Gacheke Gachihi, head of the Mathare Social Justice Center in Nairobi, Kenya
“Sending police to Haiti was not a Kenyan decision, it was the decision of a reactionary president,” say the country’s popular leaders.
Kenya’s Supreme Court has temporarily prohibited the deployment of security forces to Haiti. The international mission had been approved by the United Nations earlier this month. The Supreme Court’s decision, extended on the 24th, follows pressure from popular movements and a lawsuit brought by opposition leader Ekuro Aukot, who claimed that the deployment of police forces was unconstitutional.
To better understand this issue, Brasil de Fato spoke to Gacheke Gachihi, leader of the Mathare Social Justice Center, a grassroots movement based in the urban area of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and which articulates other popular movements in the country. The organization campaigns for human rights, social justice and the right to water, and is also involved in the struggle for democratic transformation in this African country.
Haitian popular movements have been protesting for months against further military intervention in the country. This position is motivated by a negative assessment of the legacy of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), led by Brazil between 2005 and 2017, which contributed to the weakening of the Haitian state and foreign economic dependence.
The interview in full:
Brasil de Fato: What’s happening in Kenya? What can you tell us about President William Ruto’s military mission to Haiti?
Gacheke Gachihi: The situation in Kenya is horrible.A new regime took power in the country almost a year ago. The president is a reactionary.He was elected by the evangelical churches, the Christian right and fundamentalists. He is a neoliberal.This president, William Ruto, is not very different from Bolsonaro. They come from the same political and historical background. And he’s been co-opted by American imperialism to work for them.
Kenya has its history with imperialist forces. Nairobi is like an imperialist backyard. We come from a British colony and we have a lot of American military influence in Kenya.
So the president’s position of sending a thousand Kenyan police to Haiti was not a Kenyan decision, it was a reactionary president’s decision, and that was clear when he went to the UN meeting, the General Assembly. He said he would send a thousand soldiers to Haiti in response to what was happening there. But the problem of Haiti is a problem of the United States, which has brought armed violence to Haiti. It was a crisis of imperialism that led to the violence in Haiti. Haiti and Latin America have a very strong bond because of the Haitian revolution, which inspired Simón Bolívar.
So we feel very bad, as Kenyans and Africans, to have a reactionary president who has made this decision.In our Constitution, the President has no mandate to send the army or police into another country without the approval of Parliament.And this decision was not adopted by Parliament.What’s more, a party with which we have an alliance, which is working with us and organizing around this issue, and comrades from the human rights movements have gone to court and obtained an order to stop sending police to Haiti if we don’t do it.Parliament, after what the Constitution says.The President’s decision is unconstitutional.It’s not supported by Kenyan law.
It’s a populist initiative by this president and he defended it in New York, at the UN General Assembly.There was also a protest and a petition in Kenya saying that this was a bad decision and that President William Ruto was acting like a puppet of the United States.And many people are happy to see Haitians demonstrating in the United States and condemning the actions of Kenyan President William Ruto, who is a puppet of imperialist forces.And the decision you’ve made is not ours.
Brasil de Fato: Gacheke, are there about a thousand police officers in total?
Gacheke Gachihi: Yes, a thousand. And the following happens.When there’s a crisis of imperialism, they use Third World countries to clean up their messes. We’re against that. That’s why we’re leading a protest, a campaign and a petition against this decision, already disavowed by our Justice and our Parliament.
Brasil de Fato: Why is this mission so interesting for the United States?What can you say about the relationship between the United States and Kenya?
Gacheke Gachihi: Kenya is a client state of the United States.That’s why they want to use Kenya, and they’ve already used other countries to create machines and fight like in Iraq or Libya. It’s the same thing.Now they’re asking directly if we can send our police to do the job in Haiti. They always do it the same way.They are appendages of imperialism: militarization, fascism. And Haiti’s problem is an American creation. Now they’re coming to us.
Kenya is just one of the countries where the police take part in military training to carry out illegal executions. This also happens in Brazil, where the police murder many poor people. The same thing is happening in Kenya, with illegal executions. The police are trained by Israel and the USA.Why do they train them like this?So that they’re connected and can be sent out, because they’ve been trained by them.It’s no different from what the US is doing in Colombia.
It’s the same manual that uses state violence to try to solve the political problems it creates.Because Haiti’s problem is an American creation.And it’s not an issue that requires a military solution.
Haiti’s problem requires political solutions. But precisely because the United States doesn’t want to leave Haiti and solve the political problem of building democratic institutions, the economy and the country, it decides to create a military conflict, a police conflict in Haiti. And so continue to create sectarianism and violence.
It’s the same thing they’ve been doing for many years in Latin America, in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador.It’s the same thing. The scenario is the same. That’s what they’re doing.
Brasil de Fato: Popular movements protested against this measure and played a central role in blocking the deployment of troops. What is the relationship between the government and the movements in Kenya?
Gacheke Gachihi: The Mathare Social Justice Centre leads social movements in Kenya because we are located on the periphery, in the slums, in informal settlements.
We’ve been documenting illegal executions for seven years.
So the government is not happy because we petition, protest and march, and we also write letters to the international community to say that this government’s decision is no different from what it’s doing to our people. And our police are the worst possible because they are violent, they are a tool of oppression.
And as I said, they’ve also been trained by the US and Israel to carry out executions and illegal policing.They don’t like us because we document human rights violations. But we still have popular support and this decision has been rejected by many people.On the Internet, many people wrote that it was a bad decision.
In addition, there will be our protest and campaign against the decision. The Kenyan state has never been on our side. It always undermines our work and, even now, has prepared a letter saying that we should stop defending human rights and documenting these violations.
Thus, the issue of Haiti has been the target of criticism in Kenya from many social movements, political forces and parties.A powerful alliance opposes this decision.And it won’t stay that way. What we can say is that it’s important to have a unified demand for solidarity between Haiti, the MST and Kenya’s social movements, to launch an international campaign that denounces not only this decision, but also the way in which the United States uses Third World countries like Kenya to form and create mechanisms to destabilize other countries.
Brasil de Fato: To conclude, do you think the Kenyan president will fail in this mission?
Gacheke Gachihi: You won’t succeed. First of all, it has been repudiated internationally and nationally. Kenya’s democratic institutions have already stopped sending police to Haiti. There will be resistance to the mission both locally and internationally.
And what I can ask is that social movements lead an international campaign against this, both at the UN Assembly and in Africa, in East Africa and in our country.
We need movements in Latin America to be aware that the US is using the police and army to generate violence, assassinate activists and commit illegal executions.
We need movements to join those in Africa in rejecting this mission, because the same tactics and strategies the U.S. has already used in Latin America are now being used in Africa, starting with this mission in Haiti.The more movements in Latin America understand the role of the US military and police in dismantling their own democratic movements and forces, and in overthrowing the region’s governments. These are identical examples, the manual is the same in Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia. All the same. That’s why we must march together.
Brasil de Fato October 27, 2023
English Translation by Internationalist 360°