By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 2 (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council on Monday authorized a foreign security mission to Haiti, a year after the Caribbean country asked for help to fight violent gangs that have largely overrun its capital Port-au-Prince.
The 15-member council also expanded a U.N. arms embargo to include all gangs. The embargo previously only applied to designated individuals. Haitian officials have said guns used by gangs are believed to be mostly imported from the United States.
The council adopted a resolution, drafted by the U.S. and Ecuador, that authorizes the so-called Multinational Security Support mission “to take all necessary measures” – code for use of force.
China and Russia abstained from the vote, while the remaining 13 members voted in favor. Diplomats have said China and Russia were wary of authorizing the blanket use of force.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council in August that a “robust use of force” by a multinational police deployment and the use of military assets was needed to restore law and order in Haiti and disarm gangs.
The response to Haiti’s request for help was delayed due to a struggle to find a country willing to lead a security assistance mission. Kenya stepped forward in July with a pledge of 1,000 police. The Bahamas then committed 150 people, while Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda are also willing to help.
Guterres has urged countries, particularly in the Americas, “to continue to build on this new momentum.” Following the council’s approval on Monday, it was not immediately clear how quickly a force could be on the ground.
While not sending any troops, the United States hopes to provide $100 million to back the multinational mission with logistical and financial assistance, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month. This could include intelligence, airlift, communications and medical support, he said.
Countries have been cautious of supporting the unelected administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has said fair elections cannot be held with current insecurity. Haiti has been without any elected representatives since January.
The Security Council stressed an “urgent need to encourage wider participation and forge the broadest possible consensus in the political process, with, as soon as necessary security conditions are met, a view to holding transparent, inclusive, and credible electoral processes and free and fair elections.”
The security assistance mission, while approved by the U.N. Security Council, is not a United Nations operation.
U.N. peacekeepers were deployed to Haiti in 2004 after a rebellion led to the ouster and exile of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Peacekeeping troops left in 2017 and were replaced by U.N. police, who left in 2019.
Haitians are wary of an armed U.N. presence. The Caribbean country was free of cholera until 2010, when U.N. peacekeepers dumped infected sewage into a river. More than 9,000 people died of the disease, and some 800,000 fell ill.
The council resolution adopted on Monday asks the countries taking part in the security mission “to adopt appropriate wastewater management and other environmental controls to guard against the introduction and spread of water-borne diseases.” (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)