Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Washington, D.C.
October 2, 2023


QUESTION: U.S Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been a central figure in the push to send an armed multinational force to Haiti, and she joins me now. Ambassador, welcome back to the NewsHour. Thank you for being here.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much. Delighted to be with you.

QUESTION: So, this is a Kenyan-led force. We should note that the U.S. and Brazil are the two largest nations in the Americas, have previously sent forces to Haiti in years past, why aren’t either offering up peacekeeping troops right now?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This was an initiative that was taken by the Haitian government, with the support of the Secretary-General, asking for this multinational mission to step in and help Haiti deal with the gang violence, and the U.S. has been a strong supporter of this. Kenya stepped up to the plate and offered to be of assistance, and we are backing them with over $100 million in assistance, as well as additional logistical support. We think that Kenya, as an African country, doing this sends a very strong message to the world that Kenya is playing on the international stage – that Kenya, an African country, has taken the lead in supporting this effort.

QUESTION: We know these international forces are meant to support and empower the Haitian police. I have to say, Garry Pierre-Pierre, who is an award-winning journalist with the Haitian Times, told us the police force itself is compromised. Here’s what he said:

GARRY PIERRE-PIERRE: Just about 40 percent of the force are either sympathizers with the gangs or are members of the gangs. So, every attempt at eradicating the gangs [inaudible] have been met with failure because the gangs know exactly what’s going on.

QUESTION: Ambassador, we also know those police forces are severely outgunned. How can this Kenyan-led force combat that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They’re going to work with the Haitian National Police; he said 20 percent, but we got 80 percent of the police who are committed to addressing this issue –

QUESTION: If I may, I apologize, he actually said 40 percent. I just wanted to make sure we have that right.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Even with that, 60 percent are committed to working with the force, and that 60 percent will get the support and the backing of the Kenyans, as well as other forces, who will participate in this to support not only building the capacity, but also working with the communities to address this issue of violence. I think the vast majority of Haitians have been clear that they want security, they want stability, they want the ability to be able to carry out their day-to-day lives without the threat of these gangs – and this will be an opportunity to do that.

QUESTION: There have already been some who raised concerns about accusations of abuse by Kenyan forces elsewhere. As you know, previous international interventions in Haiti have led to both a cholera outbreak and horrific sexual abuse by the peacekeepers sent there to secure the population. Who’s in charge for monitoring that and making sure the Haitian people aren’t victimized again?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This resolution actually builds in very, very strong language on vetting, on accountability, and on monitoring what will be happening on the ground. The Kenyans have participated in international peacekeeping forces before; they come with a lot of experience, but they also know that we will take the vetting responsibilities very, very seriously, and that the monitoring and accountability will be seriously looked at as we work to put this force on the ground. We have learned from the mistakes of the past, and this is an opportunity to address a strong call from the Haitian people, this time around, for the international community’s support.

QUESTION: I have less than a minute left, but I have to ask, we know these gangs on the ground are heavily armed. What are the rules of engagement for these peacekeeping troops? Can they use lethal force on the ground?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The Kenyans have – after they did their assessment on the ground, they realized a static force would not be engaged, and the Secretary-General asked for robust force. And so, the rules of engagement will be developed as the mission gets prepared to get on the ground. But the force will be robust; they will be backing the Haitian National Police as the police work to engage these gangs.

I think the story here is that the international community has responded and they’re ready to bring peace and stability to the people of Haiti.

QUESTION: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield, thank you so much for joining us.