By Ju-Huyn Park, The REAL News, Oct. 18, 2023
On Oct. 2, the UN Security Council voted to approve a “multinational security support mission” in Haiti—ostensibly for the purposes of stopping gang violence and restoring law and order. Led by Kenya, this multinational force will be comprised of security forces from mostly Caribbean and Latin American countries. Despite receiving the blessing of the Security Council, this “security support mission” is not an official UN mission. Rather than being funded by the UN, the mission will be primarily funded by the US, which has already committed $200 million.
This latest military intervention, should it materialize, will be the fourth foreign occupation of Haiti in 30 years. While the UN Security Council, the Haitian elite, and the ever-obedient corporate media spread a lurid narrative of a country engulfed by bloodthirsty gangs, the real situation in Haiti—not to mention the true story of how it got there—is far more complex.
To understand the situation today, we must look back to the role of the US and other countries in the Core Group in dismantling Haiti’s democracy and sovereignty over the past thirty years of military interference. Dr. Jemima Pierre of UCLA and Booker Omole of the Communist Party of Kenya speak with The Real News to break down what’s going on with the latest foreign invasion of Haiti, and why Kenya of all countries has been tapped to helm the operation, at least officially.
Jemima Pierre is Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at UCLA and a research associate at the Center for the Study of Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg. She is the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race and numerous academic and public articles about Haiti, including a very recent essay originally published in NACLA, and now reprinted at The Real News, called “Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory.” Pierre is also an editor for Black Agenda Report and a member of Black Alliance for Peace.
Ju-Hyun Park: My name is Ju-Hyun Park, engagement editor here at The Real News. Today we’re turning our focus to Haiti, where yet another military intervention is about to take place. This time led, at least officially, by the seemingly unlikely candidate of Kenya.
Yesterday, Oct. 2, 2023, the UN Security Council approved what it is calling a multinational security support mission to Haiti for the duration of one year. 13 out of the 15 members of the Security Council voted to approve this new mission while Russia and China abstained, thereby declining to wield their veto power to stop or at least stall this latest intervention. So far, Italy, Spain, Mongolia, Senegal, Belize, Suriname, Guatemala, Peru, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda have all pledged equipment, funds, or personnel to the mission. Leading the charge, at least officially, is Kenya, which has committed 1,000 of its police officers to deploy in Haiti.
While the cover of UN approval may give the impression that this intervention is less imperialist than the many interventions Haiti has suffered in the past, the devil is in the details. Officially, the so-called multinational security support mission is not a UN peacekeeping mission because it will not be primarily funded by the United Nations. Instead, funding will be provided by pledges from UN member states, with the lion’s share coming from the United States, which has already committed some $200 million, half of which will come from the Defense Department.
Haiti is no stranger to foreign intervention. As the first Black republic and the only successful slave revolution in history, Haiti has never been allowed to prosper. For two centuries, the Haitian people have fought off invaders from France, Britain, and the United States. Shortly after achieving independence, Haiti was forced to pay France an indemnity on its freedom under the twisted logic that by liberating themselves from slavery, the Haitian people owed reparations to their former masters. This debt and the accruing interest was not paid off in full until 1947.
For the past century, the United States has become Haiti’s primary tormentor. US Marines first occupied Haiti for 19 years, from 1915 to 1934, waging a war of counterinsurgency against the people that killed at least 15,000 Haitians. Since the 1990s, three more foreign interventions have taken place in Haiti: one direct US invasion under Clinton and another two coordinated through the United Nations.
The most recent UN occupation of Haiti began in 2004 after a US-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected leader. This occupation lasted until 2019, although the UN continues to have an advisory presence in the country to this day. During this 15-year UN occupation, known as MINUSTAH, systematic violence against Haitian civilians by UN troops were documented, and troops are also known to have been responsible for an outbreak of cholera that claimed up to 30,000 lives. In investigations since the end of MINUSTAH, the UN has additionally admitted responsibility for 29 known cases of underage victims of sexual abuse at the hands of MINUSTAH troops.
It is this legacy that shadows the latest moves by the UN Security Councils to stage yet another armed intervention of Haiti. Under the cover of multilateralism and the willful cooperation of planned governments in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa, the US continues its role in masterminding the oppression of Haiti’s people.
Given the history of violent military intervention in Haiti, it’s worth asking why another invasion now? What are the true causes of the present security situation in Haiti? And is the security question really Haiti’s greatest problem or a symptom of something deeper? Is another foreign military intervention really the solution? And what on earth does Kenya have to do with any of this?
To answer these questions and more, I’m joined by Dr. Jemima Pierre of UCLA and Booker Omole of the Communist Party of Kenya. Jemima Pierre is a professor of African-American Studies and anthropology at UCLA and at the University of Johannesburg. She’s the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Post-Colonial Ghana and the Politics of Race, and numerous academic and public articles about Haiti, including a very recent essay, originally published in NACLA and now reprinted at The Real News, called “Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory.” Jemima Pierre is also a research associate at the Center for the Study of Race, gender, and class at the University of Johannesburg.
