Without a doubt slavery was evil and repugnant; however, it would have lasted to this present-day had the enslavers thought of militarizing the system and providing the slaves with uniforms and insignias, seeing that Black people have a fondness for these things. The history of African nations during the decolonization period (1957-77) and Michel Martelly’s proposal to remobilize the Haitian Army makes this rather preposterous theory plausible, as the mistakes of these African nations are about to be repeated in Haiti. In order to understand the merits of this outlandish theory, we need to review the situation that existed in Africa at the beginning of the decolonization period where ethnic and tribal divisions, inexistent infrastructure, illiteracy and extreme poverty, were the norm.
Due entirely to the malevolence of their European colonial masters, the majority of the newly independent African countries, particularly the former French colonies, had no institutions of higher learning and, at best, could rely on a dozen native doctors, engineers and technicians at the time of their liberation. So desperate was the situation in the former French colonies that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) actively recruited thousands of Haitian teachers to help with these countries’ educational system. Cynics would eventually accuse then-Haitian president François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1957-71) of having orchestrated the exile of his country’s intelligentsia, though this UN-sponsored program for insidious political purposes.
Incredibly, instead of investing in education and infrastructure projects such as schools, roads and hospitals, the African leaders allocated their countries’ meager resources to creating armies, which they invariably regarded as potent symbols of sovereignty and independence. This hard to comprehend affinity with militarism produced many egotistical military strongmen that practically destroyed the chances the Continent ever had at building sound political systems and achieving sustainable economic development. What makes the emphasis on creating armies rather than building development projects more inexcusable was the fact that it undermined these countries’ independence and sovereignty rather than protecting them, as these African leaders erroneously believed they would.
The African leaders’ flawed strategic vision notwithstanding, the former colonial powers, particularly France, stubbornly resisted these countries’ drive at achieving political independence and sovereignty over their resources. To that end, the former colonial powers enlisted the help of these militaries’ strongmen to foment instability or seize outright political control in countries that resisted neo-colonialism. Hence, the destruction and impoverishment of Africa, besides the machinations of foreign powers, is associated with the wickedness of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (1965-97), now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Jean-Bédel Bokassa of Central African Republic (1966-79), Moussa Traoré of Mali (1968-91), Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo (1967-2005), and other subservient military strongmen.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Haiti, the world’s first Negro republic (1804), occupied by UN troops since 2004, faces a situation analogous to that of African countries at the beginning of the decolonization period. With a decrepit infrastructure and economy in shambles, the result of two centuries of marginalization by the international community, Haiti, through the shortsightedness and duplicitous actions of its current leadership, is being led down the same path that proved disastrous for the African Continent. Despite the obvious, its current president, Michel J. Martelly, a Kompa singer and political neophyte, is ignoring the lessons of history by forging ahead with a plan to bring back the Haitian army, which has been demobilized since 1995. As in Africa, the policy is being implemented at the behest of the local elite and the international community, which want to “prevent” or “manage” social and political changes they perceive as detrimental to their interests.
Martelly’s argument “The (Haitian) army has forged the nation and there is no reason why it should continue to exist without it” is a deliberate misreading of historical facts. The Haitian revolution (1791-1803) was an organic uprising brought on by centuries of inhumane and cruel treatments of imported Africans by slave masters, not the brainchild of the military geniuses who successfully guided it to victory. Though the nation is rightly indebted to the military prowess of Biassou, Dessalines, Jean Francois and Toussaint, among others; the revolution would have succeeded nevertheless, since it embodied the resolve of an oppressed group that could no longer tolerate the ignominies of slavery. In another words, it was an event whose time has come.
Michel Martelly’s conditioning the departure of MINUSTAH to the remobilization of the Haitian Armed Forces, far from being an alternative to the illegal occupation of Haiti, is actually a pet project of the occupiers. Naturally, this drive to establish a locally-led oppressive force as a substitute to a prolonged military occupation is creating an animosity between Haitians and the international community that will last ages. The end result could only be a protracted struggle that condemns Haiti to an unending cycle of instability, social revolutions and foreign meddling. There you have it. Haiti’s seemingly intractable problems, like its African counterparts, are in fact solvable provided the strength of character of its leaders is at par to the challenges. Sadly, the current crop of Haitian politicians doesn’t measure up.
Ironically, I do not believe what had happened in post-colonial Africa and is happening in Haiti is indicative of Black people’s affinity with insignias and uniforms. The Black leadership’s lack of resolve and acceptance of their former masters’ insatiable appetite for control are to blame.
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