Benin offers 2,000 troops to Haiti force, US ambassador says

  • World
  • Tuesday, 27 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield addresses the United Nations General Assembly during a meeting ahead of the 2nd anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

(Reuters) -Benin has offered 2,000 troops to support a planned Kenyan-led international force to help Haitian national police fight armed gangs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a press conference on Monday.

The United Nations authorized the mission in October, a year after Haiti's unelected government requested it. The U.N. estimates the conflict in the Caribbean nation killed close to 5,000 people last year and has driven some 300,000 from their homes.

Thomas-Greenfield, speaking in Guyana where she traveled to lead the U.S. delegation to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit there, said she had learned just before starting the trip that Benin had offered the troops to support the force.

She said some Caribbean countries that had pledged support had called for more Francophone nations to join the effort.

A U.S. statement issued on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro last week had announced "financial, personnel, and in-kind commitments to the mission" from Benin, France and Canada, the latter which later announced 80.5 million Canadian dollars ($60 million) for the mission.

The United States has itself committed $200 million and pledged to boost efforts to stem the flow of illicit arms to the Caribbean region. The U.N. estimates firearms held by Haitian gangs are largely smuggled from the United States.

Thomas-Greenfield added that Guyana had also pledged funds to the mission, though she did not give an amount.

Kenya, which has pledged to lead the mission, offered 1,000 police officers, but a local court later barred the move as unconstitutional. President William Ruto has, however, said the plan will go ahead and meetings have since continued.

So far public offers to support the security force, which is based on voluntary contributions, have come largely from developing nations in Africa and the Caribbean.

Thomas-Greenfield said she had held meetings with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and encouraged both him and opposition groups to agree on a path forward, noting that no time frame has been set for the country's long-awaited elections.

Henry, who came to power after the assassination of the country's last president in 2021, had pledged to step down by early February, but later said security must first be re-established in order to ensure free and fair elections.

($1 = 1.3507 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by Kylie Madry and Shri Navaratnam)

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