Ever since the small Caribbean island of Haiti shook off its chains in the successful slave revolt of 1791, it has had to fight tooth and nail to cling onto every shred of its independence.
In order to pay ‘compensation’ to the former slaveowners for the loss of their ‘possessions’, the new republic was saddled with enormous debt, held by French banks – a start which set a pattern of indebtedness for the new republic that would later serve as the foundation of classic colonial and neocolonial domination.
Indigenous industry and agriculture were undermined by the dumping of cheaper imported products, thereby wrecking the home market, and the political leadership of the country fell to an unstable comprador section of the bourgeoisie bribed to serve the interests of French or US imperialism in exchange for a few crumbs from the table.
Direct and indirect colonial control
This combination of economic instability and political venality has condemned the Haitian masses to a precarious existence for two centuries, punctuated every once in a while by the arrival of one or another ‘saviour’, come to ‘rescue’ the country from chaos. This is the purest colonial arrogance and an insult to Haiti’s dignity and independence.
Every new intervention to ‘assist’ the Haitian people has ended up by further weakening the authority of its government, increasing its debt dependency, multiplying imperialist-backed NGOs and further demoralising its people.
This was the case in the periods of direct occupation by the USA, such as those which occurred from 1915 to 1934 and again from 1994 to 2004. Such was also the case between 2005 and 2017, when Brazil led another consortium, the UN-sponsored Minustah mission (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti) whose effects on the country were catastrophic for the people.
One of the commanders running Minustah, General Augusto Heleno, later showed his true colours when he popped up as a minister in Jair Bolsonaro’s ultra-right-wing government. Most recently, Heleno stands accused of involvement in the 8 January abortive coup that was staged by Bolsonaro’s supporters when he lost the election. And this reactionary anti-democrat was supposedly helping Haiti ‘secure democracy’!
Minustah certainly left its mark on Haiti, though not in the way intended: Brazilian soldiers left behind them a trail of women they had raped and children they had fathered and abandoned, while some 800,000 Haitians were infected and 40,000 died during a cholera epidemic that was allowed to rage unchecked during the mission’s watch.
The disease had been carried into the country by Nepalese soldiers who formed a part of Minustah’s forces – soldiers whose health status was unchecked when they landed in Haiti despite the fact that a virulent cholera epidemic was raging in Nepal at the time. Besides the terrible toll in human lives, the epidemic had huge consequences for the economy, leading to a catastrophic drop in rice production and in exports.
As Haitian economist and professor Camille Chalmers has pointed out: “If they send a stabilisation force that produces this, they can’t continue to talk about the United Nations as a space for fighting for human rights.”
Kenyan proxies prepare to continue imperialists’ dirty work
Now as the country reels from a succession of natural disasters (earthquakes, mudslides), economic collapse (half of all Haitians don’t get enough to eat, with a quarter of its children chronically malnourished) and social chaos (the country’s previous leader was assassinated and rival armed gangs terrorise the people at will), the latest ‘saviours’ (ie, imperialist proxy forces) now packing their bags for the Caribbean are members of the Kenyan police force.
This armed contingent of the Nairobi constabulary – in practical effect soldiers – is to be sent to Haiti to head up an ‘international team’ tasked with ‘neutralising’ the armed gangs, ‘protecting’ civilians and bringing peace, security and order to Haiti’s streets.
The competence of the Kenyan police to restore said peace and harmony anywhere may be determined by the recent findings of Amnesty International. “In an open letter to the United Nations security council in August, Amnesty International said it was concerned about the plan due to the Kenyan police’s record of responding using excessive and unnecessary force.
“The organisation said it had documented more than 30 cases of Kenyan police officers killing protesters through shootings and tear-gas suffocation during various protests this year. Amnesty has also accused the police of beating protesters, as well as unlawfully arresting and detaining them.”
It is interesting to see how the former British colony of Kenya is now functioning as a security hub for Anglo-American armed interventions. Britain has recently beefed up its own armed presence in Kenya, in 2020 opening a £70m facility, said to be a vital hub where British soldiers prepare for operations around the globe. Britain currently has around 230 (acknowledged) military personnel based permanently in the African country, with thousands more visiting every year to take part in joint exercises.
The USA has already promised £82m towards the Haiti adventure, relieved that it has managed to persuade Kenya to act as a proxy in the affair, so malodorous is the memory of earlier direct US meddling.
But the hand of the USA rests heavy on the shoulder. US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has signed a five-year deal with Kenyan defence minister, Aden Duale, under which Washington will supply money, weapons and training to enable Kenya to work as a US proxy in Africa and Latin America.
The Communist Party of Kenya has responded to the proposed expedition to Haiti: “The Communist Party of Kenya demands that the Kenya Kwanza government rescind their proposal to send 1,000 police to Haiti, while calling on the Kenyan people to join the Haitian masses and popular progressive forces worldwide in opposing the intervention, continued occupation and neocolonial governance of Haiti by the Core Group and the UN.”
The USA doesn’t give a damn about the welfare or security of the Haitian masses, just so long as it can go on looting the country’s resources and preserving US hegemony. What bothers Washington is that if things get beyond a certain point, the Haitian masses may enter the fray, with incalculable consequences.
The USA should not forget that Haiti was born out of a heroic revolt against slavery, and that such origins cannot but leave an indelible imprint. Since 1998, Haiti has cooperated with its socialist neighbour Cuba on a programme of public health – something which the Haitians seized upon, overcoming resistance from the government. The country has also benefited from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil programme.
Professor Chalmers has this reminder of how closely the historical anticolonial experience binds together the peoples of the Caribbean: “You know the story of Bolívar, who came to Haiti and stayed here for three months, at a time when he was completely defeated militarily. He left here with weapons, ammunition, ships and soldiers, and wrote in his memoirs that without the presence of the 350 Haitian soldiers, it would have been impossible to defeat Spain.”
Where imperial Spain went long ago, may the Yankees soon follow.