“Toussaint L’Ouverture” is a leader of black rebellion in Haiti. His name means ‘the awakening of all saints.’ In 1794, when France declared the abolition of slavery in its overseas colony, Toussaint L’Ouverture allied with France and eradicated Spain and Britain out of Haiti. He was impressed by Voltaire’s French revolution ideals that consisted of liberty, equality and fraternity and subsequently cooperated with the French military for the abolition of slavery and Haiti’s independence. 

 

   However, Napoleon from mainland France had a different idea. He had the ambition of driving out the British from the North American continent by making Haiti as a colony and securing it as a bridgehead. The natives of Haiti and the blacks had to fight again with 20,000 Napoleon’s forces. With independence army leader Toussaint L’Ouverture’s cleverness and judgment, Napoleon’s army’s defeat seemed certain.  

 

   They cheated. The commanding officer of France courteously invited Toussaint L’Ouverture over for peace talks, man to man. Toussaint L’Ouverture responded to the invitation, and was arrested on the spot and was sent in custody to France. Napoleon confined him in a prison on the rugged mountain range near the border of Switzerland. In April 7th, 1803, the great leader of Haiti independence Toussaint L’Ouverture died of pneumonia in Napoleon’s prison suffering from solitude and cold. 

 

  Although Toussaint L’Ouverture diet in prison, the black independence army fought desperately and finally eradicated the French military. In January 1st, 1804, independence was declared and the republic was named ‘Haiti’ in the meaning of ‘High Mountain’ in the native language. Haiti is pronounced as [aiti] in French pronunciation (this is how it is pronounced in Korean), but in the United States, it is called [heiti].  

 

   The newly declared Haiti republic’s future was rough. The United States didn’t even acknowledge Haiti as a country for 60 years due to the fear that African-American slave of the southern farm belt will revolt against the government. With an overwhelming power of armed forces, France invaded Haiti once more in 1825. 

 

   France threatened Haiti to pay back ?150 million, since Haiti’s independence damaged France as much. Considering that France sold Louisiana for ?80 million to the Unites States back then, ?150 million is definitely a large sum of money. Haiti ended up paying back all debt in 1948. Haiti has been paying back for 143 years. In the end of the 19th Century, 80% of the country’s budget was to be given to France. 

 

   Even after the independence, foreign merchants held the real economic power since the government had no money. When Haiti planned a reformation, United States, Germany, France and Britain interfered with these efforts. Every time an ethnic government was established, these countries planned an uprising and brought up an opposing power that will represent their benefits.   During the 200 years of history, 32 coups took place instigated by foreign powers. Even President Wilson of the United States, who declared the principle of national self-determination and gave hope for the people of small and weak power, invaded and colonized Haiti in 1915.

 

    Unites States, afraid of Central and South America’s liberation movement, called Haiti ‘a fortress of anticommunism’ and continued to support pro-US dictatorial government that ruled with an iron fist even after acknowledging the nation as an independent republic. The infamous dictator with his 30 year reign over Haiti is Francois Duvalier. He is well known as “Papa Doc, Baby Doc.”

 

    A flash of hope has shown upon Haiti in mid 1980s, influenced by the theology of liberation within the Catholic community. A priest and a believer of liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide came into the political arena with nonviolence and reconciliation as a slogan stating; “The gospel is important, but poverty eradication comes first.” He was elected as the president of Haiti in late 1990, with support from the majority of the population.

 

    Pro-American compradors that are monopolizing the economic management could not stand this. The Haiti military authorities planned a coup in September of 1991, and ousted President Aristide as they claimed that he made Haiti a red nation. During this process, thousands of Haiti citizens who were defending President Aristide were slaughtered by soldiers.

 

    In 1994, the United Nations and President Clinton put Aristide back into his presidency to settle the situation as he was the lawful president. Aristide was out for a term since there is a limit to serve consecutive terms, but soon was elected again in the presidential elections of late 2000 with an overwhelming public support. After the Bush administration took over the office in 2001, the United States government has posed tough economic sanctions on Haiti and also has blocked economic aid and loan that was to be provided, by pressuring diverse international organizations.

 

    Also the Bush administration is accused of supporting the opposition of the Aristide with weapons and funding to replace the Aristide administration. Professionals say that the economic sanctions of the Unites States and the blockade of loans from the international financial institutions is the largest reason for the Haiti government’s current situation. Haiti became the poorest nation in the world. 

 

   Yesterday I met my junior in school, a correspondent who came back from Haiti’s tragic earthquake site. Would he have been close to tears if it weren’t that bad? Haiti was already a country in turmoil by man-made earthquakes with foreign powers and comprador influence even before the natural disaster. America is leading the plans of restoration and reconstruction; however no one in the international community trusts it. Repentance and self-reflection of history should firstly be done. Therefore, ‘praying’ for Haiti is what really should take place. Helping Haiti to become the real nation of Toussaint L’Ouverture is what a civil citizen should do, making Haiti the country of ‘the awakening of all saints.’

Categories: Column / Opinion, News
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