The hate and the quake
BY SIR HILARY
I am very keen to provide an input into this exercise because for too long there has been a popular perception that somehow the Haitian nation-building project, launched on
Buried beneath the rubble of imperial propaganda, out of both
The evidence is striking, especially in the context of
The Haitians fought for their freedom and won, as did the Americans fifty years earlier. The Americans declared their independence and crafted an extraordinary constitution that set out a clear message about the value of humanity and the right to freedom, justice, and liberty.
In the midst of this brilliant discourse, they chose to retain slavery as the basis of the new nation state. The founding fathers therefore could not see beyond race, as the
The water was poisoned in the well; the Americans went back to the battlefield a century later to resolve the fact that slavery and freedom could not comfortably co-exist in the same place.
The French, also, declared freedom, fraternity and equality as the new philosophies of their national transformation and gave the modern world a tremendous progressive boost by so doing.
They abolished slavery, but Napoleon Bonaparte could not imagine the republic without slavery and targeted the Haitians for a new, more intense regime of slavery. The British agreed, as did the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese.
All were linked in communion over the 500 000 Blacks in
As the jewel of the
The people won a ten-year war, the bloodiest in modern history, and declared their independence. Every other country in the
For the first time since slavery had commenced, Blacks were the subjects of mass freedom and citizenship in a nation.
The French refused to recognize
The Cubans, at least, have had
Then came 1825; the moment of full truth. The republic is celebrating its 21st anniversary. There is national euphoria in the streets of
The economy is bankrupt; the political leadership isolated. The cabinet took the decision that the state of affairs could not continue.
The country had to find a way to be inserted back into the world economy. The French government was invited to a summit.
Officials arrived and told the Haitian government that they were willing to recognize the country as a sovereign nation but it would have to pay compensation and reparation in exchange. The Haitians, with backs to the wall, agreed to pay the French.
The French government sent a team of accountants and actuaries into
The sums amounted to 150 million gold francs.
The Haitian government agreed; payments began immediately. Members of the Cabinet were also valued because they had been enslaved people before independence.
Thus began the systematic destruction of the
The republic did not stand a chance.
When the Americans invaded the country in the early 20th century, one of the reasons offered was to assist the French in collecting its reparations.
The collapse of the Haitian nation resides at the feet of
The sudden quake has come in the aftermath of summers of hate. In many ways the quake has been less destructive than the hate.
Human life was snuffed out by the quake, while the hate has been a long and inhumane suffocation - a crime against humanity.
During the 2001 UN Conference on Race in
The value of this amount was estimated by financial actuaries as US$21 billion. This sum of capital could rebuild
It is stolen wealth. In so doing,
For a nation that prides itself in the celebration of modern diplomacy,
Such an act at the outset of this century would open the door for a sophisticated interface of past and present, and set the Haitian nation free at last.
l Sir Hilary Beckles is pro-vice-chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.
Link to Part 2 of The Hate & The Quate:
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