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Haiti and the African Union

Soundtrack: Lauryn Hill “Everything is Everything”

            I’m trying to get back to talking about energy and sex and meditation and such – but I had to take one more detour to address Haiti and the African Union. In June 2013, Haiti will go from Observer status to a full Associate Member state of the African Union at the next African Union summit in Malawi. Haiti will be the first state from Africa’s diaspora to become a fully recognized member of the African Union. Many people are lauding this as a sign that the black race is coming together, Africa is strengthening, and Haiti’s myriad of woes will be solved. I’m not so sure about that.

            As a Pan Africanist, there is nothing that would make me happier than Haiti and other black countries joining a united and dignified Africa for the betterment of all African people on the planet. But history makes me limit my enthusiasm about these moves. The African Union (AU) was founded in 2002. It is and was the successor/replacement for the Organization of African Unity that was founded in 1963 and was comprised of almost every country in Africa. When the AU took shape in 2002 it was supposed to be the beginning of forming the “United States of Africa” wherein all African countries would relinquish their nationhood and become states in the one nation of Africa. In 2013, we are scarcely any closer to that becoming reality than we were when it was adopted as just an idea 11 years ago.

            At that time, the AU convened a series of meetings of economists to chart the economic future of the continent. Some economists from the Americas who were privileged to be in these meetings suggested that Africa needed to establish a central bank backed by gold and filled with the proceeds from taking control of the continent’s vast natural resources which were in the hands of multinational corporations from the United States and Europe as well as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). There were regional blocs set up to facilitate this process of uniting the continent into one nation. The different countries would first come together as the east, west, south, central, and north regional blocs and those regions would be brought together as one nation.

            Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was one of the strongest voices advocating for the establishment of the African Union at the turn of the millennium. In 2009, he was selected to serve a one year term as head of the organization that he helped to establish and provided much of the financing for. He used his influence within the organization to take up the cause of establishing the African central bank and an African currency backed by gold. This move would have had a tremendous negative impact on those countries and corporations in the west that are accustomed to having access to Africa’s natural resources on terms that are very favorable to them and not so favorable to the people of Africa. With the NATO invasion of Libya and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, we see the ultimate result of those plans.

            Haiti is a very, very complex situation and difficult to summarize quickly. In 1492, the first island that Christopher Columbus landed on was Hispaniola, which is made up of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Approximately 300 years later, Haiti became the first nation involved in the African slave trade where the slaves overthrew their enslavers and declared the independence of themselves and their country.

In a bizarre turn of events, France succeeded in forcing Haiti to pay them reparations for overthrowing French rule and declaring independence. This ruined the economy of the brand new nation. In 1806, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s two main liberators and the new country’s emperor, was assassinated and Haiti divided into a black-controlled north and a mulatto-ruled south. A decade later the mulattos prevailed and unified Haiti, excluding blacks from power. In 1915, the United States took advantage of Haiti’s infighting and invaded the tiny country, maintaining absolute economic control in Haiti for the next 35 years. In 1956, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier seized power in a military coup. He declared himself president for life, which was until 1971, and then his son Baby Doc took over as president for life. In 1990, Haiti finally got its first ever democratically elected president in Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was ousted in a coup a year later by the military. That started an avalanche of political and economic turmoil that lasted for all of the 90s until 2000 when Aristide was able to run for office again and become president for a second time.

In 2004, Aristide was kidnapped by the United States military and forced into exile in South Africa. A seemingly never-ending barrage of tropical storms, flooding, epidemics, food riots, the earthquake, etc., etc. Haiti is in bad shape. But Haiti’s condition is not unlike that of many countries which are already member states of the African Union. So it is illogical to assume that joining the AU is going to be the solution to all of Haiti’s problems. There is intense poverty and suffering going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Niger, Sierra Leone; the list really goes on and on. In fact, of the 20 poorest nations on Earth, Haiti and Afghanistan are the only two that aren’t in the African Union. How is this possible with Africa being the most minerally rich continent on the planet?

There are a whole lot of valid answers to that question, but I think it boils down to this. There are people outside of Africa who have a blood-thirst for Africa’s natural resources and there are influential people and heads of state on the African continent who are more than willing to sell out the best interests of their people to get a few crumbs from the colonizers’ table. In these dirt-poor countries with gold and oil and uranium and diamonds underneath their feet, a handful of families live like kings while the rest of the people starve. If the African people are ever to benefit from their own resources in the way that they should, these foreign powers have to be kicked out (starting with the United States military) and these sellout so-called leaders have to be removed along with their families and all of their close friends. Africa has a cancer of greed and betrayal that has to be cut out in order for the body to live. I’m vastly oversimplifying the continent but I stand by what I have said here. I’ll leave it at that for now. I appreciate the symbolic message of Haiti joining the African Union and I pray for our ancestors to assist us in solving these problems.


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