Caribbean summit host hails possible Benin troop deployment to HaitiTue, 27 Feb 2024 20:11:17 GMT

Guyana, hosting a summit of Caribbean countries, on Tuesday welcomed an announcement that Benin was mulling a 2,000-strong troop contribution to a UN security mission in crisis-torn Haiti.A nation of at least 10 million, Haiti has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, leaving the economy and public health system in tatters.On Monday, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit that Benin “has offered up to 2,000 troops” for a multi-national security force meant to help overwhelmed Haitian police regain control.While in Georgetown for the summit, Thomas-Greenfield met Haitian government leaders, CARICOM heads of government, and representatives of the United Nations, Britain, Canada and France.They discussed the situation in the Caribbean nation where the UN says 45 percent of the population is now food insecure.”The leaders agreed on the urgency of deploying the UN-authorized Multinational Security Support mission to enable the Haitian National Police to restore peace and security, enable the holding of free and fair elections, and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” Nate Evans, spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, said after the meeting.The security mission, which Kenya has agreed to lead, has been held up for months over logistics issues, a legal challenge in Nairobi, and funding shortfalls.”It is a welcome development,” Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud of Guyana, which holds the rotating CARICOM presidency, said Tuesday of Thomas-Greenfield’s announcement.He underscored the importance of her point that like Haiti but unlike other CARICOM countries, the West African nation of Benin is French-speaking.Benin had also contributed to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), which deployed from 2004 to 2017 and counted some 10,000 Blue Helmets at its peak.Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed for progress on deploying the new mission to Haiti, where the UN says more than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in January alone.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month he was “appalled” by the violence in Haiti, adding that it was “difficult to overstate” the crisis.Earlier Tuesday, the UN launched an appeal for $674 million for humanitarian projects in Haiti, where the crisis has continued to deepen with gang violence spreading to rural areas and the government’s presence eroding further.Guyana has offered financial support for the mission, but Persaud would not disclose the amount.