Once again, Haiti is burning.
The Caribbean country forms part of the African Diaspora – a critical component of the AU’s six regions, declared in Maputo in 2006.
Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled “AU needs to lead Haiti Aid Efforts” published on Mercury newspaper, 20 February 2019.
The heroic anti-slavery insurrection waged by Haitians against France from 1791 to 1804 inspired Africans in their own struggles against colonialism. The activist US Republican Florida senate, Marco Rubio, made it clear in 2017 that: “We have a very difficult situation in Washington, where massive cuts in foreign aid are under consideration. And it will be very difficult for us to justify assistance to those countries if they are countries that do not co-operate in the defence of democracy in the region.”
The development assistance landscape has fundamentally changed since the US enacted the Marshall Plan to rescue Western Europe from the devastations of WWII, as well as the perceived threat of communism.
Haiti represents perhaps the shrillest contradictions and double standards in the administration of development assistance.
Despite its own internal challenges such as bad governance, Haiti has had endless misfortunes.
Since the 1804 anti-colonialism revolution, the country was unashamedly asked to compensate France for its own freedom.
Regardless of Haitian contribution in the development of the US, it has always received unfavourable treatment from Washington.
No matter who wins political power in Haiti and whether it implements brilliant economic policies, the country would not succeed due to ill advice from the donor community.
In her book Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo captured clearly the Haitian situation when she criticised Western assistance, arguing that development assistance creates aid dependency and market manipulation.
In recent times, Haiti suffered numerous devastating natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Although development assistance poured into the country, there has been massive siphoning of the same resources by some of the same donors. This includes the UN.
Ironically Venezuela, a country undergoing internal political turbulence and US sabotage, contributed more to Haiti than the donor community. In solidarity with Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries, Venezuela sells subsidised oil amounting to $2billion (R28.4bn) annually to these countries.
This was a trigger of the current protest in Haiti. The opposition parties are claiming government officials and former ministers abused development assistance. The major source of the country’s crisis lies with the ill advice it is receiving from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Last year, Haiti signed a sixmonth, staff-monitored agreement with the IMF, which opens up $96million in low-interest loans from Inter America Development Bank, World Bank and the EU.
Furthermore, Haiti’s currency is in a free flow depreciating, doubledigit inflation and a mounting budget deficit of $150m. With all these challenges in mind, the IMF still insists that Haiti raise fuel prices.
It is very important for South Africa and other emerging markets to step in and assist Haiti. The country cannot solely depend on western donor community’s strident development assistance that comes with conditions. The AU should lead efforts of mobilising resources for Haiti. We are intrinsically linked to Haitians as the sixth region of the African continent.
The AU needs to raise global injustices committed by the US and the western world, especially the manipulation of development assistance to advance their narrow interests in the name of democracy.
It is time to take the African diaspora seriously. The Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba stood resolutely with Africa in opposing colonialism and apartheid.
*The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg