By Jean H Charles:
This connotation seems gratuitous but a preponderance of evidence will convince the reader that indeed Haiti is the quintessential victim of misfeasance and malfeasance from the international community with “centuries of invasion, blackmail, plain robbery of Haiti’s natural resources and the impoverishment of its people”.
The latest manifestation of that malfeasance is happening today. Edmond Mulet, the United Nations representative in Haiti has decided to use the leverage and the prestige of that august body to embark upon the Preval government mulette (a mulette in French or Creole language is a donkey that provides the only means of transportation for rural Haiti) to mortgage the next generation of Haitian children into squalor and ill governance. We will come back to this latest manifestation of misfeasance but, it is imperative to start at the beginning to understand the extent of the wrong committed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic upon the people of Haiti.
I will not dwell into three hundred years of hard labor upon countless generations of Haitian people to produce the sugar, the coffee and the coco sold all over Europe by the French merchants who accumulated enormous wealth on the backbone of men and women who were not paid one cent for their sweat, their tears and their sorrow. Instead “they were hung up with their heads downward, crucified on planks, buried alive, crushed in mortars, forced to eat excrement, cast alive to be devoured by worms and mosquitoes.”
I will start instead with the gallantry of a Haitian Spartacus, the man Frederick Douglass described as the best black known and moving hero of the Western world, Toussaint Louverture. He transcended the weeping and the vexation to become the father of a nation that was hospitable to all, hospitable to the old white masters as well as the newly liberated slaves. He wrote to Napoleon as a black emperor to the white emperor suggesting the building of a French Commonwealth in Haiti akin to the British Commonwealth that we have today, with a semi-autonomous Haiti that would respect the human rights of all the citizens within its territory.
The answer to Toussaint Louverture was an army of some 10.000 French soldiers, facilitated by a grant of $750,000 by the newly elected American President Thomas Jefferson, to re-establish slavery in Haiti. The protracted war and the destruction in infrastructure and in physical assets that followed set Haiti back to a scorched land as it won its independence from France in 1804. Some 100.000 lives were lost during the struggle.
To add insult to injury, Charles X demanded and exacted from the second and the third President of Haiti, Alexander Petion and Jean Pierre Boyer a debt of independence amounting to some 21 billion dollars in today’s money. It was not enough that their forefathers have labored for three centuries without pay; it was not enough they have won their freedom through their own bravura they must pay the planters for the slaves who were their prized possession.
To ensure that the odious contract was signed, French diplomacy took an active part in facilitating the secession of the country. Henry Christophe would have nothing to do with such stipulation; as such, he was denied the authority to rule over the entire country. The culture of acting patriotically internally while plotting externally with foreign powers for the spoils of the country has became the staple of successive Haitian governments until today under the Preval governance.
Haiti’s tradition of service and hospitality to liberators was greeted with a cold reception not a thank you by the same freedom fighters. Miranda and Bolivia received arms, food, and support from Alexander Petion on his way to liberate Venezuela, Bolivia, and Columbia from slavery. Yet at the first international meeting of Latin American States, Haiti was an uninvited guest. Even the Vatican, the pillar of moral authority, refused to recognize as well as sending educators to Haiti.
To repay the French debt, Haiti without financial resources had to borrow money at usurious rate on the French and the American market to meet that obligation. The country has been the theatre of international intrigues by the German, the Dutch and, of course, the French, who armed one faction against the other to ensure that peace and development was never on the agenda. Finally, to repay the First National Bank, the directors convinced the American government to invade Haiti and seize its custom entries as a guaranty for the unpaid debt.
I will quote J Michael Dash an expert on Haiti customs and culture to describe the outcome of the American occupation: ‘perhaps the greatest single lasting effect of the occupation was the centralization of state power in Port au Prince, the ostracism of the peasantry and the elite divided by class and color rivalry.’
We are living today the consequences of these policies adopted during the occupation. There was a fleeting moment of peace and prosperity during the Paul Magloire presidency during the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s. Magloire committed the mistake of trying to remain in power beyond his mandate as Rene Preval is trying to do now, extending his term beyond February 7, 2011. Magloire was forced into exile and the country has been in convulsion since.
