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Kenya is sending thousands of police officers to tackle Haiti's gang violence

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Police officers from Kenya are on their way to this hemisphere, to Haiti, to face gang violence. They're part of a force backed by the United States. Their mission has faced setbacks and also a legal challenge in Kenya. Emmanuel Igunza reports from Nairobi.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: (Non-English language spoken).

EMMANUEL IGUNZA, BYLINE: For months, these elite officers have been undergoing training as their deployment faced logistical delays, diplomatic hurdles and legal challenges at home.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLICE OFFICER DRILL)

IGUNZA: The U.N. Security Council approved their mission last fall, but it remains hugely underfunded. But in a closed-door ceremony on Monday, President William Ruto addressed the departing officers and handed them the Kenyan flag as they prepared to leave for their mission in Haiti.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO: We are a nation that believes in democracy. And the people of Haiti have been denied democracy.

IGUNZA: More officers will join them in weeks to come, bringing the total number to a thousand Kenyan personnel. They are drawn from the anti-terror and riot police and the border patrol units that receive highly specialized training from countries like the U.S. and Israel. The Kenyan team will lead a multinational force that will eventually include troops from the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Jamaica. The U.S. has agreed to contribute more than $300 million to the force but has stopped short of sending U.S. troops. But the deployment comes at a point when even more questions are being raised over the human rights record of Kenyan police and the handling of ongoing mass protests here. They've been accused of abducting, beating and killing protesters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUTO: Our Heavenly Father, you have chosen our country, Kenya, to lead the mission to Haiti.

IGUNZA: As the troops departed, President Ruto offered his prayers and his hope that, despite the setbacks, this deployment could mark the first step in helping to restore peace in Haiti. Previous U.N. and internationally backed deployments have failed to bring long-term security to the country, and many expect the arrival to be met by resistance by the gangs.

For NPR News, I'm Emmanuel Igunza in Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emmanuel Igunza