Fri, 15 Mar 2024 Feature Article

Haiti at a Tipping Point

Haiti at a Tipping Point

The great English playwright William Shakespeare posited that there is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at the flood leads on to fame and fortune. Implied in Shakespeare’s sagacious observation is the idea that misfortune and disaster await nations and individuals that fail to take the tide in the affairs of men at its flood. The gruesome news coming out of Haiti strongly suggest that Haiti may be at a crucial tipping point that will determine Haiti’s fame and fortune or its slide to an ungovernable failed state.

No one with even a cursory knowledge of the history of the Haitian nation can deny that the Haitian people have not had more than their fair share of hell on earth. Haiti was birthed in the fires of revolution and baptized with blood, guts, steel, and bullets. As the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti started its journey into nation-hood with a number of crippling encumbrances. Not only was the birth of the Haitian nation greeted with a solid wall of indifference and resistance in Europe and the US, but the punitive measures inflicted by France drove an economic knife into the heart of the Haitian nation resulting in a slow, painful slide towards death.

From its status as the most prosperous colony in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti gradually devolved into the sick man of the Caribbean and the Americas. France extorted the humongous sum of 150 million francs from the Haitian government. Rather than paying reparations to their former slaves, the French did the unthinkable and made their former slaves pay reparations to France for a part of an island that Europeans had outrightly stollen from the indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean. The doctrine of unjust enrichment demands that the French and the Americans repay this sum of money with all the interest resulting from the refinancing of this criminal act of extortion.

Compounding the tragedy of Haiti is its geographical location in an area prone to experiencing catastrophic earthquakes and hurricanes. On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devasted Port-au-Prince killing close to a quarter of a million Haitians. This earthquake also inflicted over $7 billion in damage to the Haitian economy. Hurricane Matthew in 2016 was one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in Haiti. An estimated 546 people lost their lives while the monetary damage was in the vicinity of $2.8 billion.

Haiti unfortunately has not been blessed with stellar political leadership or with a tranquil political culture that allows for the peaceful transfer of power. Between 1911 and 1915 seven Haitian presidents were either assassinated or overthrown. This trend has continued with the recent assassination of Jovenel Moise and the forced resignation of Ariel Henry on March 10, 2024.

In the current political impasse in Haiti, the armed groups led by Jimmy Cherizier are adamant that there can be no outside solution imposed on the Haitian nation. CARICOM leaders are however equally adamant that the interim leadership team in Haiti should be composed of those who are in agreement with the UN, Kenyan led intervention. This means that Cherizier and others of his ilk will not be at the table to decide on the future of Haiti. This may very well prove to be a mistake in the long-term. History testifies that it was the leadership of armed militias in the US that eventually went on to form the government of the US after the successful American Revolution.

The size of the intervention forces coupled with the legal and other challenges being mounted in Kenya against the Kenyan led intervention suggest that the intervention at best is only a band-aid to the dilemma in Haiti. While Kenya is to be congratulated for stepping up to the plate and doing what the African Union and CARICOM were either unable or unwilling to do, the extent of the crisis in Haiti dwarfs [A1] the size of the intervention forces. The $300 million plus pledged by the US represents only a small fraction of the $21 billion that former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide said was owed to Haiti as reparations from France and the US.

Haiti, like all the former colonies of European nations, needs a massive inflow of finance to build up its infrastructure, to strengthen its political institutions and to generally raise the standard of living of its people. Reparations and wealth redistribution are subjects whose time has come. Regrettably the African continent refuses to do what is needed to bolster African power in the international arena. A continent with so much of the resources needed by the developed world is criminally complicit when it refuses to use its resources as leverage to assist its sons and daughters in the Diaspora.

A united Africa could impose sanctions on the US and Europe and with-hold access to needed raw materials in the interest of causes affecting children of Africa in the Diaspora. President Putin of Russia has proven that the US and the European Union are not impenetrable fortress that cannot be breached. By cutting of the supply of Russian oil and gas to Europe, President Putin has created a template for African leaders to copy. President Ruto of Kenya was on the right path when he stated that African nations should by-pass the SWIFT system of international payment and set up a payment system that would allow Africans to trade with each other in their own currencies.

Perhaps the most important assist that the African Union and CARICOM can give to Haiti is the creation of a campaign to persuade the US and France to repay the billions that were extorted by force from the Haitian people. The US and Europe can be sanctioned in many different ways. Africa and the Caribbean can look for different trade partners. Europe and the US can also be considered as no-fly zones for Black tourists. Africans and Caribbean islanders can also boycott all good made in Europe and the US. African raw materials could also be withheld from the European and American markets.

As Haiti and its people dance dangerously on the periphery of oblivion, it is hoped that the armed groups will see the larger picture and step back from plunging Haiti into open civil war. If or when the Kenyan led intervention occurs, the armed groups in Haiti should be integrated into a broader coalition to help provide safety for the Haitian populace. Both the armed groups and the intervention force can make a statement to the world that people of African ancestry on the continent and in the Diaspora are one family separated by the Atlantic Ocean and by centuries of the evil machinations of Caucasians.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of The Rebirth of African Civilization: Making Africa and the Caribbean Great Again.