A seemingly Godforsaken part of the world suffered another tragedy in a long line of tragedies. Haiti was hit for a few seconds by the wrath of tectonic plates leaving up to 200,000 dead and a nation destroyed.
Haiti is like a zombie nation that has been dead or dying slowly for some 200 years. Yet all Africans and most Latin Americans owe their freedom to the seeds of the Haitian Revolution in 1789.
Haiti was the most harsh slave colony, one in three slaves died on arrival, so the ones who remained were the hardiest survivors.
This has meant they were able to endure hardships that few could bear, this didn’t stop the slaves from rebelling in 1789. They later heard of similar men in France and America undergoing revolutions for freedom.
Their leader Toussaint defeated three imperial armies, France, Britain and Spain. He handed Napoleon his first military defeat and weakened all the colonial powers in the region.
He used diplomacy and played the colonial powers against each other, the USA and Britain therefore treated him as an equal and signed treaties of trade.
In 1815 a young Simon Bolivar received military and financial support from Haiti to start his revolution. He saw how Spain the colonial power had tried to take advantage and lost power in the region.
Bolivar is hailed as the Liberator of Latin America, to this day Bolivarism is espoused by both left and right wing politicians.
Haiti was a prophetic vision of what would happen to African nations some 170 years after in the 1960’s. Haiti found it was easy to remove the master but harder to replace the system he created. In inheriting a slave economy, they had the choice of dismantling the economy or adjusting it slightly.
They adjusted it slightly and slaves were forced to return to plantations, this time as “free men” but with the same hardships. Plantation owners left in droves and the economy died slowly.
Toussaint was kidnapped by the French and died in captivity; the Bolivar revolution betrayed him by keeping slavery. Yet for all that, Haiti was free and one of three free black nations for more than a century.
So today Haiti is the only hell-hole in a tropical paradise, it suffers deeply from any natural disasters. Last year it was a hurricane, this year an earthquake, next year the effects will still be felt. Haiti has had more development programmes and aid than you can imagine and yet they get poorer.
This stems from the failure to change the modes of production after colonisation, so while all the nations around are tax havens and pleasure resorts, Haiti is Haiti.
It’s where 200,000 people die, infrastructure gets destroyed, society gets displaced, hunger is prevalent and lawlessness reins.
Now, westerners have jumped at the chance to help; the same western folk who didn’t do the same in Rwanda’s case. Is an earthquake less tragic than genocide?
Rama Isibo is a social commentator