Between 1791 and 1804, a revolution against French colonialist led to a brutal attack of colony of Saint Domingue currently known as Haiti.
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This was a respond to slavery the people of Haiti were exposed to by the French colonialist. In 1825 France illegally extorted an “independent debt” from Haiti that amounts to 21 billion dollars in today’s dollars. In effect Haiti was forced to pay for its freedom, hence Haiti’s underdevelopment and poverty. Over a century after global slave trade abolishment, Haitians were still paying for their ancestor’s freedom.
In August 2010, academic authors, human right activists signed on to an open letter to French President Nicolas Sarcozy arguing that the case was morally, economically and legally unacceptable.
However, France dismissed the case and pointed to its record of delivering other aid to Haiti, and demanded that Haiti should instead be thankful of the aid granted by France. Moreocer, Haiti was placed among the list of those countries not to be favored and visited, a move that many French and Haitians have greatly protested.
In respect to human rights, which French top lawyers have admitted that slavery was against human rights, and considering the kind of dehumanization Haitians were exposed to by French colonialists, Haitians case is legitimate.
The first reason is that Haitians were not obligated to pay for their independence. An independence debt forcefully extorted by France on Haiti is an absolute disregard for human dignity and freedom. This burden of debt is claimed to have let Haiti down the slope of underdevelopment and poverty.
However, the dehumanization this island faced during slavery and after when they were forced to pay 150 billion independence debts has a far reaching effect and has rendered generations of Haiti miserably poor.
For example in order to make its first payment, Haiti closed all its public schools in what was duped ‘hemispheres first case of structural adjustment’ which denied the Haitians education and as a result it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Majority people from Haiti suffered grief dehumanization and require its colonies to take responsibility for their action.
With all much regard, history has shown that before Haiti gained its independence, there was persistent blood struggle against French brutal rule. Considering that the compensation that Haiti was forced to give French plantation slave owners was unwarranted, French ought to pay Haiti the 21 billion dollars in restitution.
History proves that first; it was French colonialists who benefited from the land. The French exploited the wealth of Haiti, for example in 1970 a third of France’s foreign trade revenue came from coffee, sugar and cotton exported from Haiti. This statistic alone proves there was a mass exploitation of Haitian natural resource by French colonialists and this deserves to be compensated.
Secondly, the French betrayed a truce they agreed with L’Overture not to reinstate slavery; they arrested and tortured him to death in French prisons. In addition, history records that, in 1970 a half of all slaves in Caribbean came from Haiti and this echoes the fact that majority of slaves came from Haiti.
“The debt owed to France colonialists was ten times Haiti’s total revenue by 1825 and was to be paid at the expense of education, health care and infrastructure”. As if this was not enough, the independence loan compensation was prescribed to be paid through a loan from a designated French bank. This debt was not only immoral but utterly illegal.
Two occasions violated the international law: the reintroduction of slavery after it was banned by three treaties that French had signed and the threat underlying the debt agreement. In conclusion it has to be understood that a compensation for Haiti republic is not world’s charity, but its overdue justice.
Geggus, Patrick. Slavery, War and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793-1798. London: Clarendon Press, 1982.
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Phillips, Antony and Brian Concannon. Economic Justice in Haiti Requires Debt Restitution: IRC Americas Program. Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, 2006.
- Antony Phillips and Brian Concannon, Economic Justice in Haiti Requires Debt Restitution: IRC Americas Program (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, 2006), 1.
- Patrick Geggus, Slavery, War and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793-1798, (London: Clarendon Press, 1982), 1