While Haiti’s Transitional Council has appointed a prime minister to lead a temporary government and the Kenyan-led international security mission is expected to deploy soon, “[Haiti’s] gangs are still pretty strong,” says USIP’s Keith Mines. “There’s really going to be a fight for power … over the coming months.”

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.


Laura Coates: Joining us now to talk about what's been going on in Haiti is Keith Mines, director of the Latin America program at the United States Institute of Peace. Good morning, Keith. How are you?

Keith Mines: Good, Laura, how are you?

Laura Coates: I'm doing great. There's so much news. It's happening. We've been watching and following what is the latest out of Haiti but bring it to us.

Keith Mines: Well, there's good news and bad news as always, Haiti is always an up and down story. But on the positive side, there is now a transitional Presidential Council that has appointed a prime minister, Garry Conille, he was someone that served briefly as prime minister in 2011 to 12. Most recently, he was regional director of UNICEF, which is where I last met him in Haiti. And he'll manage the temporary government. There was a brief scare over the weekend when he was hospitalized, but he's out now and apparently okay. But both the Transitional Council and the Prime Minister are unelected, but they provide the country with the strongest government that it's had really since the assassination of President Moïse, three years ago. So, their task now is to appoint a cabinet, which is technically the job of the Prime Minister. But in this case, it'll be done jointly with the Presidential Council. There's some politics involved, but the demand is for technocratic cabinet. And the names that we've been seeing for key posts are actually quite good. So, that's the situation on the political front.

Laura Coates: I mean, it must have been very scary thinking about all the unrest that's been happening. And then you have somebody like Conille, who is chosen just at the end of last month, May 28, after that whole selection process, and then to be hospitalized. That must have sent quite a ripple effect, as is the widespread gang violence that the country is experiencing. I mean, when you see the news headlines that are coming out of it, it's as if the gangs have completely overtaken the entirety of the government. Is that true?

Keith Mines: Well, that was the other, there was a really horrific attack over the weekend. So, Conille apparently is okay. He suffers from asthma or something. I mean, I think the hospitalization was very temporary. He made the point, and I thought it was actually a really good point to make. He said, you know, many Haitians would not have been able to be hospitalized. So, he was very self-aware of it, you know, the privileged position so he acknowledged that. I thought that was a very, very nice kind of nod to the crisis that he is now in a position to hopefully help to move in a in a better direction. But there was a horrific attack, I don't think it's hit the international press yet. But over the weekend, where an armored personnel carrier in Barbecue's territory was burned, and the three patient National Police that were inside the vehicle were burned to death in a really horrific attack. That reminded you a little bit of the Black Hawk Down incidents, or the Fallujah bridge incident in Iraq, but really quite horrible. So, the games are still very strong, and they're still quite determined, it appears that one is never quite sure what happens when the multinational security support mission led by Kenya starts to deploy. It's a few weeks away, they've done their planning, they've done their reconnaissance, and they'll be coming in and basing in Haiti and start to do their work of hopefully trying to restore security, the port in the airport, are at least open. So, there's a bit of a tussle still, between the gangs and the good guys, the Haitian National Police, and now the incoming security mission, but it is quite small. Gangs are quite strong. So, there's really going to be you know, a fight for power now with these really heavily empowered gangs over the coming months, so there's still a lot of work to do.

Laura Coates: This is, I mean the UN-backed deployment of Kenyan police forces, is that still imminent?

Keith Mines: Yeah, that's what will be coming in soon. The Kenyans are leading this multinational support mentioned which is UN approved, but not a UN mission. It's a coalition of the willing and the Kenyans are quite determined to do this. I think they're up to the task. But the numbers are quite small that they'll be leading they have a a handful from other countries. El Salvador is providing some helicopters, Argentina, a few there's some from the Caribbean, Benin is providing some others. So, there's a small force that will be coming in. Again, the approach that they're going to have to take really is going to have to, I think as much as anything, mobilize Haitian society to be an enabler, if you will. Of the support mission where the communities themselves are active in pushing back the gangs with support from the Haitian National Police, and now from this new multinational security force. And then they're going to have to really early I think, start to figure out how to divert the low-level gang members away from gang activity and into something else. And then they're going to need a large and kind of immediate justice program to try some of those gang members that are that are not able to be diverted and large incarceration facilities. So, there's a whole lot of other things that will need to go along with this to get the gangs away from what they've been doing of holding the city hostage effectively.

Laura Coates: So what role is the United States playing, if any, in trying to stabilize what's going on in Haiti?

Keith Mines: While the U.S. is supporting all of this, it hasn't wanted to put any of its own forces on the ground, but it's contracted a lot of it out and it's providing the funding. So, the U.S. and Canada, Canada's stepped up in a pretty major way with funding. So, it's trying to fund the forest provide advisors, again, a certain amount of contractors. So, there's a lot that the U.S. is doing but short of having any of its own national forces on the ground.

Laura Coates: Keith Mines director of Latin American program at the United States Institute of Peace, thank you for helping us to understand this issue. It's really important. Thanks for your time.

Keith Mines: Thanks.

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