QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM!
As the curtain fell slowly but inexorably on the year 2004, one could not but reflect on what it could have been and what it was. 2004 was the year Haiti was supposed to mark the 200th anniversary of her Independence. During the period that preceded this prestigious date, the expectations were high. January 1, 2004 was supposed to be an occasion for celebration, not only for all Haitians, but for all progressive nations of the world. These 200 years of Haitian Independence were supposed to commemorate the triumph of the victims over their oppressors, the triumph of right over might. We would like to believe that the defeat of Napoleon’s army on the Island of Hispaniola shook the foundation of colonialism and initiated its eventual collapse, signaled the beginning of the end of the African Slave Trade. It was also the tangible proof of what was being professed but not practiced on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, I-e that all men were created equal. All Haitian expatriates therefore relished this once in a lifetime opportunity to carry out this special Hajj. Great African-American intellectuals and activists were gearing up for a colossal « Cruise into History,” as a way to place Haitian history on the world’s center stage.
Instead, we saw a country literally torn apart by hatred and ignorance, where lawlessness prevailed, where civil rights were no longer protected and where terrorism had become the last desperate attempt at reining in a situation that had spun out of control. The celebration of our 200th anniversary took place within and around the National Palace and for less than an hour in Gonaives, in the midst of gunfire and explosions. And thousands of Haitians marched, as they had done almost every day for nearly three months, from Petionville to Port-au-Prince to express their dissatisfaction, their frustration and demand a change.
Instead of this expected glorious celebration, the whole world watched in disgust the chaotic situation in this country that once was called « The Pearl of the Antilles.” TV crews were sent to document how « Haitians » lived. Of course the slums were the favorite targets of the photographers. However, many other images remain engraved in my memory, particularly that of two police officers armed with automatic weapons and shooting in the air to block the path of the funeral procession of a young student that had been killed during a protest.
In the wake of the US military intervention, the United Nations followed suit, declared Haiti a failed state and announced that a specially created unit of foreign forces will remain in Haiti for the foreseeable future, while the government will be essentially by remote control from Washington, Paris and Ottawa.
True Haitians had lost their reason to celebrate. The party was cancelled. Or was it? As a high school student in Haiti, I remember writing proudly at the end of the verification of a mathematical theorem, these four letters: CQFD (cequ’il fallait demontrer) or in Latin « Quod erat demonstrandum ». I can imagine that in certain spheres in those foreign capitals and even perhaps even in Haiti, some nameless protagonists smirking and whispering: CQFD. They never believed in the viability of the Haitian Nation. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize Haiti as an independent nation. The deed of the Haitians had to be silenced, tarnished and kept from the other slave groups who might follow their example. A de facto embargo was imposed on Haiti. When the first Pan-American Conference was organized in Panama from June 22 to July 15 1826, Bolivar at first invited Haiti who had been such a strong supporter of his liberation movement in Central and South America. However, the American president John Quincy Adams made it clear that the Americans would not participate, if Haiti were present. Thus, Haiti was disinvited, preventing its integration in the Pan-American community. Furthermore, with the support of the United States and backed by a flotilla of 14 ships, carrying nearly 600 cannons, the former colonizer of Haiti, France imposed an indemnity of 150 millions francs to the young nation, to compensate the losses suffered by the French colonists as a result of the liberation of Haiti. This penalty certainly did not take into consideration that for 200 years, Africans had worked without any remuneration, to make Saint Domingue the richest French colony. This indemnity, which was obviously punitive, was out of proportion with any other land deal completed at that time, including the Louisiana Purchase. Even though, the indemnity was later reduced to 90 millions, it took Haiti 100 years to satisfy that debt and the accrued interest of 5 %. This debt crippled the fledgling nation and funds that could have been used for infrastructure development, education and health projects had to be diverted from the national budget, in order for Haiti to just have the right to exist.
That was not all. During the latter part of the XIX century, the European powers, particularly Germany, took turns to humiliate our country, holding the Haitian government responsible for damages sustained by their citizens during period of political instability. They demanded exorbitant ransoms and salutes to their flags. They even defecated on our own flag. This went on while they were all looking to grab pieces of the unfortunate island. Indeed, England wanted Tortuga Island, the Americans, the island of La Gonave and the Germans, L’Ile-a-Vache. However, our patriotic resistance never deterred their cupidity and they knew that eventually our people could be starved into submission.
Our agriculture was systematically destroyed, first by pressuring us to rip plantation of exportable food crops and commit millions of acres of land to the growth of sisal, during the Second World War and abandoning these plantations, once synthetic fibers became available. Finally, under the pretense of humanitarian help and the disguise of technical assistance, our sugar plants were shut down. In 1977, for the first time ever, Haiti began importing sugar. The American farming surpluses were dumped on us, forcing our own farmers to give up the no longer profitable culture of the land, escape to the neighboring Dominican repuplic where they are stripped of all human dignity or move into the cities, creating the sprawling slums that surround our cities or rather transforming our cities into sprawling slums.
On December 4, 1970, Tortuga Island was placed under US control for 99 years. The Labadie Peninsula was leased to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for an extended period of time and more recently, an international commerce zone was created by expropriating the peasants and landowners of Maribaroux without compensation and allowing the implantation of factories owned mostly by Dominican investors, under the exclusive control of Dominican police forces.
Finally in 1997, Haiti was given the dubious privilege of being admitted to CARICOM, swamping our market with Jamaican, Trinidadian and Dominican goods and effectively administering the coup de grace to our industries, already on life support.
It would be hypocritical not to recognize the large part played by our own politicians in this process of systematic destruction of the nation they swore to protect. For the most part, their greed and selfishness never allowed them to see beyond their own pocket and blinded them to the plight of a proud nation and a proud people. They learned from their white masters, not to respect the life or the dignity of their fellow citizens. To maintain their grip on the nation, they shamelessly marginalized our Constitution and undermined our institutions. Instead of educating the masses, they preferred to give them weapons to create more chaos and more destruction. The health system in Haiti that was already teetering on the brink of collapse is overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of gunshot wound victims. The education level continues to plummet since incessant rioting forces the schools to close their doors for at least a quarter of the academic year. What is the future of a society, whose children, instead of attending school, are given automatic rifles to maim, murder and intimidate?
THUS, Thus, thus… “Quod erat demonstrandum,” think the detractors of the race and of the Haitian nation. Black folks cannot rule themselves. And many of our own citizens hurry to acquiesce: Yes, we need to be taken under the US, Canadian or French wings. To all of you my compatriots, I say: Think again!!! We only need to study closely the events that unfolded during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934
The solution of our problems can only come from us. Bring in the white masters and Haiti will be restored to slavery, perhaps without chains, but slavery nevertheless. Think hard! We must repudiate those who preach hatred and violence. These policies have failed. We must repudiate those who preach stratification of our society by skin colors. This practice has failed also.
Our ancestors paid the ultimate price to leave us a nation where we could be born and live free. Let not their sacrifice be in vain!
Pour le pays, pour les ancetres,
Dans nos rangs, point de traitres!
Du sol, soyons seuls maitres!
Louis Joseph Auguste, MD