The following lecture was delivered to an audience at the University of California
This petition is addressed to the French Republic and the international community by Haitians around the world on behalf of the Haitian people. So far, friends of Haiti, professors, intellectuals, human rights advocates, as well as numerous individual who are concerned about global justice, have all signed this petition (over 1000 signatures so far). Your signature will demonstrate the solidarity that the global community share with Haitian people in their struggle for a better future.
International petition on the occasion of the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy to Haiti,
President of the French Republic
Since the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 that killed more than 200, 000 people, Haiti is once again the focus of international attention. Beyond the tremendous compassion showed by the international community, the issue of the reconstruction of Haiti and particularly the question of how to finance this reconstruction remains the main concern. An early assessment evaluates the launching of the nation’s rebuilding to cost about 10 billion dollars. Where will the impoverished nation raise these funds?
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was visiting Haiti on February 17, 2010. This is the first time a French president has visited Haiti since the independence and the creation of the State of Haiti. In this particular occasion, it is critical for Haiti (as a former French colony and the pride of the French trade power along the 17th and the 18th centuries) and for the sake of human rights and global justice, to address the issue of restitution of the independence debt of the former slaves.
As the second independent nation in the Americas after the United States, Haiti is the poorest nation while the United States is the most powerful. Systematically and as an anthem, western Media reinforces this thinking. However, the critical question of how the wealthiest former French colony, the first black Republic in the world, became the hemisphere’s poorest country is missing from the discourse.
The dramatic situation of Haiti after two centuries of independence is not the result of any fate or curse. Haiti’s backwardness is, on the one hand, the result of the horrors of enslavement and colonization from 1492 to 1803. In addition, after its independence, Haiti was forced to pay a horrific tribute in order to be recognized as a free nation by the great powers of the colonialist and slavery period.
This tribute, set initially at 150 000 000 gold Francs, was finally reduced to 90, 000, 000 and was paid until the last cent by the first black post-slave Republic to the “homeland” of human rights. This huge and indecent tribute paid to France, has stunted the young free nation commercially and economically, and destroyed it ecologically and socially. Many historians have demonstrated that this ransom imposed by the strong on the weak compromised the future the weak. Then, imperialism and racism turned the first major fight for freedom in the new world into the most abject misery.
As Louis-Philippe Dalambert (2004), a major Haitian author stressed, France does not have any glory to have imposed such an immoral and unjust debt to Haiti. In this respect, it is of the upmost importance that France returns to the suffering nation the money it took unjustly from the former slaves. While Haiti is facing the most critical moment for its national reconstruction, the restitution of the independence debt is the most legitimate request that Haiti can formulate.
Thus, instead of banking on the hypothetical foreign investments in Haiti or waiting for the loans from the IMF and the World Bank or again, betting on the mercantile rationale for the reconstruction of the country, We, the Haitian people, request solemnly from France the reimbursement of 21 billion (estimated in 2004 USD) as equivalent to the ransom given to France from 1825 to 1946.
The restitution of this money is considered for the Haitian people as a corner stone for any policy of development and reconstruction. With these funds, we will be able to build schools, hospitals, homes, universities; all in regards to the anti-seismic norms of construction. Also, we will be able to build road infrastructures, bridges, canals for irrigation, and electric centrals with renewable energy; rebuild the national economy, invest in rural development and agro-industry in order to assure definitely food security in Haiti.
For all these reasons, we, the Haitian people, request from France the restitution of the money owed to Haiti. This money shall be return by the Republic of France that cashed the money from 1825 to 1946, to the Republic of Haiti that paid the money for the period mentioned. The two republics will discuss of the terms of the reimbursement.
During the revolutionary period of the history of modernity (18th and 19th centuries), France always positioned itself as avant-garde of the modern consciousness. The tragic situation of Haiti and the solemnest request of the Haitian people to repay the money owed to the poor republic, offers to the French republic a great opportunity to repair its historic involvement in what is “a crime against humanity.”
Towards this gesture of reimbursement to Haiti, France will not only redeem itself from its participation in the crime against humanity, but also will have the opportunity to really demonstrate the friendship it claims to have for the suffering nation of former slaves who invented freedom for the entire humanity beyond the considerations of race.
RALEIGH, N.C. – For years, Haiti’s government has sought out the pamphlets on which the country’s founders declared that they had thrown off their colonial masters, ended slavery and created the world’s first black republic. Now historians say a graduate student has found what could be the only copy left.
The leaders of Haiti’s revolution sent their Declaration of Independence to other governments in the days after the island country’s 1804 birth. But copies from that original printing have been lost in the centuries since, and the country’s national archivist said he’s traveled abroad looking for any that might have survived.
Duke University said Thursday a graduate history student found what could be the only surviving copy. Julia Gaffield made the discovery in February while combing through early 19th Century correspondence collected in Great Britain’s National Archives in London, the archives and Duke said. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36138349/ns/world_news-americas/#storyContinued
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