I spoke to a friend in Haiti a few days ago. He was ecstatic. He had lost his family home and virtually all material belongings in the 2010 earthquake. His injured mother was hospitalised for months. He lived under a tarpaulin. His wife recently gave birth to their first child and he was fired from his job because he demonstrated for the return of Aristide. But on the phone he was shouting with joy and enthusiasm:
“Aristide has come back; he has come back; freedom has come to Haiti; we Haitian people will solve our problems...”
Like millions of others in cholera-stricken Haiti where the numbers affected are projected to rise to 800,000, where one and a half million are homeless, promised aid is not coming, and political manipulation and confusion reign, his positive emotions were just bursting through the cage of suppressed hurt and pain, rising above the scenes of utter devastation, collective misery and ever- present death, to grasp the hope of a brighter future which President Aristide symbolised.
He is a university graduate and lawyer, with a clear appreciation of all the challenges and dangers faced by Haitians, himself included. But this moment of glory after Aristide’s seven years of forced exile, this moment that Haitians had never stopped demonstrating and dying for, has regenerated a certainty that Haiti will take its destiny back into its own hands.
Now that Aristide has returned, after President Preval broke with the conspiracy to deny his passport and the South African government dismissed US overtures to “keep he dey”, what he is able to achieve under the shadow of assassination, without the right to run for political office again, will depend not only on him but on how all of us respond to a situation where lifted hopes create new possibilities.
In 2004 Aristide had been removed from office under a blitz of misinformation demonising him to the world, and in the midst of an orchestrated armed invasion of Haiti, led by known criminals and convicted mass murderers from previous regimes. On March 19, one day after his return, the “international community” that had deposed him dropped over 100 bombs on Libya in an opening onslaught, reportedly on the country’s air defences and government troops, now labelled “Gadaffi forces”, said to be threatening the civilians of a city called Benghazi.
As the days go by more and more targets are identified and struck, including Gadaffi’s home compound in Tripoli. Now Western leaders openly debate the legality of targeting Gadaffi himself, the new demon of the world, preparing the justification for his murder, if they are able to get him. They espouse the possible necessity for regime change, signalling an escalated military campaign that will result in the mega death of the civilians they are supposedly in Libya to protect.
The Arab League, after bitter rows, followed instructions and called for a “no-fly zone”. As soon as the pattern of bombing indicated a broader agenda, its Secretary General complained that the strikes “differed from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone”
South Africa voted for resolution 1973. Now its President condemns the attacks. But when you are Arab, African or any group outside of the power elite, you need to know that once you open the gates of hell, you have no control over the hellfire missiles.
The Arab street is not fooled. On March 21 pro Gadaffi protestors in Egypt forced UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to retreat to the Arab League building when he attempted to visit Tahir Square. It was a statement against the UN role.
The truth about Gadaffi, Libya, its oil and the intentions of its new saviours will eventually emerge from the fog of war just as the truth about Aristide and Haiti emerged.
We too have to ask questions about the purpose of this military assault. If it is the protection of civilians, and we abhor the indiscriminate killing of unarmed, peaceful protestors, why was the fervour to intervene not decreased when it was clear that the Gadaffi government was in fact faced with an armed uprising? The opposing sectorally-based militia, has even war planes, which was revealed when one was shot down. They are brutally murdering the Black-skinned citizens of other African countries, who have been working in Libya. No mention is made of the plight or protection of these civilians.
Why does the UN-mandated ceasefire apply only to the government while the armed insurgents advance to take over cities under cover of coalition aircraft?
Why was the Western media silent on the African Union’s rejection of military intervention and proposal for a negotiated solution? Why did the allies block the AU team from going to Libya before they started their assault? Libya is an African country and part of Gadaffi’s problem with the Arab world stems from his identification with Africa.
Libya now faces a serious threat of being destroyed as a nation. Africa and Africans around the world need a louder international voice if we are to survive as a viable people in a dangerous world where wars for resources and battles for our minds are intensifying.
Caricom and the AU need to build a much closer strategic alliance and to identify potential partners who, based on shared interests, can stand with us against the dismemberment of African states and other actions which undermine African or Caribbean sovereignty and development potential.
In the final analysis it is our own strength as a people that will save us from those whose profit motives will override our humanity.
• This column, commemorating the International Year for People of African Descent, appears fortnightly