May 8, 2016, Haiti to become a full MEMBER of African Union (AU) in June during the next sitting in Malawi. Though AU is a useless Organization, the symbolism is grandiose. Welcome home Family.
From an African perspective, going to the Caribbean can be a disarming experience. On many of the islands, the people look distinctively west African, their national dishes are barely changed versions of African food (compare Nevis’s “cook-up” to Ghana’s “waakye” and I challenge you to spot the difference), and their Creole dialects are often almost direct translations of African languages into English or French.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that cultural ties, stretched and distorted by 5,000 miles, slavery and the passage of several hundred years, are still strong enough to produce some kind of political union between Africa and the Caribbean. And sure enough, in January the African Union is poised to admit Haiti as a member, which if it happens, will be the first time any nation with no geographic connection to the continent of Africa will have joined.
More than any other Caribbean nation, Haiti occupies a special place in the affection of many Africans and members of the African diaspora. The country endured decades of still prescient punishment for daring to overthrow its slave masters, becoming the world’s first independent black nation in 1804 – the slave rebellion’s leader Toussaint L’Ouverture hailed from Benin. Haiti used its independence and membership of the United Nations in the post-war period to back decolonisation during the fraught period of African independence.
And now it has a level of poverty gives it more in common with many African nations than its wealthier Caribbean neighbours, who have been known to regard Haitan refugees as a nuisance. After the 2010 earthquake, the Democratic Republic of Congo – which struggles to finance its own budget – pledged $2.5m in aid to the devastated country. Senegal offered land and places at its university to Haitan students. As the African Union chairman, Jean Ping, said: “We have attachment and links to that country. The first black republic … that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for black people and has paid a heavy price for so doing.”