Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Haiti As Seen Through Pan-African Eyes

Haiti as seen through Pan African eyes

By Tichaona Zindoga
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

FOLLOWING the devastating earthquake that left over 200 000 people dead and destroyed almost everything in Haiti last month, the world was treated to eccentric Western hype about self-inflicted poverty, hopelessness and the heroism of foreign rescue efforts.

The West, through its media, even justified the occupation of this second largest Caribbean Island, which they religiously touted as the "poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere".

One example of the foregoing was aptly demonstrated by one Tony Itis who wrote for the Green Left weekly on January 23, questioning the derision of the suffering people of Haiti.

In the article he cites "right-wing" columnist David Brooks of the New York Times who reminded his readers in a piece on January 15 that when, in October 1989, the San Francisco Bay Area was hit by a Haiti-like quake, the death toll was (only) 63.

"Brooks used crude racism to blame ‘a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences [including] the influence of the voodoo religion’," the Green Left writer said.

He continued as saying that although most (Western) media coverage of Haiti’s latest tragedy lacked Brooks’ crudeness, the same racist assumptions dominated.

"This racist narrative is being used as a smokescreen, behind which the US is cynically using the earthquake to increase its military, political and economic control of Haiti. (Actively hampering relief efforts in the process.)," he inferred.

Turn to February 1’s New York Times International story, "In quake’s wake, Haiti faces leadership void".

One understands the real reason why the United States could send a naval flotilla and almost 13 000 soldiers in a country that desperately needed food, medicines, water and shelter, among other essentials — guns and tanks not included.

In this story, Ginger Thompson and Marc Lacey seem to justify a take-over of power in Haiti.

"During this greatest disaster Haiti has ever faced," they wrote, "its president (Rene Preval) has seemed incapable of pulling himself together, much less this deeply divided society."

They quote Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti "who makes no secret of her presidential aspirations".

Manigat says what the country has "seen since the earthquake is not a leader but a broken man," concluding that the country could not move with him as president.

In fact, the paper caricatures the leader as wandering around "in a daze" and "lapsing into moments of disorientation", claiming that the "disappointment with the president seems most palpable".

It critically reveals that United Nations and American officials "did not believe" in Preval and that because of alleged corruption and inefficiency "only a fraction of aid flowing into Haiti is permitted to pass through government channels". That is what self-serving Western interests could only see, on top of barbaric acts of looting and need for Western salvation, in this bastion of African quest against racial domination that has of late become a colony of the West following years of Western subversion of democracy and people’s will.

A UN military force has been occupying Haiti since 2004, when the US sent marines to support a coup against the democratic government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Following the quake, the UN announced it would add 2 000 soldiers and 1 500 police to the 9 000-strong force already there, sources say.

Westerners could not heed the message in Preval’s "Kembe" (Creole for "hold on") or the resilience of the Haitian people in heroically sifting through the rubble and rescuing their own with bare hands and improvised tools and implements.

But for those who can genuinely identify with Africans, it has been a different case altogether.

Coltrane Chimurenga of the pan-African grouping, the December 12th Movement, said he was amazed at the determination of the Haitian people amidst daunting odds, with the Creole message of hope, "Haiti will rise again", being the dominant theme as people here grappled with the devastation of the 7.0 magnitude quake.

The December 12 Movement sent a five-member team led by Haitian Collete Pean to Haiti to deliver a shipment of water on a "Pan-African support mission", early this month.

The water, 1 200 twenty-five-litre bottles, was purchased in the nearby Dominican Republic through US$25 000 funds raised by the movement in New York in an effort to help the people of Haiti and "to show the solidarity of black people in the United States."

In an interview with The Herald after returning from Haiti where the movement donated water to the people of Léogâne — a town near the epicentre of the quake — Chimurenga described the poverty of the country, the devastation of the quake and lamented foreign involvement in Haiti.

"After crossing the border from neighbouring Dominican Republic, you can notice the stark change in infrastructure," he said, referring to the level of poverty in Haiti, ironically the first-ever country to defeat colonialism.

"Although the people live in shanties and they are poverty-stricken, you can see their industriousness and fighting spirit," he said.

He recounts that the level of destruction caused by the earthquake progressively magnified as one entered the capital, Port au Prince, hundreds of kilometres from the border with the Dominican Republic.

"When you reach Port au Prince everything is level.

"The buildings are all mounds of rubble and gigantic cracks knife through the earth’s surface. People’s homes have been destroyed completely and they have settled in open spaces and the streets," he said.

Yet amid a people trying to rediscover their shattered life — with little success — there is an overarching foreign and alien force in the midst.

Chimurenga says that foreign military, and notably US forces, are everywhere depicting a virtual occupation of the island.

"In Port au Prince, the military is pervasive. Soldiers holding M16 guns will be everywhere sometimes just walking about or setting up distribution camps for aid while military tanks are seen driving up and down," he said.

He insinuated that the military, far from providing security or prevent looting as pronounced in the public, played no real positive role here except to keep Haitian people oppressed and unable to rise.

When the disaster struck, the US took over the main airport, a move that not only prevented but also delayed other rescue efforts.

The high volume of military traffic prevented many aid flights from landing.

One report says that five planes belonging to Doctors without Borders were turned back by the US forces.

Chimurenga said he noted a certain aloofness of Western organisations in dealing with the people of Haiti, as contrasted with the solidarity of the people from countries like Cuba and Venezuela.

Following the quake, the two countries were among the very first to send help in the form of doctors, search and rescue teams, as well as tents for temporary shelter.

Some sections of the media have accused Western rescue teams for concentrating their efforts on tourists and expatriates. Because of the stranglehold that American forces maintained in Port Au Prince, the December 12 Movement chose Leogane where it could freely distribute the water.

"One thing is that the town was one of the most affected areas," Chimurenga explained.

"Secondly, the town was relatively free from interference compared with the capital."

He said that when the movement reached the town, they were met with Haitian grassroots contacts who co-ordinated a rapid unloading of the water from the container truck.

Old people, pregnant women and the weak were prioritised with each household receiving a 25-litre bottle each.

There were no incidents of looting or violence, Chimurenga said.

There will be a second such trip in the near future and the December 12 Movement has pledged to be involved in the reconstruction of Haiti, which the movement reckons is "a beacon of Pan-African liberation from the time of its successful war against slavery".

And from the modest gesture of giving water to thirsty brothers and sisters in Haiti, the movement wanted to send the simple, non-judgmental but powerful message: "Africans can always come to the assistance of Africans anywhere in the world in the fight for self-determination".

No comments: