By Victor Omondi
Hurricane Mathew wreaked havoc on Haiti last fall. But this happens to be only one of the many misfortunes that have befallen the country. In March, Haiti transitioned from a year long period of caretaker governance by installing as its 58th president, banana exporter Jovenel Moise.
Haiti is today the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and is as a result of a long chain of afflictions. Some of which include endemic corruption, widespread illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, natural disasters and more.
In 1825, after overthrowing its former colony against all odds, Haiti was forced to pay “reparations” in exchange for its independence. Being a hatchling nation led by blacks, it posed serious threat to slave-owning countries around the globe – including the United States. It stood the risk of serious invasion. In the face of a hostile world, Haiti had no choice but to comply with the ultimatum given by the French. Though accepting what amounted to extortion would mean relief from political and economic isolation, the payment literally crippled the struggling nation.
Haitians would later be urged to reach into their pockets in helping their government pay off the amount. The debt took 122 years to clear and finally it was settled in 1947.
However, the regular payment, though settled, left the nation in a pervasive climate of serious instability. A fledgling nation struggling to stabilize, forced to pay for the “crime” of freeing themselves from involuntary servitude. And they are yet to recover from what can be termed today as most unacceptable extortion.
Frances demand for reparations from Haiti is completely outrageous today in any context. And despite the fact that the current French government can’t be held liable for the inhumanness of France’s 1825 ruler, King Charles X, it would be nice and commendable to see a small act of historical accountability.
Haiti dutifully paid the reparations for generations regardless of how much the nation suffered. France should now do the right thing and return the payments. What’s more, France wouldn’t feel a thing paying off the amount that stands at an estimated amount of $21 billion dollars, considering that France ranks among the world’s wealthiest nations. What would be a meager amount in France’s budget is what may just save Haiti from a deplorable state to the road to recovery.