09 Jul 2024, 08:02

New Haiti police chief vows imminent anti-gang action

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 9, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Haitian police will launch operations very soon against powerful gangs terrorizing the country, newly appointed chief Rameau Normil vowed Monday, alongside the leader of a Kenyan contingent deployed to help.

"One day people are going to wake up and see that the bandits have been stopped by the police," Normil told a news conference, his first public remarks since assuming the job on June 21.

He was joined by Godfrey Otunge, the commander of the Kenyan contingent -- the first personnel so far deployed of a UN-approved multinational security force.

"For strategic reasons we are not gong to say how we will proceed," Normil said.

For years Haiti has been at the mercy of well armed gangs that now control 80 percent of the capital Port-au-Prince and also major roads in the destitute Caribbean country.

Conditions sharply worsened at the end of February, when armed groups launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince, saying they wanted to overthrow then-prime minister Ariel Henry.

He ultimately agreed to step down and hand over executive power to a transitional council, which has named an interim prime minister and government.

The UN Security Council approved the Kenyan-led multinational security force last year, but it faced months of delays due to court challenges in Nairobi, and then the political turmoil around Henry's resignation.

A first 200-strong contingent of the force arrived on June 25.

Haitian officials and the Kenyan team are holding consultations on how to address the gang violence, Normil said.

Otunge said he was optimistic about the task that lies ahead.

"We have a job which we have committed to do and we must do it to the best of our ability," he said.

"The job is to ensure the restauration of peace throughout Haiti," Otunge said, adding they "intend to achieve this through working closely with Haitian authorities, and local and international partners who are committed to a new Haiti."

He declined to say when the next contingent of Kenyan personnel would arrive in Haiti.

Military transport planes carrying armored vehicles arrived this weekend in Port-au-Prince, an AFP reporter observed.

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