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Martinique: Diplomatic and military hub of French foreign policy in its fight against reparations in Haiti and all its former colonies

  • March 20, 2024
  • 40
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martinique:-diplomatic-and-military-hub-of-french-foreign-policy-in-its-fight-against-reparations-in-haiti-and-all-its-former-colonies
The Jeanne D’Arc mission immediately stationed at the port of Fort-de-France, then came a press release, stipulating among other things: “The Armed Forces in the Antilles remain vigilant regarding the deterioration of the security context in Haiti.

EIs there really a need to support for the umpteenth time the multiple roots that led Haiti into this chaos?

The fight against slavery and the hierarchy of beings, the imposition by France of a ransom of independence on this very young republic, the loans contracted in order to finance this imposed debt (commonly called: the double debt of independence), the control of the country’s public revenues due to the privatization of the National Bank of Haiti by administrators of the French bank Crédit Industriel et Commercial (which made it possible to finance the construction of the Eiffel Tower), the robbery of gold boxes of the National Bank of Haiti by the American navy in December 1914, the perpetual American interference continuing to this day since the invasion of Haiti by the American army in July 1915, the massacres of Cacos and the American military occupation of the country for 19 years, the successive Duvalier dictatorships from 1957 to 1986 (allies of the Americans and French), the installation of an oligarchy of constant collusion with foreign interests, the arrival of sweatshops and the acceleration of the impoverishment of the populations, the multiple destabilizations of the Aristide government precisely because it actively demanded accountability regarding the question of reparations due to Haiti, the 2010 earthquake, the CORE Group and Canada, the squandering of Petro Caribe fund, the rice scandal by the Clinton administration, the NGOization of the country, the sexual scandals, the massacres and the spread of cholera caused by MINUSTAH, the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, the imposition of a de facto and unelected government…

In short, the list of interferences, scandals of very high aerobatics and the injustices perpetrated in Haiti never end. Haitians and their honest and intellectually honest allies are best placed to explain; they constantly and tirelessly raise awareness on these issues and certain essential data are available free and publicly from the New York Times[i].

An Antonov-124 subsequently arrived on the tarmac of Aimé Césaire du Lamentin airport on Wednesday March 13.

It will rather be an attempt to lift the veil, or at least to question, on the diplomatic maneuvers as well as some of the declarations and military maneuvers underway in the Haitian file, and more broadly on that of reparations, by an actor of always seeming to feature two new blocs of pawns: French diplomacy through the intermediary of elected officials and personalities under the aegis of the French administration in Martinique, but also by always making good military use of the strategically favorable position of all of its so-called overseas departments-regions under French administration within the Caribbean and South America (also: the archipelago of Guadeloupe and Guyana), and again France by through a joint cultural policy with one of its old ally, the former Kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin, whose government has proposed sending nearly 2,000 of its soldiers to Haitian soil in support of yet another probable military intervention disguised once again as a new “peacekeeping mission”.

In this regard, Joèl Atayi-Guèdègbé, an actor in Beninese civil society and an expert in governance, gave an ultimately interesting explanation regarding the potential sending of Beninese soldiers: “Benin cannot be indifferent, especially given the historical links existing between the two countries, particularly through the emblematic figure of General Toussaint Louverture, who is of Beninese origin. As part of solidarity and the establishment of an intervention and training unit being set up in Haiti, I imagine that Benin could have been contacted in view of its expertise and its historical links with Haiti.[ii]. We will return to these historical links.

On March 15, 2023, in the Senate, upper house of the French Parliament, on behalf of the Socialist, Ecologist and Republican (SER) political group, the French senator and Afro-descendant from Martinique, Catherine Conconne, urged France like Canada, to implement a more active policy in the Haitian issue because we would all have a debt… “moral”… towards Haiti… and add: “What is France doing an hour and thirty minutes flight from the French countries of America? What is Europe doing? We must organize cooperation in the Caribbean basin, we must dare to send a peacekeeping force”[iii]. The repayment of the double debt imposed on Haiti by France and the plundering of Haitian public funds to finance in particular the Eiffel Tower were not part of his remarks. On April 24, 2023, French senator and Afro-descendant from Martinique Catherine Conconne will reiterate her request in an official letter addressed to Madame Catherine Colonna[iv], the previous Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs in the government of Elizabeth Borne under Macron’s second presidency. Here again: still nothing regarding the repayment of the double debt imposed on Haiti by France and the plundering of Haitian public funds to finance the Eiffel Tower.

