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Kenya Pauses on Deploying Police to Haiti

A deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti to help quell gang-fueled lawlessness is on hold until a new government is formed in the Caribbean nation, officials in Kenya said Tuesday.

Kenya had agreed to send a security force to Haiti, but that deal had been reached with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who on Monday night agreed to step down once a new transitional government is formed.

“The deal they signed with the president still stands, although the deployment will not happen now because definitely we will require a sitting government to also collaborate with,” said Salim Swaleh, a top spokesman for Kenya’s Foreign Ministry. “Because you don’t just deploy police to go on the Port-au-Prince streets without a sitting administration.”

Haiti’s embattled prime minister announced his resignation after being stranded for days in Puerto Rico following a gang takeover of much of the Haitian capital that made it impossible for him to return. His decision followed several days of violent attacks on police stations, prisons, the main airport, seaport and other state institutions.

Mr. Henry’s resignation brought more uncertainty to an already chaotic situation on the Caribbean island, which has been overtaken in recent months by an extraordinary wave of gang violence.

Mr. Henry, 74, had traveled to Kenya to make final arrangements for the East African country to deploy 1,000 police officers to Haiti to help quell the violence. The mission was sanctioned by the United Nations and largely financed by the United States, which on Monday pledged to provide more aid.

The mission had already been delayed by Kenyan court rulings, but the agreement that Mr. Henry and Kenya signed was meant to eliminate the last remaining legal obstacle so the deployment could proceed.

Gang leaders took advantage of Mr. Henry’s absence to take to the streets and sow more bedlam. Orchestrated attacks on two prisons set thousands of inmates free. Gunfire at the main airport in Port-au-Prince, the capital, forced the suspension of flights; homes were ransacked and looted across the city.

Every day brought reports from the United Nations of civilians cut down by gang fire.

The gangs threatened civil war if Mr. Henry did not resign. Mr. Henry, who was appointed prime minister, had become widely unpopular among many Haitians because of his inability to protect people from gangs and his apparent reluctance to hold elections.

Leaders from Caribbean nations, who have led the push to create a transitional council that would lead Haiti after Mr. Henry’s departure, met for discussions in Jamaica on Monday but said no plan had been finalized. Guyana’s president, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who leads Caricom, a union of 15 Caribbean countries, said that “we still have a long way to go.”

It was far from clear when Mr. Henry, who had been under growing pressure to step down both in Haiti and abroad, would actually do so.

Mr. Henry’s tenure has been troubled from the start.

A neurosurgeon who had lived in France for nearly 20 years, Mr. Henry led the country’s public health response to a 2010 earthquake and a cholera outbreak that followed. He also worked in the interior ministry. A veteran of two previous presidential administrations, he was a member of the opposition party when President Jovenel Moïse tapped him to become prime minister in 2021.

But Mr. Moïse was assassinated days after that nomination, and Mr. Henry was never formally voted in by the legislature.

Haiti’s electoral system is in such disarray that no elections have been held in eight years. With no Parliament in office to choose a new prime minister, many Haitians saw Mr. Henry’s time in power as illegitimate.

But the Biden administration and other countries backed him, which helped Mr. Henry stay in office. With his departure now, Kenyan officials say they will wait until a new governing body is in office.

“We will definitely have to work with some sort of an administration for you to fulfill that mandate,” Mr. Swaleh said. “Then, if there’s none, of course, we cannot just put the police out there.”

A spokesman for Mr. Henry, Jean-Junior Joseph, said Mr. Henry will step down once the transitional council is appointed.

“We are waiting for that to happen,” he said.

David C. Adams and Andre Paultre contributed reporting.

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