UN votes to end Haiti peacekeeping mission in October

Security Council unanimously votes to replace 2004 mission with a smaller police-only force as stability emerges.

Brazilian peacekeepers secure the perimeter of the Lycee Philippe Guerrier before the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti
The 13-year UN mission began when violence erupted after president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure [Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters]

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to end its 13-year-long peacekeeping mission in Haiti and replace it with a smaller police.

The move signals the international community believes the impoverished Caribbean nation is stabilising after successful elections.

The peacekeeping mission – one of the longest-running in the world and known as MINUSTAH – has been dogged by controversy, including the introduction of cholera to the island by UN troops that killed thousands of Haitians, as well as sexual abuse claims against them.

UN admits role in Haiti cholera outbreak

The 15-member Security Council acknowledged the completion of Haiti’s presidential election, along with the inauguration of its new president, as a “major milestone towards stabilisation” in the Caribbean country.

“What we now need is a newly configured mission which is focused on the rule of law and human rights in Haiti,” British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said.

“Peacekeepers do fantastic work but they are very expensive and they should be used only when needed,” Rycroft said.

The shutdown of the $346m mission, recommended by UN chief Antonio Guterres, comes as the United States looks to cut its funding of UN peacekeeping.

The US is the largest contributor paying 28.5 percent of the total budget.

Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the decision to downsise may be because of American pressure to save money.

“The US has been demanding that the UN become leaner and meaner in its operation, and has at times threatened to withhold some of the massive funding that it gives the organisation,” Hanna said. 

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There are 2,342 UN troops in Haiti, who will withdraw over the coming six months.

The new mission will be established for an initial six months, from October 16, 2017 to April 15, 2018, and is projected to exit two years after its establishment. It will be a police force of about 1,000 personnel.

Haiti By Force – Fault Lines

UN peacekeepers were deployed to Haiti in 2004 when an uprising led to the ouster and exile of then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It is the only UN peacekeeping mission in the Americas.

Haiti suffered a two-year political crisis until the recent election and inauguration of President Jovenel Moise. It has suffered major natural disasters, including an earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew last year.

But the impoverished Caribbean country has not had an armed conflict in years.

UN peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse and blamed for the cholera outbreak. Haiti was free of cholera until 2010, when peacekeepers dumped infected sewage into a river.

The UN does not accept legal responsibility for the outbreak of the disease, which causes uncontrollable diarrhea. Some 9,300 people have died and more than 800,000 sickened.

In late March, the council reduced the size of its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the ceiling down from 19,815 troops to 16,215.

Missions in Liberia and Ivory Coast are also set to end, while the joint UN-African Union peace operation in Sudan’s Darfur region is also expected to be drawn down.

Source: News Agencies