Booker Omole is the National Vice Chairperson and National Organizing Secretary of the Communist Party of Kenya.
Jemima, Booker, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to The Real News.
Jemima Pierre: Thanks so much for having me.
Booker Omole: Thank you. And it’s a pleasure to at least have a moment to discuss in The Real News.
Ju-Hyun Park: It’s a pleasure to have you both.
I’d like to begin with some questions for Jemima as our expert on Haiti today, and I’m hoping you can start by giving us an overview of Haiti’s very recent history. In 2003, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected leader, demanded that France pay reparations of $21 billion for the indemnity that Haiti was forced to pay after independence. One year later, Aristide was overthrown in a coup and the UN MINUSTAH force was deployed to Haiti, ostensibly under the auspices of protecting peace and democracy.
Could you describe for us the real impact of the MINUSTAH occupation on the ground and what political purposes it really served in your view?
Jemima Pierre: Yes, the real impact is what we’re seeing today. One of the things that’s been distressing in seeing the news media report on Haiti is the focus solely on gangs, so-called gangs, and not the actual ongoing MINUSTAH occupation.
So thank you so much for giving this background on Haiti. I want to go back to 2003 where you started with this question, because in the winter of 2003, there was a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, and it’s called the Ottawa Initiative, and it was a meeting of leaders from the US, Canada, France, the Organization of American States. It was a secret meeting in Lake Meech in Ottawa where they decided to do something about the Aristide problem. And this was a secret meeting that was reported in one of the Canadian leftist newspapers. And that’s how we found out about it. And they said that they wanted to remove Aristide and replace a malleable government.
And so that was put into play Feb. 28, 29, the night of the 29 where US Marines landed in Haiti, landed and then drove with the US ambassador to the home of the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, put him and his aide on a plane, and flew them to the Central African Republic.
One of the things that people don’t realize is the way that the US has been using – And I think that’s why Haiti is a big laboratory – Multilateralism, the language of multilateralism, for its imperial ends. And so Haiti was one of the first places where, because France and the US have permanent seats on the Security Council, once they removed Aristide, there were already hundreds of French and US troops on the ground in Haiti by March 1, the next day. They then used their seats on the Security Council to call for an emergency Security Council meeting on Haiti in order to solidify the coup. And so it is through their positions in the UN on the Security Council that they were able to justify this coup and then get buy-in from the entire UN group to actually send military force to Haiti.
Now, the other part I wanted to talk about is the fact that the country that led the military invasion in Haiti with 12,000 soldiers was Brazil under Lula da Silva. And this is a leftist government, and I want to remind people of this because Lula’s back in power. And I’ve written a piece called “Brazil’s Haitian Training Ground” where we talk about how it is that it was Brazil’s soldiers that really created some of the biggest heinous crimes in Haiti: shooting into neighborhoods, murdering people left and right, protestors and so on.
And so what the US did with the removal of Aristide, and this is also the important thing, was the complete destruction of the Haitian state today, there are no elected officials in Haiti. When the US invaded, when the UN and the US invaded Haiti in 2004, we had thousands, thousands of regional local officials. We had senators, we had a Parliament. We have none of that today because they went systematically and dismantled the state. So what happens is they came in 2004, brought in a council of elders, set up the Core Group, which is a group of representatives from Spain, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the UN. And the Core Group, basically, from 2004, has been making every single political decision on Haiti.
So you have that, and then they said they called elections. But the reality is the US, in 2011, during the so-called Arab Spring, after the earthquake in 2010 that killed 300,000 people, the US forced elections and paid for these elections. And during the first round, they removed the most popular party, the Lavalas Party. They did not allow them to participate in the elections. And then they had three people run. Their chosen person, who was a US citizen. The Haitian Constitution does not allow foreigners to run for president.
They were able to change that, give him a Haitian passport to make it seem like he was a Haitian president, make him run for president, this is Michel Martelly, who was a Duvalierist, and Duvalier was our dictator for 30 years in Haiti.
And then Martelly did not win the first round of the elections. Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti from the Middle East and threatened the sitting president with exile if they did not allow them to change the result with the help of the OAS, the Organization of American States. So they changed the results of the first round of elections, and the guy who did not even make the first round of the elections, where we only had 21% of the people voting, supposedly he won the elections.
So once you have Michel Martelly put in place, you start having the dismantling of the state. Because he never ran regional elections, we start losing elected members. By the end of his term, which was marred by corruption and so on, we had lost half the elected officials and he was ruling by decree. And then Michel Martelly put in his puppet – And mind you, there’s always protests. Haitians have been protesting nonstop. You don’t see that because all you hear now is gang violence.
Then the US used the OAS to install Jovenel Moïse in 2016 under terrible conditions with the majority of the people not voting, and under him no more elections of regional and Parliamentary elections. And so we’ve lost everyone. And so by the time Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, we only had three elected officials, and now they’re no longer in power.
And one more thing – And I know I’m talking so much, because there’s so much to say – One more thing is to say that when Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, Ariel Henry, the current prime minister, is implicated in that assassination. I have to tell you this, because he’s on record speaking to the main mastermind of the assassination. There was no prime minister because they were in transition. There was so much protest against Jovenel Moïse that he didn’t have a chance to put in a prime minister.
So what did the Core Group, which is our occupiers, our colonizers do? They sent a tweet announcing who the next prime minister would be. This is how Haiti’s supposed current government was chosen, by the Core Group, which has no Haitians in a bunch of outsiders.
So this original 2004 coup d’etat has left us under occupation, and it’s this occupation that’s completely destroyed the Haitian state, which is why we are where we are today. I’ll stop there.
Ju-Hyun Park: Thank you so much for that really expansive overview, and no worries at all about speaking at length. I think there’s a lot of information here to cover. We’re talking about many, many years of history. We’re talking about a very complex situation. So I just wanted to thank you for all of this context that you’re providing for our listeners today.
I think, from what it sounds like, what you’re describing is a process and a pattern where the language of multilateralism, the language of democracy is being wielded by the United States. But in fact, what is happening is really the stripping down of Haiti’s sovereignty. You’re describing a process through which actually existing democracy that was in Haiti under the government of Aristide is slowly being broken down through military force, through foreign intervention, through a process of installing puppet leaders blatantly breaking Haitian laws of acting as if Haiti has no right to decree laws for itself, and it needs to have laws imposed upon it from without. And I think that’s some really crucial context for us to understand how Haiti got to where it is right now.
And I think one other observation I would share is that this timeline we’re talking about, this occupation that begins in 2004 and, at least on paper, wraps up in 2019, that’s roughly parallel with the second Gulf War. And it seems that Haiti and Iraq have really had somewhat comparable experiences, at least in the 21st century. This experience of having their state completely destroyed, completely stripped down by a foreign power, and then having local power brokers empowered by forces from without who do not operate in the interest of the people, who effectively rule in a dictatorial fashion and openly flout the rule of law while you have outside forces claiming that there needs to be more intervention, there needs to be more meddling in the name of protecting peace and democracy.
I wanted to pivot us a little bit to understand a little bit better what the demands are from Haiti’s social movements and Haiti’s people. Because in the last five years, we have seen a growing social movement against foreign intervention, from the presence of foreign troops to the role of foreign NGOs. Can you tell us a little bit more about what these social movements in Haiti are actually demanding? What vision for society is driving them, and does it really gel with the narrative we are fed by the Western press, that all Haitians want is an end to the gang violence that is going on, and that ‘s the only problem in the country?
Jemima Pierre: Right. Well, the Haitian people, you would know. If anyone wants to know, just look at Twitter from 2018, 2019 when you had millions of people in the streets in Haiti demanding that the Core Group leave Haiti, that the UN leave Haiti, that the US stop its meddling in Haiti. So the Haitian people have been protesting no intervention, no meddling, and they want the Core Group to leave. That’s one of the first things that they’ve always said. They said, we don’t need the Core Group.
And the other thing, the most important thing right now is they want the US to take its prime minister that it imposed on us. The only reason Ariel Henry is still in power is because he’s protected by US special forces and the US upholds them in power. So the key thing is Haitians want to be left alone.
Haitian civil society came together in February 2021, and a lot of various groups came together and came up with an accord for a transition plan. This was before the assassination of Ariel Henry. One of the things that the US has decided is that they will not let the mistake that they let happen with Aristide getting popularly elected, they will not let that happen again in Haiti. So they’re going to control elections. I don’t know if even in the resolution, they’re like, we’re going to be there for a year and then we’re going to set up elections because they want to control the elections. And so the people don’t want Ariel Henry, they want the disbanding of the Core Group. They want to be left alone.
And back to the 2021 resolutions that the community groups came with, they had a two-year transition period that the US was completely dismissed and trampled on and supported Henry.
And I wanted to just say something quickly. In 1915, when the US first started occupying Haiti during the first occupation, because the US occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, those years are like World War I, the beginning of the League of Nations, Haiti was under occupation, but Haiti was one of the founding members of the League of Nations. And so the US called that sovereignty. They did not want the League of Nations to acknowledge that Haiti was under occupation because they said, well, we have a representative at the League of Nations. So I want to tell you, this goes back more than 100 years of us pretending that what they’re doing is for Haitian sovereignty and can claim that Haitians have sovereignty despite the fact that they’re under occupation. This is the exact same thing that’s happening now.
So anyways, what the people want, they want reparations from the UN for cholera. They want the US to stop supporting Ariel Henry. They want the US to stop dumping arms and ammunition, because we all know that the guns are coming from the US and from the Dominican Republic. There was a truckload of guns and ammunition found at the border of the Dominican Republic just last week.
And we all know that all the ports are owned by five families in Haiti, the oligarchs, the Haitian oligarchs, the non-Black Haitian oligarchs that own the ports, and they’re the ones that actually pay these young men, these paramilitaries to go in and shoot up the neighborhoods. And so they want an arms embargo, which is what China and Russia had asked for, an enforcement of the arms embargo.
And so all these things that people want, the first thing, they just want the US and the UN to get out, and then they want them to take Ariel Henry with them, and then they want them to stop dumping guns.
And I don’t know if people notice every time there’s about to be a UN vote on Haiti the past two years, the violence has swelled. The media, the machinery works on violence and gangs and so on and so forth. This almost as if it’s a planned action to make the world think that there’s nothing else that can help Haiti but more violence from foreigners.
Ju-Hyun Park: Right. The timing of everything is so convenient, and I think the point you made about the arms shipments is so true, because Haiti is not a country that is producing vast amounts of weapons on its own. The weapons must be produced somewhere. They must arrive in Haiti by some means. And I think the situation that you’re describing on the ground is really one where popular forces are demanding the sovereignty and the independence of their country, which is currently lacking, which has been lacking since the 2004 coup. And as you’re describing, has really led to a situation where those with the most wealth, those who control access to the ports, who are able to control not only the flow of commerce but ultimately arms, are able to manufacture situations that are very convenient for their own political aims and goals.
So thank you so much for that description and for really helping us break through some of the propaganda and the myth-making that has gone on around Haiti for so long. Because I think this narrative is something that comes up again and again, at least as rarely as Haiti ever gets mentioned in media, it’s always through this lens of uncontrollable violence, this narrative that for some reason this country is just so tragic. There’s some inexplicable reason for why this continues to happen again and again. When in fact, if we look into the history, we look into the actual conditions, there are very real explanations for why conditions in Haiti are as they are.
Before I pivot to Booker for a moment to talk about Kenya’s role, I wanted to actually circle back to what you mentioned about the role of Brazil and the role of Lula’s government in the original 2004 MINUSTAH occupation. You mentioned that it was Brazilian forces who comprised about 12,000 of those troops who committed some of the worst atrocities during that period of occupation. And I think you’ve pointed out elsewhere in your writing as well that many of these troops then returned to Brazil and ended up becoming Bolsonaro supporters, ended up becoming some of the people who are threatening Brazilian democracy to this day. So could you speak a little bit more generally about the role of anti-Haitianism in subordinating, not only Haiti, but other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and also in Africa?
Jemima Pierre: I would leave Africa out of this in terms of the anti-Haitianism because I do think one of the things that we forget is how much Haiti is hated for its Blackness and for this revolution. Because part of it is the same way that people in Africa now believe that Haiti has a gang problem, it’s such a mess and we need to go help our brothers and sisters, they’re dying and so on and so forth.
The reality is the media onslaught of images of Haiti during the revolution, there are all these images… I printed out the way The New York Times described Haiti in 1890, especially right after the revolution. It said that they won the revolution by eating the whites, by killing every white person. There’s a New York Times headline that’s like, “A Haitian ate a US soldier,” things like that. This is a New York Times headline from what, 1919, during the occupation, so cannibalism. And then the religion of Voodoo, which the Haitians practice.
And so the Caribbean itself has a lot of anti-Haitian… The Caribbean did not become independent for years after Haiti. So you have the Francophone Caribbean really had bad views of Haiti because a lot of them are still French departments. And the Anglophone Caribbean never really liked Haiti. So CARICOM, which is the Caribbean Community of countries, did not even want Haiti as part of CARICOM until the 90s. And CARICOM just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it was under P.J. Patterson that Haiti became a member of CARICOM. But the reality is they were always afraid of Haiti. They’re afraid of Haiti’s numbers. Haiti has 11 million people, so if Haiti joins CARICOM, they’re the largest component of CARICOM.
And then you have all the anti-Haitian migration laws in the Caribbean, the Black nation. The Bahamas have some of the worst laws and treatments of Haitians in the Caribbean followed by Jamaica, Barbados. So CARICOM has a way of travel among countries people can go except for Haitians.
And then you have Brazil, with its long history, with the largest Black population outside of Nigeria. They hate Black people already. They hate Haitians even more because our language is different. We speak the Creole, we don’t speak the French that the Francophone do. We don’t speak English. Our religion is different. We’re seen as more African and more Black.
So even Black people don’t like Haiti. And I think that pushes into the anti-Haitianism that you see even among the Black African countries. That’s why it’s so easy for the world to believe these stereotypes that Haiti is like a basket case, because the Black folks believe it about Haiti as well. And I think that’s important.
Brazil was in charge of this vote, this resolution vote. Brazil is in charge of the UN Security Council starting yesterday. And their first vote is on Haiti. This is the same Lula’s Brazil that led the other occupation that put us in this mess.
And so I do think it’s important because I think African countries, people on the continent need to understand how much hatred Haiti has gotten, not only from the white supremacist world, but also from the Black and Brown world. And I always say, in Latin America, people talk about the leftism of the Americas. There’s Lula, there’s AMLO, which is the Mexican government talking against imperialism. AMLO and Mexico were the ones pushing for intervention last summer against Haiti. They’re the ones that wrote the resolution last summer against Haiti. So everyone says, this is great, Lula, AMLO, the only two countries that have not talked against Haiti has been Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and Nicaragua – And Cuba. I have to say three countries.
And so I think that is important too, because that’s why it’s so easy to turn off any feeling, any sense of solidarity with Haiti because there’s this long history. And this long history really goes all the way back to winning the revolution and destroying France, Spain, the British, and so on and so forth, and asserting our African identity in the Caribbean.
Ju-Hyun Park: Thank you so much for that really valuable framing. I think what you’re lifting up here is that this is really a hemispheric matter. The Haitian revolution sent shockwaves throughout all the countries of the Americas because all of those countries were slave countries, and they were terrified of the prospect that that experience could be repeated within their own nations.
And I think everything that you’re raising about Brazil’s complicity and role about the role of Mexico, even under so-called leftist governments, is really crucial, and indicates how far there really is to go towards achieving this kind of justice, this kind of vision of a more liberated America is that we say throughout the hemisphere that we want, but really has to deal with this question of Haiti’s independence, of respect for Haiti as a nation. And also, I would argue, gratitude for Haiti’s historical role in helping to be a light for the rest of the world and shine a path towards a better future for all, a debt that I think the entire world has yet to even acknowledge or begin to repay by any means. So thank you so much for that background for us.
Jemima Pierre: Thank you.
Ju-Hyun Park: I’m going to pivot now to Booker Omole, who is joining us from Kenya. And Booker, I’m hoping you can speak to us a little bit about the role that Kenya is playing here, and help us situate it within the context of the politics in Kenya at the moment. I think I speak for many people when I say that I was initially a little bit bewildered to hear that Kenya, of all countries, will be leading the charge on this UN intervention. So I’m hoping you can explain what’s the utility of Kenya playing this role from the perspective of the Core Group, and why is the Kenyan government going along with this? What does it stand to gain?
Booker Omole: First of all, thank you very much Ju-Hyun and also Jemima for giving that brilliant context with our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
First of all, it’s important for us to understand that in the history of Kenyan foreign policy, particularly its government, the ruling class in Kenya since the colonial period, we have not had what we call a progressive foreign policy, save for the last 10 years before this current regime. In fact, the government foreign policy, just like the United States foreign policy – Which for us we don’t consider that the United States even having a foreign policy because every time they actually act, it can only expose its bankruptcy in terms of articulating anything that regards a foreign policy.
But remember, the Kenyan government supported the apartheid regime. Remember the Kenyan government is the only government that did not support any liberation movements in Africa. And in fact, even the Kenyan government supported an attack on Uganda by the Zionist forces here. And even today we have seen the Kenyans are fighting war in Somalia and in other African countries, and even bragging of their so-called peacekeeping.
So when we look at the Kenyan situation, we must realize that there is the Kenya government, which is the ruling class, which is really a new colonial capitalist tribal system that dominates us today. But also there is the majority of the Kenyan people. Because the policy of the government is the policy of the minority, is actually the policy that reflects the ruling class in Kenya, which are mainly the comprador class. And this comprador class, they’re even so weak at home, so they have to form alliances of oppression abroad to be able to continue to further their repressive policies even to their local people here.
Now the Kenyan government has coined a policy which they call “economic diplomacy.” Economic diplomacy basically means that in President Ruto’s government, they have no principle. That what they’ll do is wait and see, and they’ll negotiate on how much they can exploit in terms of relating with other nations. They do not want to relate with other nations out of principles.
So such is the history we have. There was a little change in terms of our foreign policy in the last 10 years during the Jubilee administration. But at the moment, the young people that are in government today are, by and large, part of the failed dictatorship during the 1990s, because our current president today was the youth leader of the Moi dictatorship last time. So it’s his policies, or his government policies, are mainly going to form alliances with imperialism.
Now, in the case of Haiti, it also must be said that within the court of public opinion in Kenya, not many people support a deployment of the Kenyan police to Haiti, because they see it as a broader chessboard. Because now the current government, even in Kenya today, lacks its legitimacy at home. Because the purpose that this government actually exists, according to the majority of the people, is to advance the interests of the United States, both at home and abroad.
And the first recommendation even to justify that deployment of a police force of 1,000 people will be beneficial in terms of its economic content and also to provide employment. Because remember, the Kenyan government has been convincing the Kenyan population that they’re looking for jobs abroad instead of creating jobs at home. So you can realize that the particularity of the ruling class, especially within the African context, is that they’re looking for solutions to national issues from the people that control them, which is actually the dominance class in the Northern Hemisphere, the dominance class, particularly in the United States and their European allies.
Indeed, also, it is good to recall that the United States intervention, even within the African context, they keep changing the policy to make sure that they could get another country or even the local population to fight their own wars.
For example, of course, all of us remember the Black Hawk Down, where the United States soldiers were drugged in the streets in Somalia. From there, the policy has always been if we can use another African country to put boots on ground in Somalia.
In terms of Haiti, I also think that it is one of the policies of the United States that, for now, they were going to try to use some Black faces in Haiti to actually further their policy of intervention and to repress the Haitian people. So in our own context, we see that this is an imperialist intervention, and the United States is only using Kenya as a front to continue to dominate that country in terms of their political, social, and economic environment.
Ju-Hyun Park: Thank you so much for providing that really important background on the current Ruto government in Kenya. It’s very apparent that this is an extremely reactionary government. This is a government that serves the interests of a tiny minority who comprise a ruling elite who are really dependent on the power of outside forces. I think not unlike what we see in Haiti with Ariel Henry today.
I think the situation you described with the use of third countries to stage interventions on behalf of Western powers is very important and very cogent for the moment, not only in this case. We just wrapped an interview with the Thomas Sankara Center in Burkina Faso talking about the coups that have taken place in the Sahel, about the threat of the ECOWAS invasion that was very recent. And I think in that context as well we see that same dynamic playing out, where the main imperialist powers are no longer necessarily going to send their own troops on every occasion that they need to crush a peripheral country, but they will turn to these other neo-colonial actors who can then act on their behalf, who can then provide some cover for them in order to allow them to enact their political will, essentially, through violence.
I wanted to delve a little bit into what you were saying about the actual needs and the most pressing issues facing the working people of Kenya today. Because as you’re saying, the decisions that this government is making are not in line with the interests of the working people. And you are from the Communist Party of Kenya, which is a party that I really recommend that anyone listening or watching this check out if they can. The Communist Party of Kenya is doing some outstanding work, very connected to the working masses of that country. It really appears that there is also a lot of youth presence, which is always a really excellent thing to see.
So speaking from your particular position, could you inform us a little bit about what you would identify as some of the biggest problems facing the working people in Kenya today, and what the view of regular people of this intervention really is?
Booker Omole: First of all, most of the Kenyan problems, especially the problems facing the Kenyan working class, cannot be only analyzed within the context of the internal conditions in Kenya. Because I will say that from the 1990s, the policies that have been implemented within Kenya have been influenced mostly by the dominance class, particularly in the global North. So it basically means that the Kenyan masses have not had an opportunity to implement the policies that they see that are beneficial to them. Kenya has suffered heavily in the hands of neoliberal institutions, particularly World Bank and IMF, perfected by the United States.
So that has even exacerbated the problems of the Kenyan working class, because the unemployment rate in our country is rising every day. And in fact, at the moment, we have 60% of the youth population that do not know what to do when they wake up. Forget about meaningful employment. That means they go to school, and the schools are now being privatized, but they do not know what the future holds for them.
And the second element to it is that Kenya has been into a part of deindustrialization. That means the neoliberal policies that have been imposed upon the Kenyan people have reduced us only to a raw material exporter, and there is no meaningful job creation that is taking place. So that means most of the Kenyan jobs are being exported abroad.
And if you look at this President Ruto’s government, the Kenya Kwanza administration, they have been selling a rhetoric, but in terms of implementation, they’re implementing something else. For example, this government, more or less, President Ru’s campaign was anchored on a reality in the Kenyan masses, which was basically the war between the haves and the have-nots. And he made it clear to bring the young people on his side by saying that this country is dominated by a few families. Indeed, those few families have broken the Kenyan people’s future.
But himself, who he actually described himself as somebody who made genuine wealth through rising from poverty, and everybody else knows that he has been a beneficiary of state sponsored corruption. Just the fact that his parents are poor does not mean that, at the moment, he’s not part of the owning class that continues to oppress the Kenyan people. So in actual sense, this rhetoric of the bottom-up economic model that this government has been preaching is nothing but a fallacy.
In fact, they are implementing the trickle-down effect, the neoliberal policies. So every time they want to address the issue of unemployment. Remember a few months ago, the German chancellor was with us here, and they signed a pact to export the Kenyan youth to go and work in Germany. Now they’re saying that he was in the United States and he had a meeting with multinationals like Apple and all that kind, Microsoft. And he’s saying that the majority of the Kenyan people will get jobs abroad. That is the outward-looking policy that this government sees as a possibility to think that they can convince youth that they can provide dignity, including this embarrassment of exporting the Kenyan police to Haiti.
But in actual sense, what the Kenyan people need is a deliberate effort, first of all to address issues to do with land, which is at the core of the Kenyan activism. Because almost 75% of land in Kenya is owned by a few families, and mainly the rich people who continue to hold it on behalf of the multinationals. Once that has been rectified, then they can talk about agricultural land mechanization to go ahead and now start a deliberate policy towards industrialization.
But for now, the president talks about Pan-Africanism. He talks about the need for a new financial architecture. He also talks about the plight of the Black people, but it’s only a lip service. It is a total rhetoric. In actual sense, this government has failed at home and continues to fail abroad through even attacking the most vulnerable.
In fact, the Kenyan police, as we speak, majority of the poor people in Kenya die through extrajudicial killing, more than malaria, any disease that you can think of. So these police forces that they’re trying to deploy in Haiti are actually a killer squad. In fact, we call them thugs in blue here in Nairobi, because they wake up to murder innocent and poor Kenyans, trying to discourage them from even looking for their way of life.
Such a police force cannot say that they can be professionalized to go and have another imperialist intervention to help their Haitian people because the Haitian people all of a sudden have a gang problem, while Kenya’s gangs here are rioting every day, but the Kenya police are helpless. Why don’t they finish our gang at home here and the political militias before they can think of helping Haiti? And in the event that Haiti needed help, who is the Canadian government or the United States government to know who is good for what? Because the United States thinks that this world is their bucket and we are just children so they can move around and perfect and police the world only to their interests.
Ju-Hyun Park: Thank you so much for establishing that. And I particularly appreciate the point about the track record of Kenya’s own police force within Kenya itself. There’ve been a number of voices that have raised criticism, raised contention over this idea that Kenya can suddenly go from having many essentially documented human rights violations within its borders inflicted by its own police, and then suddenly this police force should be trusted to bring peace and stability to Haiti.
And I think another thing I really appreciate about your comments is the very clear parallels, actually, between Haiti’s situation and Kenya’s situation: You have the dominance over the state, the dominance over the economy by a handful of extremely wealthy, well-connected families. You have all these plans that are projected for improving these nations that really have nothing to do with developing them, really have nothing to do with investing in the social development of these countries or in the economic development of these countries, but really only provides the solution as more military intervention, more export of labor rather than the creation of economic possibility and opportunities within the countries themselves.
So I really appreciate the way that your response helps us to thread the needle on this and tie all these different facets together.
Now, to close us out, I’d like to turn back to Jemima for a moment. Could you help us understand how those of us who are not living in Haiti but want to be in solidarity with Haiti and the Haitian people, how can we support Haiti’s defense in this moment? What is most important right now?
Jemima Pierre: Well, what is most important is for people to come together and push back against this ongoing push for intervention in Haiti. I think there’s an onslaught against Haiti from all sides.
One of the things, just quickly, Ruto met with Luis Abinader, who is the president of the Dominican Republic, and it was clear with this meeting that Ruto knows nothing about Haiti. The Dominican Republic has had this fascist relationship with Haitian people because they don’t want to see themselves as Black. And so they’ve been killing Haitians.
In fact, what’s the saddest part about yesterday’s vote was it was the anniversary of the 1937 massacre of 30,000 Haitians by the Dominicans and throwing their bodies into the river, the Massacre River, the same river that Luis Abinader is using right now. And Ruto went and signed a deal with the Dominican Republic president in order for them to provide support for Kenyan troops when they’re in Haiti. Imagine how much of a slap in the face this is for Haitians watching this.
So I do think one of the things that we need to do is push back against the Western media narrative about Haiti around this vote. This vote was not a unanimous vote. It was abstained, the two major permanent members abstained. This is not a UN mission. I hope people go and tell people this is not a UN mission. It’s a US mission being given cover, which means that it’s a mercenary outfit. Kenyan police are acting as mercenaries in Haiti.
And I think people need to really push back against the media narrative about this gang violence. Sure, there’s gangs, but then Mexicans have cartels. No one’s calling right now to send a UN mission to Mexico or Jamaica, which has a bigger gang problem. And I actually think the biggest gangsters in Haiti are the Core Group and the US and BINUH, they’re the biggest gangsters because they’re the ones that are basically acting like gangsters ruling Haiti as if they can get away with everything.
And so I think we need to push back against the narrative. I think we need to talk to our brothers and sisters on the African continent, the masses, and tell them what’s really been going on in Haiti for the past 20 years: that Haiti’s under occupation, that the US is using the UN to push this multilateral imperialism. I think we need to change the narrative and we need to talk to our friends. We need to read, we need to see what’s going on. I think that’s the best thing.
And the most important thing, I think people need to ask their members of Congress to stop funding the Department of Defense, stop funding another imperial intervention using our tax dollars. The US is already losing in Ukraine using all this money, because it’s a proxy war, and we need the US to stop these proxy wars. And we need people to look at Haitians as human beings, not the savages that people present in the media.
Those are the key things. And I think if we did not treat Haiti as so exceptional, we would see the parallels of what happened with Iraq and Haiti. What happened with Libya. The last time China and Russia abstained from a vote, NATO was able to destroy Libya, right? We need to stop exceptionalizing Haiti and see Haiti as empire’s biggest laboratory. And if we see that, then we can see ways we can form solidarity and push back against the US empire.
Ju-Hyun Park: Well, thank you so much for that response. I think that’s a really helpful way for our audience to get a little bit of footing to understand where to go next. To add a little bit to your point, the United States also has something like 40,000, 50,000 gun violence deaths a year, I believe. Where is our UN peacekeeping mission? We can very easily say that any country, most countries around the world, really, have some kind of social problem that we could identify as a reason for intervention, and yet only some countries are repeatedly subjected to this treatment.
I want to pivot back to Booker for a moment. Booker, I’m hoping you can tell us a little bit about what the Communist Party of Kenya is currently doing to resist the Ruto government’s plans to intervene in Haiti. And what, if anything, those of us listening from outside of Kenya can do in order to support your efforts?
Booker Omole: Yeah, thank you very much. First of all, the deployment of the Kenya Police Service to Haiti is illegal even within the national laws in Kenya. So that means the president of the United States, including the president of Kenya, knows this illegality. So the first step is that the Communist Party of Kenya, of course, is going to challenge this within the legal framework of Kenya and to try and hold this government accountable and to expose its bankruptcy. Because every time that the people were saying that we were imposed upon a president, he denied to the hilt that he was never a puppet of the West. But now we can see he’s not just a puppet of the West, but what’s more, he’s only being asked how high he can jump when the West speaks.
The second is, of course, the most powerful court: the court of public opinion. We must continue to prosecute the Kenyan police’s crimes here in the court of public opinion. And also to tell them that probably the issues they’re dealing with here in our country are much more simpler than the Haiti situation. Because I can assure them that it is not going to be a walkover, because Haiti has a long history of resistance. So maybe they could carry more body bags as they head in that direction. And with a very minimal support base at home, the chances of success abroad will be non-existent. And in fact, the issue around the insecurities in Haiti are only going to be worsened by the arrival of a foreign military or a foreign police force on that ground.
So we also, the Communist Party of Kenya is quite happy to join, in fact, to join international solidarity movements against the intervention of the Core Group in Haiti, and also to continue to mount more pressure through street action here at home, and to bring out – And I know for a fact that when the casualties start to arrive from Haiti to Nairobi, there will be a big media to try and downgrade it.
But for us, we think that the Kenyan people should know the truth, that this war that is going to be abroad is actually also to advance the… The imperialists do not like Haiti, for one fact, because without the first slave revolution, probably they would have not inspired more movements across the globe. So the Communist Party of Kenya will just call upon that we are more than willing to be an internationalist party, and we will want to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti, and to tell them that the Kenyan masses are with them. And the ruling class, for a fact, the Communist Party of Kenya do not hide its intentions that our fight here at home is actually to overthrow those people who continue to actually sell out our country, to sell out the local majority population to the interest of capital, mainly the interest of the United States and imperialism.
Some comment also I wanted to make, which I might have forgotten, comrade, is the issue of coups in Haiti. Because we have been talking about coups, but now the United States supports coups in Haiti, but they say they cannot support coups here in Benin, Burkina Faso. Even here in Chad, they support another coup. They support a coup in Libya. So it’s interesting, the hypocrisy of the United States, because for a fact, we know that there are coups that enjoy the popular support of the people, but there are coups that are supported only from external purposes to oppress the general population.
So for us, at least, it’s clear from the Communist Party of Kenya that the United States is a degenerating empire. So they have to choose how they want to fall, because all empires shall fall. So do they want to fall with dignity in a [inaudible] disaster, or do they want to fall by actually accepting that the crimes they have committed is unforgivable, and they try to mend fences with the people they have brutalized for many generations?
That is how we see it. And for the people who think that the United States will continue to hold their hands to oppress their people, like the current Kenya Kwanza regime in our country, we will promise them that they will need more policemen here in Nairobi than to take them to Haiti. Because we are not going to keep quiet to make sure that even the Kenyan people see what actually is the true picture of their Haiti-African relations. Because we cannot be talking about the question of Haiti only on other platforms. But when it comes to our own towns here in Nairobi, we continue to support a backward policy that can only continue to worsen our relationship between our brothers and sisters in other places.
Ju-Hyun Park: Well, thank you both so much, and absolutely amen to that. Empires fall whether they like it or not, and it’s always a matter of time. And those at the seat of empire can always choose if they want to go with a whimper or with a bang, as it’s said.
I want to express really profound gratitude to you both for bringing such extensive knowledge and insight into this conversation. I think this is going to be very, very valuable for our listeners. To wrap us up, where can our audiences keep up with you? What’s the best way to stay abreast of both of your activities? Jemima, maybe you could begin, and Booker can wrap us up.
Jemima Pierre: Oh, yeah. Well, I’m one of the editors for the Black Agenda Report, so that’s where we publish a lot on Haiti. I’m on Twitter, it’s not under my name, but I’ve been outed, so at this point I can say it’s @grosmorne, which is G-R-O-S-M-O-R-N-E. That’s where most of my information, most of my things on Haiti. And of course I publish quite a bit on Haiti, so you could just look on YouTube under my name, and a Google search, and whenever something comes out, you’ll find it. Thank you.
And I have to plug the Black Alliance for Peace, the Haiti Americas Team, which has been the one group that’s kept Haiti on up in conversations, even when all the leftist organizations forgot about Haiti. So I just want to really plug in our organization and our work on Haiti, and I think it’s important for us to continue that work.
And I have to say one quickly for the audience, we have a resource page on Haiti that can actually trace the whole history of Haiti and also the beginning of this time. It’s blackallianceforpeace.com/haiti. And so there’s a page with all, we have a Haiti syllabus, we have zines, we have videos, we have everything that can bring you up to date on what’s happening in Haiti. We have that on that page.
Ju-Hyun Park: Awesome. Well, once again, thank you both so much for taking the time. I’m hoping that we will be able to continue these discussions as needed, and really appreciate having you both on. Thank you so much and have an excellent rest of your days.
Jemima Pierre: Thanks so much for having us on. Really appreciate that. And thanks so much for putting up Haiti, in solidarity with Haiti.
Posted Oct. 21, 2023