ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Haiti's Lesson

The earthquake is being used to entrench neocolonial control over Haiti.

Both in its death and destruction, the earthquake which hit Haiti – one of the poorest countries of the world – has been calamitous and heart-rending, leaving more than a hundred thousand dead and destroying the already fragile infrastructure of that country. It has mostly been perceived by people all over the world as an unfortunate, even “unfair”, natural calamity on a people already suffering the million affronts of acute poverty and underdevelopment. The global community’s reaction, led by the United States (US), has appeared prompt and generous. US president Barack Obama appointed former president Bill Clinton in charge of the relief operations while US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton flew into Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince to oversee relief measures. The United Nations too activated its relief operations, as did countries like France, Brazil and Britain. Apart from governments, people all over the world have come forward to help. Unfortunately though, the manner in which the US and other countries have responded will only strengthen Haiti’s structural poverty and dependence.

Haiti was among the richest colonies of the world in the 18th century, accounting for two-thirds of the total value of colonial trade for its owner – France – at the time of the French revolution. In 1791, inspired by the French revolution, the slaves of Haiti revolted against their white masters and finally attained independence in 1804 to become the first non-white colony in the world to gain independence. Its “slave army” defeated four of the mightiest colonial armies of their times – the army of the French republic, the armies of Spain and England who tried to replace France as Haiti’s colonial master, and finally Napoleon’s army sent to regain Haiti for France. Independent Haiti, for the first time in history, extended the principles of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” to non-white humanity, and thus became a living example of the self-emancipation of non-white colonised people and, crucially, of the vulnerabilities of the mighty colonial armies. Further, independent Haiti provided asylum to anti-slavery and anti-colonial forces in the western hemisphere. Simon Bolivar and US anti-slavery groups both got asylum and support from Haiti’s independent black republic.

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