UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United States said Tuesday it will put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution that will authorize Kenya to lead a multinational police force to help combat gangs in Haiti that control much of the capital and are spreading through the Caribbean nation.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference at the start of the U.S. presidency of the council this month that "we welcome Kenya's decision to lead the multinational force (and) we will be working on a resolution to support that effort."
Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry sent an urgent appeal last October for "the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity" to stop the gangs. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had been appealing unsuccessfully since then for a lead nation to help restore order to Latin America's most impoverished country.
More than nine months later, Kenya was the first country to "positively consider" leading a force, offering to send 1,000 police to help train and assist the Haitian National Police to "restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations." Kenya's Foreign Ministry said Saturday it plans to send a task force to Haiti in the next few weeks to assess operational requirements for the police mission.
Thomas-Greenfield said the United States will work with other council members on a resolution "that will give the Kenyans what they require to establish their presence in Haiti."
She gave no timetable but expressed hope that a resolution will be adopted unanimously, as the last two Haiti resolutions were.
An October 2022 resolution demanded an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposed sanctions on individuals and groups threatening peace and stability -- starting with a powerful gang leader, Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier. A resolution adopted on July 14 asked Guterres to come up with "a full range of options" within 30 days to help combat Haiti's armed gangs including a non-U.N. multinational force.
Thomas-Greenfield said the situation is "unusual, but what is happening in Haiti is unusual."
"This is not a traditional peacekeeping force, this is not a traditional security situation," Thomas-Greenfield said. "We have gangs that have overtaken the country, ... that are terrorizing civilians every single day."
She stressed that "it is very much a police action to stabilize the country so that the country can get back on the path of democracy, that they can move forward with a political process that will lead to a stable government that will be able to deal with the situation in the future."
Haiti's gangs have grown in power since the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and are now estimated to control up to 80% of the capital. The surge in killings, rapes and kidnappings has led to a violent uprising by civilian vigilante groups.
Compounding the gang warfare is the country's political crisis: Haiti was stripped of all democratically elected institutions when the terms of the country's remaining 10 senators expired in early January.
Welcoming Kenya's offer, Haiti's Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus said: "Haiti appreciates this expression of African solidarity and looks forward to welcoming Kenya's proposed evaluation mission in the coming weeks."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed Kenya's offer and called on the Security Council to support a non-U.N. multinational operation in Haiti, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday.
The U.N. chief encouraged U.N. member nations, "particularly from the region, to join forces from Kenya" in supporting the country's police, the spokesman said.
Guterres said the estimate by the U.N. independent expert for Haiti, William O'Neill, that up to 2,000 additional anti-gang police officers are needed is no exaggeration.