HAITI HISTORY, PRESENT AND FUTURE 1
HaitiHistory, Present and Future
HaitiHistory, Present and Future
On12thJanuary 2010, at 1653hrs local time, Haiti was rocked by a massiveearthquake measuring 7.0 on the Reichter scale. The immediate eventrocked a wide area with an epicenter near Lougane, approximately 16miles from Haiti capital of Port Au Prince. Afterwards, shock wavesspread in an area with radius of 50 miles were recorded (Farmer &Mukherjee, 2011). The Haiti government report estimates the totalnumber of missing people and those whose bodies were discovered atabove 300,000. In addition, more than 3 million people were displacedfrom their homes.
Variousinternational agencies have discredited the government estimates asgrossly overrated, placing the death tolls at between 100,000 and160,000 (Varadarajan, 2010). Four years since the disaster, more than1.5 million Haitians were still living in camps by the end of year2013. This paper will explore Haiti’s history regarding itsrelations with foreign nations particularly France and the US, andhow that history has manifested in the aftermath of the Haitiearthquake to render the country incapable of containing thecatastrophe four years later despite considerable international aid(Office of the Historian, U.S., 2014).
Haiti-France repartition imposition
Francecolonized Haiti since 1660, and invested considerably in slavecolonies and other property. The Haitian revolution of 12 years ledto partial freedom of Haiti from France (Dionne,2004).However, the French sent a consignment of warships and tanks to Haitiin 1825 to negotiate payments by Haiti to France in war reparationsin 1825, totaling 150 million Francs ($21billion). In return, Francepromised to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Haiti.Obviously, the negotiations were not conducted on an objectiveplatform, since Haiti was a colony of France, and was forced to signthe deal amid the threat of attack by French troops. The debt wassubsequently reduced to 60 million Francs, and the Haitian governmentcommenced repayment to the independent financiers. By the time oflast payment in 1947, the French government had received more than 90million francs (Dionne,2004).At the same time, Haiti’s economy continued to struggle with debtservice in the place of national development. Thus, Haiti’s economyby GDP stands at only $6.95 billion, compared to France’s $ 2.85trillion. With such an impoverished history, the Haitian economy wasnot set for a healthy development from the beginning, as thereparations took up a considerable percentage of Haiti’s annualproduction (Wroughton,2010).
Haiti-US relations (US occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934)
Atthe turn of the 20thcentury, the German influence in Haiti was widening, with prominentGermans intermarrying persons from the Mullato descent in Haiti, thusallowing them to own property in the country. This was in addition todirect German government involvement in the local running of Haitianaffairs. The US, conscious to intervene and eliminate German’sinfluence over Haiti, invested heavily in the Haitian arena throughthe National City Bank of New York, effectively acquiring Haiti’scentral bank and treasury control. Thus, when a growing anti-Americansentiment almost led to a national revolution, the US quickly seizedthe opportunity to occupy Haiti in a bid to protect America’sinvestment interests.
By1915, therefore, the US imposed a compulsory involvement in allgovernment decisions in Haiti, and gradually revised its role inHaitian politics to include its citizenry in all major governmentpositions. Later, no Haitians were allowed to control influentialgovernment jobs, as all of these were left to Americans. During itstenure lasting between 1915 and 1934, the US government exerciseddirect and total control on Haiti (Smitha,2009).It revised Haiti’s infrastructure, built social amenities such ashealthcare centers and schools, upgraded roads and bridges, improvedwater supply systems, and fortified Port Au Prince to a nationaleconomic capital.
Onthe other hand, this occupation denied Haiti its organic growth thatwould have steadied its economic growth, denied Haitians the right torun their affairs, opened a corridor to Americans to own and runproperty in Haiti in the expense of millions of Haitians whocontinued to live in poverty or work as casuals in Haiti andneighboring countries. But the most important negative aspect of theoccupation, perhaps, is that it led to the breeding of multiplerebellion groups whose political alignment has remained extremist andanti-nationalistic to date (Smitha,2009).Thus, the country was grappling with political instability, lack ofcontrol over its situation, and obligations to continue servicing theFrance debt- all at the same time. The combination of these factorsnot only arrested its development economically and politically, butalso led to the growth of a spirit of intolerance and hate amongstcitizens of governments. This reason was perhaps one of the reasonsthat the next presidency failed to safeguard national interests, butliterally impoverished it of the remaining limited resources throughcorruption and public looting as the next paragraph shows (Smitha,2009).
TheDuvalier Dictatorships of 1957-1986
FrancoisDuvalier, also popularly called Papa Doc, was the Haitian presidentbetween 1957 and 1971, the time of his death (Willens, 2011).Duvalier’s rule is positively remembered for his policy on diseasecontrol and unification of the black people of Haiti on anationalistic platform. Other than these two reasons, his rule wasmainly repressive and negatively affective for the politics, economyand livelihood of Haitians. When he assumed power in 1957, heimmediately exhibited intolerance toward political difference,exiling and murdering numerous adversaries in his first decade inpower. In addition, Duvalier’s authoritarian rule tolerated evenencouraged, confiscation of poor people’s property to the wealthiermembers of his army, who at the time had no official salaries. Thus,the country bred a culture of corruption, extortion and theft by theruling class, while millions of poor Haitians fled to cities andother urban centers to look for subsistence (Willens, 2011).
Duvalierruled the country with disregard for economic prosperity of themajority, and by the end of his era, more than 90 % of Haitians wereliving in abject poverty, malnourished and without any meaningfulhealthcare plans. At the same time, the ruling elite was stronglyaffluent politically and financially, with a large portion of thenation’s wealth misappropriated, poor governance and policyformulation leading to stagnating economic growth, and national debtuncontrollably rising as the government borrowed funds to maintainits operations and foreign countries lending to Haiti to gainindirect interest over its administration and protect their interests(Willens, 2011). Due to this, the Haiti population is divided in itssupport for the government, and therefore the national integrationnecessary for cooperation among citizens is low.
Fromthe foregoing discussion, it is evident that Haiti’s past has had abig effect in its present state especially with regard to itseconomic stability, government structure, living conditions of themajority in the population, as well as its physical andsocial-economic infrastructural development. The combined effect ofthese factors is a country that lacks economic capability to handlecontingency events such as the earthquake, is still regainingpolitical stability after decades of administrative malpractice andis therefore unable to formulate proper policy for disastermanagement, and one whose cultural integration is superficial afterdecades of alienation of the people with the government.
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