Wed | Oct 17, 2018

French debt cancellation is no victory for reparations

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM


It has now been reported that the government of France has cancelled the debts owed to it by Haiti. Now, while those who have been pushing for reparations from Europe for the so-called crimes of slavery are celebrating, the French cancellation should in no way be seen as a victory for reparations.

Third World countries like ours have been receiving debt relief for some time now. For example, Jamaica got $4 billion worth of debt forgiveness from Britain between 1997 and 2004. Haiti itself got some from the Paris Club some years ago. I can assure you that when these European powers were giving us these reliefs, reparations were the furthest thing from their minds.

However, I am still not sure how those who are demanding that France pays Haiti billions can still be so convinced that theirs is a just or even logical call.

Remember, when Haiti was "forced" to pay France compensation for Haiti's war of independence over two centuries ago, it was Haiti that defeated France in that war - and not the other way around. I still don't understand how the "victorious" Haitians could have been forced by the "vanquished" French to do anything.


Look at the choice that the "victorious" Haitians got after their "victory". The Haitians could either pay France for recognition of the new Haitian state and be treated as a second-class nation deserving of little international respect and even less business dealings or they could have been proud in their military victory over the French, ignore the French demand and suffer with little international dealings. Sadly, the Haitians chose the former.

How then can the French be obliged to pay the Haitians reparations for an agreement that the Haitians stupidly went into - all by themselves? The Haitian leaders at that time must have realised that recognition of their new nation would most likely not result in equal treatment. Yet they went ahead and paid the nothing that they had. In many ways, the Haitians are the authors of their own suffering today.

Thus, in addition to the stupidity of Haiti's first leaders, slavery was an accepted institution at the time - morally, legally and socially. As such, those who continue to waste their energies in demanding that France pay Haiti something that she doesn't owe the country are perfect time-wasters.

It's no wonder the French president, when pressed on the issue of reparations for Haiti, said no.

Michael A. Dingwall