By Max A. Joseph
Italy’s colonial past may have been derisory but its tactics were not unlike those of its European sisters: Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Portugal and Spain, which treated subjugated natives as mere objects. But, unlike the other former European colonizers, Italy is making amends by agreeing to compensate Libya to the tune of $5 billions to be spread over a 25-year period. The Italy-Libya accord is clearly a departure from the norms, since the other former colonizers remain adamant in their refusal to provide compensation to their former colonies. But unfortunately, the Italians’ contrition is prodded by pragmatism rather than altruistic reasons, since Libya is a major oil producer and Italy is expected to get preferential treatments on future contracts.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the former colonizers not only refuse to provide compensations but continue to exercise political and economic control over the theoretically independent countries. The principal offender is France whose relations with its former colonies remain, depending on the circumstances, one step below or above colonialism. While the former colonizers’ refusal to provide compensation is rooted in the perverted belief that colonization was necessary to bring civilization to “savages and beasts,” if the late Winston Churchill was correct in his assessment, France actually went one step further.
On Nov. 18 1803, the remnants of Napoleon’s expeditionary force sent to restore slavery in Haiti were soundly defeated by an indigenous army led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and sent packing. On Jan. 1 1804, the victorious former slaves created the world’s first black republic as a sanctuary for persecuted blacks. In the slavery-dominated 19th century, the former slaves’ accomplishment was perceived by the great powers as an abomination, which engendered an episode more depraved than slavery itself.
In 1825, Charles X (1824-1830), the last Bourbon king of France, ordered Haiti under the threat of a military invasion to pay 150 millions gold Francs as compensation for the material losses incurred by French planters as a result of that country’s successful struggle to free itself from tyranny and inhumanity.
Fearing a military invasion, which Haiti could not possibly defend against, then-Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer (1818-1843) agreed to France’s extortionist stance by borrowing the money from France itself at a ridiculously high-interest rate.
Far from being a revisionist, I believe the French would have been defeated again, since they were and remain a spineless bunch that buckles easily when facing determined adversaries.
France’s hasty capitulation to the Nazi onslaught in May 1940 and its defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 at the hands of the Vietnamese are palpable examples of the French’s cowardly attitude before determined enemies.
Anyway, in 1947, some 122 years after the ultimatum, the debt was finally serviced. This was extortion in its purest definition and a unique case in the annals of human evolution toward civility and decency. When Jean-Bertrand Aristide, president of Haiti (1991-95), (2001-04), finally acted on what was purely an academic exercise by Haitian intellectuals by demanding the restitution of the ransom payment from France, the conceited French responded by orchestrating the events that led to the February 29 , 2004 invasion of Haiti.
On that fateful day, the U.N Security Council, under Resolution 1529, declared Haiti “a threat to international peace and security” and ordered a mandatory occupation of the country. Having survived France’s extortion; hidden and overt hostilities of the great powers throughout its two centuries of existence, Haiti’s subjugation is now complete with the Security Council’s blatant annulment of its sovereignty.
If the purpose of colonialism was to civilize the uncivilized, some Negroes apparently agreed. Because in 2004, Gerard Latortue, the illegal prime minister, who oversaw a regime of terror (2004-06) in the first phase of the occupation, characterized Aristide’s demand for restitution of the ransom payment as “absurd and illegal”. Ironically, the incivility and indecency permeating Haitian politics and the fact that an untamed Negro like Gerard Latortue even exists negate the Europeans’ argument of “having brought civilization to the uncivilized. Moreover, it proves that the French failed miserably in their attempt to civilize the so-called African savages. Because the obnoxious French continue to view restitution of the extortion payment as a non-issue, we therefore reserve the right to sue them for malpractice. Whatever method works, the ransom money has to be repaid since the extortion is essentially responsible for Haiti’s slide into the abyss of misery and other social problems.
Haiti is living on welfare; two third of its government budget is funded by foreign donations, its denuded landscape makes living an every day challenge for most Haitians, and its future is controlled by the same capricious clique that oppresses its people, hence the need for a rebirth. Though any restitution would be helpful, some peculiarities, like those exhibited by the political establishment, must be eradicated, if the country were to move forward.
Simply put, France’s ransoming of Haiti would be synonymous to the state of Israel compensating Germany for the Holocaust, the twentieth century’s worst case of ethnic cleansing in which 6 million Jews were exterminated and millions others enslaved by one of the most cultured nations on earth.
Fortunately for the Jewish people, they had David Ben-Gourion, Israel’s first prime minister, while Haiti remains saturated with impenitent collaborators deserving no less than an expedited trip to the gallows.
— Contact Max A. Joseph at email@example.com.