The Duvalier father and sons maintained their criminal grip on the throats of the Haitian people for thirty years with the overt support of the American government under the pretext that they were a bulwark against communism in the region.
The Haitian people’s liberation day of February 7, 1986 was of a short stay. The populism of Jean Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval that followed the militarism of Henry Namphy was concocted in Washington at the White House and in New York at the United Nations.
I was at the meeting at the White House when the Clinton Administration designed the Haitian plan in the 1990s; such a plan destroyed the Haitian rice industry. To my suggestion that Haiti should engage in its natural agricultural vocation, the answer was swift and unequivocal. ‘Agriculture is for Mexico, Haiti is for small assembly industries’. I was again at the White House lobbying for the withdrawal of the embargo against the country. The answer was a stronger embargo, causing major destruction to the flora for future generations.
The international community in spite of its outpouring of financial support (10 billion dollars) after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 is charting a dangerous course for Haiti’s rebuilding. With the Strategic Plan of National Recovery (PSSN) an elite group of intellectuals from the Diaspora and the motherland has labored in Santo Domingo to chart a course to rebuild Haiti. Yet through sheer arrogance bordering hubris, neither the Haitian government nor the international community has called upon this select group to share their findings with and incorporate their vision into the making of the new rebuilt Haiti.
The political parties, the civil society, the intellectual elite, the political candidates, the masses have all been united in refusing to go to the polls under the Preval government. The streets of the cities are rumbling with protest. All his elections have been flawed, stolen and disfranchised. He is inimical to the concept of political mouvemance. His claim that he wants to deliver power to an elected president is as hollow and shallow as his ten years of governance. In fact, the only time there was a minimum of decent standard of free and fair elections in recent times in Haiti, was during a transitional government. The transition of Ertha Trouillot produced a free election that gave the power to Arisitide, and the transition of Latortue organized the election leading Preval into power.
As president, Preval has exhibited a glaring indifference to the needs of, and the solutions to the problems haunting the Haitian people. He has never visited Cape Haitian, the second city of the Republic of Haiti. He would have seen an historical city that has sunk into decrepit and physical decay due to lack of public hygiene, population pressure and no minimum care from the national government. With the hurricane and the rainy season on the horizon, countless lives will be destroyed. The camps are a fetid hotpodge of physical and psychological no man’s land, where the unnatural is happening: mothers throwing their children into the garbage because they are so overwhelmed and so despondent.
The United Nations is now the new oppressing force in Haiti, the enforcer behind which the western powers are hiding to continue the malicious practice of doing wrong to Haiti. Having lost some three hundred members, I would like to believe sharing this thought of Frederic Douglass that sharing in common a terrible calamity and this touch of nature would have made us more than countrymen, it made us kin.
This election is a breaking point to change the practice of treating the majority of Haitian people as peons. Handing the baton to Preval to conduct the presidential and the legislative elections will seal Haiti into a life of squalor and ill governance that has been its lot for the past fifty years. It will, as said Andrew Flold, condemn future generations of Haitians to remain enslaved by poverty and desperation.
The United Nations’ credibility is at stake these days. A recent news report has indicated that a major drug dealer, who is consolidating Guinea Bissau as a hub for drug transshipment, has found refuge in the United Nations compound, where he has plotted his next move into power. Facilitating the status quo in Haiti after fifty years of ill governance with a government that has little interest in and little concern for the Haitian people is detrimental to the very essence of what the United Nations should stand for.
Some two years ago, the Haitian people have tried to storm the Haitian palace to force Preval to resign, because they were hungry while the food was rotting at the port. The UN occupation forces repelled the assailants. The critical mass of Haitian people revolting this time might be too large for any UN forces to contain!
I am seeing at the horizon the debacle that happen in Saigon/Hanoi some sixty years ago! History is unfolding in front of our very eyes. Stay tuned!
May 29, 2010