Biden says Kenya force can break the back of Haiti’s gangs

President Biden on Thursday said that a Kenyan-led multinational police force can succeed in overcoming armed gangs that have run amok across Haiti and captured the capital Port-au-Prince.

When asked during a press conference with Kenyan President William Ruto at the White House if they can “break the backs” of the armed gangs, Biden responded “yes.”

“This is a crisis that will be dealt with,” Biden said. “We think we can deal with this.”

Ruto said Kenya and the U.S. were building a coalition of nations to support a mission he said could defeat the armed gangs “that have visited untold suffering” in Haiti.

“Gangs and criminals do not have nationalities. They have no religion. They have no language,” he said, vowing to deal with the gangs “firmly, decisively, within the parameters of the law.”

An unofficial deadline to begin the deployment of the Kenyan-led international police force on Thursday appears to have been delayed. The deployment would have come as Ruto wraps up a three-day state visit to Washington, D.C., on Friday.

The Biden administration is asking Congress for $300 million for the mission, along with $60 million for equipment assistance.

Biden on Thursday said deploying U.S. forces to Haiti would have been “easily misrepresented,” expressing his thanks to Kenya for being willing to intervene.

“Kenya’s willingness to lead this matter, matters,” Biden said. “Ruto and I agree that Haitian people deserve better. They deserve peace and security.”

Ruto said Kenya has participated in peacekeeping missions for the past 40 years across 47 countries and that Nairobi had decided to commit troops out of its own volition.

“The responsibility of peace and security anywhere in the world, including in Haiti, is the collective responsibility of all nations and all peoples who believe in freedom, self-determination, democracy and justice,” he said. “And it is the reason why Kenya took up this responsibility.”

The United Nations late last year first approved a plan to send a Kenyan-led police force to Haiti, which has been consumed by violence since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. The armed gangs have only grown in power since February, when they banded together, freed prisoners and took over the majority of Port-au-Prince.

After the February surge toppled the Haitian government, Kenya paused its deployment plans, but they are now back on track after Haiti formed a transitional council that will lead the Caribbean nation toward new leadership.

The violence has plunged Haiti into its worst humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake.

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