Kenyan evangelical pastors guide Haitian mission

NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) – In the months before Kenya sent police officers to Haiti to fight gangs, William Ruto consulted with political advisors, officials in the security sector, and other foreign leaders.

He also sought out less conventional counsellors, namely a group of Christian evangelical ministers who were close to both him and his spouse.

According to interviews conducted with two pastors, three Haitian and American evangelical leaders and three Haitian evangelical leaders, the pastors made recommendations to Ruto. They also acted as a link between the Haitian community and the President.

The story was not commented on by the spokesperson for President Ruto or his wife Rachel.

Pastors have met with Haitians living in the United States as well as their evangelical counterparts and U.S. Government officials. They’ve also had meetings with Jimmy “Barbecue Cherizier”, Haiti’s notorious gang leader.

Serge Musasilwa is an evangelical pastor from Kenya who was involved in this initiative. “We believe we are a helper that God can use,” he said. Musasilwa, a sociologist trained in Kenya, said that he had worked on conflict resolution issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as other African countries.

The initiative’s participants say that the relationships formed with Haitian communities would help the Kenyan led multinational force to avoid the mistakes made by foreign interventions in Haiti during the past decades.

These missions failed to stabilize Haiti and left behind a legacy of human rights violations and disease. Most infamously, a cholera epidemic believed to have started by Nepali U.N. Peacekeepers in 2010.

A U.N. panel appointed by the UN concluded that a camp of peacekeepers was likely the source of the cholera outbreak, which claimed the lives and livelihoods for about 10,000 Haitians. The U.N. does not accept legal responsibility.

Daniel Jean-Louis is the president of Baptist Haiti Mission. He has worked with Kenyan pastors.

This is the reason why previous missions have failed.

When a 13-year long peacekeeping mission left Haiti in 2017, the U.N. said that it had left Haiti relatively stable. The U.N. said it left Haiti relatively stable when a 13-year peacekeeping mission withdrew from the country in 2017.

Kenyan pastors have a strategy that is not universally accepted. The history of evangelicals in Haiti is complex. They have invested resources into humanitarian causes, but they also received criticism for alleged child-trafficking by missionaries following the devastating 2010 earthquake and for preaching intolerance for local spiritual practices.

Pierre Esperance is the Executive Director of National Human Rights Defence Network, Haiti. He said Kenya should stick with its security mandate and that outreaching to gang leaders was an insult to the victims.

He told Reuters that “it’s not a matter of praying with gangs or preaching the gospel” to solve problems.

‘FAITH DIPLOMACY’

Ruto and wife are very open about their religious beliefs. They have included evangelical leaders in state matters, such as through the “faith diplomacy programme” of the First Lady, which involves religious leaders supporting social initiatives.

Rachel Ruto, who was meeting with evangelical pastors in Nairobi’s Weston Hotel during March, dropped in on another event that took place in the same building to explain the group is working on a spiritual solution for Haiti.

According to a video published by The Star, Kenyan newspaper, she stated, “We cannot let our police go to Haiti and not pray.”

Pastors’ involvement in Haiti Policy provides an insight into Ruto’s unwavering commitment to the Haiti Mission, despite delays and vocal opposition by many Kenyans.

Haiti has long been a focus of evangelicals due to its humanitarian crisis and traditional Vodou practices that are viewed by some as Satanic. According to the U.N. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s least developed nation. It is also facing a surge in gang violence, which has killed over 1,500 people during the first three month of this year.

Pete Inman is an American businessman who is close to the Rutos. He said, “I believe that it’s first and foremost an expression of their religion.” The mission also had a strategic motive, he said. It was to strengthen ties with the U.S.

In public comments, the President has stated that he feels a moral obligation to Haiti’s African descent population.

Inman told Ruto that he had connected Musasilwa to Fred Eppright who heads the Haiti Baptist Mission U.S. branch after Ruto announced Ruto’s mission.

Musasilwa invited Eppright and his colleagues to Nairobi in March after visiting him in Austin, Texas, late last year.

Over four days, Jean-Louis Eppright, two other American evangelicals, and four Kenyan pastors prayed, strategized, and consulted with each other at the upscale Weston Hotel. Rachel Ruto joined them on the final day.

Eppright said that the four-day immersion into the way they would be involved was an intense experience.

He said that the group had drafted a document which Rachel Ruto then presented to her husband several days later. Jean-Louis stated that the proposals covered four main topics: law, order, humanitarian issues, political leadership, and spirituality.

Rachel Ruto, three pastors and members of the Haitian Diaspora travelled to Miami and Austin the following month. They met with evangelicals and leaders of police departments.

Jean-Louis stated that Haitian diaspora made proposals for President Ruto to convey, covering everything from the legal authority of the mission to its length. Reuters was unable to determine if their recommendations had been delivered to President Ruto.

SPIRITUAL ISSUES

The Kenyan pastors, while in the United States held a Zoom conference call with Haitian gang leader Barbecue. Barbecue is a former Haitian police officer, who claims to lead an alliance of major gangs known as Viv Ansanm.

Musasilwa was the one who led the discussion. He refused to give details but said that he was left with the hope that the conflict could be settled peacefully.

Musasilwa continued, “This guy may be a devil but there’s something we can build upon.”

Reuters could not reach Barbecue to get a comment.

Musasilwa also said that he had met with officials of the U.S. State Department. The State Department refused to comment.

Musasilwa, a pastor from Haiti, and Julius Suubi said that despite their attention to the practical side of the deployment they believed Haiti’s main problems were spiritual.

According to government statistics, around 2% of Haitians consider themselves Vodou adherents, a religion that combines the belief in one god with the worshiping of spirits.

Kyrah Daniels, assistant professor of African American Studies and Vodou at Emory University, Atlanta, says that many more people practice Vodou alongside other religions.

Kenyan pastors began a global campaign of prayer for Haiti in March. They drafted a 40-day guide that was 134 pages long. The prayers for several days focus on Vodou.

One person says, “We ask you father to destroy all the Voodoo death curses that we possess.”

Related Articles