mercredi 13 mai 2015
The French president has pledged investment to Haiti, but steered clear of the reparations some in the former colony are demanding from Paris.
In the capital Port-au-Prince, Francois Hollande said France would spend $145m (£93m) on development projects.
It is the first official visit by a French head of state since Haiti won independence in 1804.
The Caribbean country was forced to pay millions of gold francs to compensate slave owners.
"We can't change history, but we can change the future," President Hollande said on Tuesday.
He added that French investments in development projects - including education - should be seen as an appropriate effort for "a moral debt that exists".
Mr Hollande's visit provoked small-scale protests with demonstrators demanding France pay damages for its legacy in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Haitian President Michel Martelly said: "No negotiation, no compensation can repair the wounds of history that still mark us today.
"Haiti has not forgotten, but Haiti is not stubborn," he added, referring to the debate in Haiti about whether the country can rebuild relations with its former colonial power without demanding reparations.
By declaring independence in 1804, Haiti became the first black republic in the world.
Protesters in Port-au-Prince unveiled a banner that read: "Hollande: Money Yes, Morals No"
But France demanded that Haiti pay damages and compensation to slave holders for the lost of their profits. Paris warned the new regime that it would face invasion and a return to slavery.
Known as the "independence debt" it was later reduced to 90 million gold francs ($18.9bn; £12bn) which Haiti continued to pay into the 1940s.
In 2004 during Haiti's bicentenary celebrations, the then Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, demanded compensation from France.
Last year, the 15-member Caribbean Community announced a 10-point plan for seeking reparations from France and other slave-holding European nations on behalf of Haiti and other former colonies.
French administrations have acknowledged the historic wrong of slavery in Haiti and other former colonies but have avoided any real discussion over whether they would return the "independence debt".
But in 2010 after Haiti's devastating earthquake, the then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, spoke about the "wounds of colonisation" and during his administration, France cancelled all of Haiti's $77m debt.
On Sunday, Mr Hollande acknowledged his country's historic role in the Atlantic slave trade as he helped inaugurate a $93m slavery memorial in Guadeloupe.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
Haitian first lady Sophia Martelly’s hopes of a political career in Haiti’s Senate may have been dashed.
Several sources including a local Port-au-Prince radio program, known for breaking scoops, said late Tuesday that the National Bureau of Electoral Disputes (BCEN) has rejected her candidacy.
Richardson Dumel, the spokesman for Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), told the Miami Herald that “a decision hasn’t been announced yet.”
Martelly filed last month to run for the Haitian Senate in the upcoming Aug. 9 elections in hopes of representing the West department, which includes Port-au-Prince. But her candidacy was quickly challenged on the grounds that she was an American citizen, and as someone in charge of a government committee tasked with administering State funds, she lacked the necessary document showing she properly spent the money. She was also accused of voting in the 2010 presidential elections as a U.S. citizen, which wasn’t allowed before amendments to the Constitution recognizing dual nationality were published.
Despite the passing of the amendments and the National Palace leaking a document showing that Martelly had renounced her American citizenship, jurists in Haiti have disagreed on whether she qualifies to run under the changes. Some say she does, while others say she would have had to give up her U.S. passport when she became an adult at 18.
Initially, Martelly’s candidacy was accepted by the elections commission and she was given the green light to proceed. The decision, however, was appealed and the BCEN was formed to hear the dispute. In total, the panel was tasked with ruling on 17 disputes involving 16 candidates; two of the challenges were brought against Martelly.
The decision on Martelly’s fate has been long awaited but it had been held up by money, according to Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste. On Tuesday, the newspaper said that each of the BCEN’s six lawyers were requesting a $31,538 payout while each of the three judges were requesting $25,231 in fees before making their decision public.
The CEP finally settled the dispute by agreeing to pay each of the lawyers and judges about $10,000 each for 30 days worth of work.
Dumel said a total of 2,039 candidates have registered to participate in the upcoming parliament elections for 20 Senate seats and the entire lower chamber, which increased from 99 to 118 seats. On Monday, Haiti began the registration for its presidential elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 25 with a runoff on Dec. 27 if no one wins the vote outright.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article20797062.html#storylink=cpy
Is it time for France to pay its real debt to Haiti?
In 1791, the slaves of France's most profitable Caribbean colony, Saint Domingue, revolted. The uprising was kindled by the appalling exploitation and abuse of the colony's enslaved African population, and stoked by thesame Enlightenment values championed by white anti-monarchic revolutionaries in the United States and France itself.
But the independent republic of Haiti that eventually emerged in 1804 was never an equal among the brotherhood of Western nations. To the north, the United States, a nation of slaveowners, regarded Haiti, a nation of free blacks, with unvarnished horror and boycotted its merchants.
Meanwhile, France, the spurned former colonial ruler, fumed at its losses. In 1825, with a French flotilla threatening invasion, Haiti was compelled to pay a king's ransom of 150 million gold francs — estimated to be ten times the country's annual revenues — in indemnities to compensate French settlers and slaveowners for their lost plantations. The sum would be later reduced to 90 million gold francs, but that was little consolation: Haiti, in effect, was forced to pay reparations for its freedom.
This history is not as distant as it may seem. It set the stage for many decades of Haitian economic misery and underdevelopment to come—the country, one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere, did not finish repaying its 19th century debts to France and the U.S. until the middle of the 20th century.
And the legacy of the past was very much alive this week, as French President Francois Hollande landed on Tuesday on a historic visit to Haiti.
On Sunday, Hollande had made remarks in the Caribbean island of the Guadeloupe that he would "settle the debt that [the French] have" with Haiti—a declaration that was rapidly back-tracked by aides, who insisted Hollande was referring to a "moral" debt, not an actual financial one.
In Haiti, Hollande promised large-scale French assistance, including a plan to help modernize the country's education system. He acknowledged that a "moral debt exists," but skirted whether the wrongs of the 19th century would be more directly addressed through reparations.
"You’re not asking for aid, you want development," Hollande said, addressing an audience of Haitian dignitaries in Port-au-Prince. "You’re not asking for welfare, you want investment."
But many in Haiti want more than that, including a group of protesters who greeted Hollande's arrival with placards and chants.
While France belatedly offered public apologies for the history of slavery that shaped the Caribbean, and also canceled Haiti's $77 million debt following the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake, activists say that the indemnities unjustly forced on Haiti more than a century ago must be reversed. Some calculate that returning all those 19th century gold francs would add up to about $17 billion.
Separately, a bloc of 15 Caribbean nations has embarked on a joint quest to obtain reparations from Europe's slave-trading and owning empires, and optimistically seek to win accords with the British, French and Dutch governments.
But such an understanding regarding reparations from Europe is still distant, not least because of the tricky politics that would follow for the former colonial power. There are many skeletons in the closets of Europe's lapsed empires, and one formal act of reparation would likely beget calls for others.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly appeared to recognize this. "No negotiation, no compensation can repair the wounds of history that still mark us today," he told Hollande on Tuesday. "Haiti has not forgotten, but Haiti is not stubborn."
An article in Haiti's main newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, cited by France 24, shrugged off the question of reparations. France, concluded editor Frantz Duval, will have to reckon with its own demons for many years to come:
The moral debt that is owed is for having enslaved the blacks who were uprooted from Africa to transform every drop of their sweat and blood, and each parcel of land on Saint Domingue, into wealth for the imperial center. For this moral debt, Haiti does not seek compensation. We agree that it is irreparable. We leave it to be a stain on the civilized world.
Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.