel Shen is a Junior Reporter and Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International from Oakland, California, U.S.A. She made the illustration.

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