Hama Tuma, Ethiopian author, poet and journalist, has been active in the political and human rights struggle in Ethiopia and Africa since the sixties. His satirical essays under the general title of African Absurdities have gained support from many quarters. Some of his books (English and Amharic) have been translated to French, Italian and Hebrew.
The Other Afrik - Haiti - Panafrica - United States - Disaster
The devil and Haiti
Some of my Anglo-Saxon friends have long been suspicious of the distance between the African and Satan, if any at all. Is it not common knowledge that Satan is black as are Africans? There are, of course, some Africans who imagine that they are not really black and belong to that category the French boldly call the "couleur sauvee" or the saved colors. In other words, those saved by a hair’s breadth from being black (God Forbid!): Métis, light skinned, brown... In any case this African affinity with Satan has been mentioned ofttimes to explain the African’s alleged propensity to cause calamities and problems of all kinds.
And unsurprisingly, the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti has been duly attributed to the devil worship of the voodoo practicing Haitians. Drowning the uninformed in their world of ignorance, a right wing Christian Minister, Pat Robertson has unashamedly and openly declared that the Haitian plight is the result of a pact they made with the Devil in order to overthrow French colonial rule— Quote:"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it… And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, ’We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And so the Devil said, ’Okay, it’s a deal.’ . . . But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another".
Is this the same Robertson who signed a gold mining contract with Charles Taylor and lobbied the Bush administration on Taylor’s behalf? It is safe to say that many in the West have not forgotten that the Haitians started the very first slave revolt back in 1791 and fought to success in 1804, setting up their independent republic.
How dare they!
Guinea’s Sekou Toure dared say NO to continued French tutelage or domination; a rejection that Paris never forgot and tried to make Sekou Toure pay for— ( not a savory individual our Sekou, but a courageous one at the time when he opted for independence). Déjŕ vu!
The afflicted Haitians have become the center of approbations for causing an earthquake upon themselves, for being sinners, poverty stricken and even lazy. Some expected the usual "black" violence with looting and mayhem in Port au Prince and could not explain why it did not really happen even though some TV stations were gloating over footage of two alleged thieves shot by the police and desperate people struggling to get food handouts. The CNN, true to form, came with a titled series called Saving Haiti (from what? from whom?). American Marines, who took the opportunity and came in thousands, were seen distributing food and doing camera—attracting charity work in an effort to improve their tarnished images in Iraq and Afghanistan. We give out not bombs but flour and rice---our eyes are destined to see wonders, no? The militarization of aid in Haiti will evidently have many grave consequences in the future.
It is obvious that Haitians brought the "biblical tragedy" upon themselves. They believed in the tenets of the French and American Revolutions and staged their own only to find themselves rejected both by the then vicious colonial power, France, and the US, a slave holding country that recognized Haiti only in 1862. Actually, an angry France demanded huge reparation payment from Haiti in exchange for recognition and the chance to take part in international trade. Haitians have been blamed by one Washington Post columnist for bringing this man made disaster upon themselves— what "with their weak public institutions leading to the collapse of buildings". Does it not matter that the collapsed presidential palace was built by Marines during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934? Haitians should have long abandoned this obdurate desire of theirs to be a free nation and welcomed instead with open arms, as quite a few African countries do, the very many interventions and plots of a couple of rich countries to impose their diktat over them. And why did they burn the hundreds of corpses on the streets instead of suffering the consequences such as a devastating cholera epidemic? Cruel people who, like those Africans from Kenya to South Africa, are prone to torch thieves and rapists and corpses!
Maybe Haiti should have done a Barbados, which became independent only in 1966 and is still a Commonwealth member: No revolt, no Revolution, accepting colonial rule with docility.
I really think the Haitians should actually be commended for their contribution to the West by giving it a chance to pose and improve its image. One can say Haiti has learnt from Ethiopia on all levels as it has now received its own "We are the World" song and has become the primary concern of celebrities. Larry King and Anderson Cooper are dwelling on it and Darfur can eat its heart out this time! The local boy Wyclef has also learnt the bitter lesson that Western NGOs brook no patience when they come with full force to occupy the terrain all for themselves. Jean Wyclef’s foundation was accused of misuse of funds, the singer driven to tears and of course brought into the fold by being invited to the Grammy awards ceremony.
Haiti gave the West, especially America, the chance to strut big time as a savior force. So much so that Rush Limbaugh complained with immoral ease while refering to Obama’s alleged affinity to his black or light skinned kin. "Slackers kept up by American tax money" Limbaugh said while also suggesting that Obama was "using the tragedy to burnish his image".
Idle NGOs were given jobs and the opportunity to gather millions of dollars to "save" Haiti. While many pundits waxed bitterly lyrical against Haitians without ever setting foot there, some correspondents and reporters did make it to Haiti and succeeded to report drama from their vantage points making it appear as if they were in the heart of a war zone. Haiti also gave the child traffickers great opportunity to smuggle children (or be caught doing it) thereby brining into focus the child adoption racket that has been going on in Haiti and other places including Ethiopia, Cambodia, Malawi, Russia where children with living parents have been sold and bought in a thriving market. Remember Jolie and Madonna.
If Haiti’s poverty is to be exclusively blamed on the slackers who call themselves Haitians and if earthquakes come due to a pact with the devil then a number of questions rear their heads to ask for an answer. How about the earthquakes in California in the past? What about the decades long suffering of Haiti under foreign invaders and interventionists? Who overthrew Aristide? If most of the buildings in the Haitian capital collapsed is it a bad thing or a good thing? Does it indicate that American engineers and Marines are bad architects or should we blame the Haitians in exclusivity? How come Benin, the Motherland of Voodoo, has not suffered from earthquakes yet? How about the other parts of the Americas where voodoo is practiced? How come there is a lot of talk about corruption after the earthquake and in connection with the many NGOs? Some cynics argue that America is mobilized for Haiti to keep the Haitians in place, not to trek en masse to the USA. Preventive charity has been seen in the past and it is not sure it works but “it helps keep the natives in their own hell hole”.
The tragedy has also given us uninformed souls the chance to hear sofa bound experts expound on the alleged weaknesses and peculiarities of the Haitian culture. Benefiting from a tragedy is how we can term this. Thank you again Haiti.
As Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution (whom some called the Black Napoleon) said when he was captured by the French: "In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty, it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep". Earthquake or not the tree of liberty in Haiti will still bear many branches, leaves and fruits.
My sympathies and solidarity to the people of Haiti.
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