Kenya demoted its foreign minister. What does it mean for its deployment into Haiti?
Miami Herald October 5, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Two days after Kenya’s foreign minister publicly thanked the United Nations Security Council — ahead of President William Ruto — for agreeing to an intervention in Haiti and said Kenya-led troops will be deployed in short order, he lost his high-profile cabinet job and got reassigned.
After getting ahead of the interior ministry to talk about the deployment, Alfred Mutua was moved to the tourism ministry, where he’s also now in charge of wildlife, following a cabinet reshuffle by Ruto.
Mutua had been a chief defender of the Kenyan forces and an outspoken proponent of his nation leading a multinational force into Haiti to help disarm violent gangs. His demotion comes as controversy rages in Kenya among opponents and critics of Ruto about the planned deployment, and as the president himself faces protests over the high cost of living and high taxes.
While the timing of Mutua’s demotion has raised eyebrows, at least one observer of both Kenya and Haiti, who has been closely monitoring the effort to get a multinational force into Haiti to assist the country’s beleaguered fore take down gangs, said she doesn’t believe it will have much impact.
“I don’t think the change of the foreign minister will have much influence on the actual designs of the Haiti operations,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institute.
The Kenyan ministers of interior and defense remain in place, she said. “The U.S. has strong linkages with both of those ministries and presumably will maintain the existing access to influencing the design of the operations,” Felbab-Brown added.
This is Ruto’s first reshuffle since he took office in August last year. In addition to Mutua’s reassignment, the foreign affairs ministry was moved and oversight was given to a close ally, Musalia Mudavadi. In a statement, Ruto said late Wednesday that the reshuffle was meant to “optimize performance and enhance delivery as set out in the administration’s manifesto.”
In late July, Mutua posted a statement on his social media account stating that Kenya had agreed to “positively consider” leading a multinational force into Haiti and sending 1,000 of its police officers to help the Caribbean nation’s police combat violent gangs that controlled at least 80% of the capital. At the time, the statement, posted on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, took even some foreign diplomats involved in the talks by surprise.
Days before the U.N. vote, Mutua a former journalist, told the BBC that the Haiti mission could be deployed in January, if not before, and in his public statement after the U.N. Security Council vote said it could happen “within a short time.”
In a Monday post on X, after the vote, he said: “I thank the United Nations Security Council #UNSC for adopting the Resolution that gives the mandate to intervene in Haiti to help our suffering brothers and sisters. I thank all those that have constructively participated to make the resolution fit for purpose and the effective networking that has gone on.”
He also called on “all international partners of good will” to assist. He added that “This mandate is not only about peace and security, but also about the rebuilding of Haiti — its politics, its economic development, and social stability. It is the beginning of a new chapter for the fathers, mothers and children of Haiti.”
The minister, who is active on social media, has not said anything about his reassignment. He did, however, update his portfolio for his 1.4 million followers on X.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mutua said he envisioned more than 50 countries each pledging 500 to 1,000 officers and that Kenyan officials, following an assessment, estimated that the Haiti effort could take three years and require 10,000 to 20,000 personnel. Unlike Mutua, the interior security minister has not spoken publicly and Ruto himself has provided few details about the preparations. In his statement thanking the U.N., he refrained from mentioning how soon deployment could happen.
Felbab-Brown said she believes the Kenyan government and others in the international community might have been displeased with his comments about the size of a Haiti force and that the mission would need three years to complete its work in Haiti. She believes his assessment is far more realistic about what it will take to weaken the gangs.
“In acknowledging the larger time and personnel necessary for the security operations alone, the Kenyan foreign minister clearly got ahead of the comfort of many, especially as he also seemed to apply that other countries were ready to send off forces far over the” numbers expected, she said.
The Haiti Multinational Security Support mission was authorized for one year, with a review in nine months by the Security Council. The Miami Herald, through diplomatic sources involved in conversations ahead of the U.N. vote, identified at least a dozen countries that expressed a willingness to participate either by deploying police or military personnel, or providing money or equipment. Washington, which has not revealed the list of countries, has only said that the 2,000 personnel a Kenya assessment team visiting Port-au-Prince in August said it needed in order to deployed, had been reached through offers from countries like The Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and others.
During that same visit, the Kenyan government also made it clear that a deployment would need to be approved by the African nation’s parliament, a point the country’s opposition lawmakers have pressed ever since Monday’s U.N. vote.
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