Of Reparations and Occupation
by Tanya Ferguson - Contributor (Excalibur)
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

1804 - The people of Haiti defeat the French enslavers. Haiti becomes the first Black Republic.

1825 - Haiti is finally recognized as an independent nation in the international community based upon an agreement to deliver 150 million gold francs to France as a form of reparations for its freedom. (They later accepted 90 million gold francs.)

November 2000-February 2004 - Jean Bertrand Aristide takes office as President; Aristide's government calculated that with interest the 90 million gold francs was worth $21 billion U.S. and put forward a case against France. After being dismissed by France, Aristide takes the case to the International Court of Justice.

February 29, 2004 - Haiti's President is removed from Haiti.

May 16, 2004 - Interim President Boniface Alexandre assures France that Haiti will not pursue a reparations claim. Instead he accepts 1,000 French troops and $1.2 million in aid.

It could be shocking: The only country to liberate itself from slavery was made to pay (literally) for its freedom. By 1804 organized rebellions had successfully become a revolution. They freed Black Haitians who were enslaved on the Caribbean island. However, the international community did not recognize Haiti's independence until 20 years later when the leadership agreed to pay France, its former enslaver, 90 million gold francs.

It might also be shocking that months after Haitian President-elect, Jean Bertrand Aristide, exposed the relationship between present poverty in Haiti and the history of extortion by France, he was removed.

Although Aristide's Lavalas Party had some success in addressing poverty by increasing literacy and fighting malnourishment, analysts believe that it was Aristide's advancement of a very sound reparations claim against France that provoked the 2004 U.S. and French invasion.

The profile of Haiti's history and challenges to the recent foreign invasion of the country are growing around the world. However, the information, buried as it is, is not shocking.

"This is not shocking to the general public because the occupying forces are murdering the poor and the nameless, those who stood to gain from Lavalas' social programs and poverty alleviation," explains Ericka Extavour, a local organizer for Toronto-based solidarity with Haiti. "People are numbed and respond in a very calculated way when it comes to black lives. Media and public officials around the world force us into a game of numbers and dollars. Respect and dignity are not taken as inherently deserving, because Haiti is a poor, black country."

This discussion is one that has been motivated by activists from the University of Guyana's African Culture and Development Association (UGACDA) along with members from the Global Afrikan Congress Guyana. Drawing attention to the exponential growth of human rights abuses, increasing criminalization of poverty and the relative lack of analysis in media representations of Haiti, these groups have called May 18 (Haiti's Flag Day) the International Day of Solidarity with Haiti.

"We are soliciting ... support and participation in an effort to show solidarity to ... Haitians on May 18, 2005." Safiya Varswyk, chairperson of UGACDA explains that this move will be asking African descendants around the world to support Haitian activists.

Organizers are calling this the Free Haiti Movement and urging Canadians to become active in "supporting the resistance inside of Haiti to the U.S./Canada/France- backed coup d'etat and foreign occupation of Haiti".

Copyright © EXCALIBUR 2005.
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