On March 5, 2024, in the same name of the SER group, it was the turn of the French senator and Afro descendant of Guadeloupe, Victorin Lurel, this time to challenge the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron: “Considering the historical responsibilities of our country towards Haiti and the immensity of the political, financial and moral debt that we hold towards the Haitian people, I consider that France must be at the forefront maintains international initiatives and efforts aimed at restoring order and allowing this brother people to finally live in security, prosperity and sovereignty.[v]It goes without saying that there is obviously no question here either of the repayment of the double debt imposed on Haiti by France and the plundering of Haitian public funds to finance the Eiffel Tower.

Overall interesting fact: these two senators are members of the “France-Caribbean Friendship Group”[vi].

What does this zeal of an elected official from Martinique, an elected official from Guadeloupe and the Beninese government mean to us? Would these three territories have a link between them in the Haitian issue or more broadly in the reparations issue?

An official event which took place during the month of December 2023 in Martinique hit a number of French-speaking chronicles around the world, not without failing to cause controversy and exposing some taboo subjects in the process: the public sealing in broad daylight of the friendship uniting Patrice Talon, descendant of historically slave-holding nobles from the kingdom of Abomey through his mother[vii] and descendant of slavers through his father[viii]first fortune and current president of Benin, with Bernard Hayot, first fortune of Martinique and direct descendant of slave-holding settlers by father and mother, eminent representative of the interests of those commonly called in Martinique and Guadeloupe “the Béké community ”, a community whose members are all related and whose common ancestor is named Jean Assier[ix]. Official visit by Patrice Talon with great pomp, initially planned for the opening of the visit to Martinique of the Traveling Exhibition of Contemporary Art from Benin at the Clément foundation[x], owned by Bernard Hayot. The offense felt by a number of Afro-descendants across the French-speaking world, and beyond, that an African president in office visited a Bernard Hayot, little brother of the infamous Yves Hayot, would have caused a controversy such that, according to him, President Georges-Emmanuel Germany[xi]would have magnanimously volunteered to kindly reorganize the official visit so that it would move from a visit to the Clément foundation to the addition of a formal reception within the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique (CTM ) as well as some visits to historical sites, including Fort Tartenson where King Béhanzin was deported and held captive[xii].

It should be noted that President Georges-Emmanuel Germany, Afro-descendant from Martinique, is also called His Majesty Dah Miléko, prince and ambassador to the Kingdom of Allada in Benin, a historically slave-holding kingdom.[xiii]. Paradoxically, he is an eminent lawyer for associations and activists claiming to fight for reparations linked to slavery in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and France. The height of the paradox, Georges-Emmanuel Germany was also one of the local personalities alongside Patrice Talon during his visit to Fort Tartenson on Thursday December 14, 2023. During this visit, the Mayor of Fort-de-France Didier Laguerre tried to raise awareness of Patrice Talon regarding Martinican demands: “We are a society, we cannot dissociate ourselves from our past, from our history, from what we have in order to be able to project ourselves into the future”. And Patrice Talon responds to Didier Laguerre, mayor of Fort-de-France on site at his home in Martinique: “To request reparations for past harm, we must be able to establish the possibilities of reparations in the current state: can we ask for agrarian reform? Land did not belong to slaves.[xiv] »

It is not public knowledge that our President Georges-Emmanuel Germany alias his majesty Dah Miléko, prince and ambassador of the kingdom of Allada in Benin, great defender of the International Movement for Reparations (MIR), flinched following this reply scathing statement from President Talon.

Another important fact: given the strong promise made by President Talon[xv] that the Beninese government would subsidize and do everything possible to ensure that a direct air bridge sees the light of day between Cotounou and Fort-de-France[xvi], it is very unlikely that this type of announcement coming from a president in office would have been made to two entire populations in a hasty manner following any controversies. And this is precisely where part of the economic and geopolitical issues surrounding this famous visit seem to lie: on the one hand negationism, and on the other hand the apology for crimes against humanity. Benin has for some time begun a huge project to promote and reconstitute historical sites in order to organize so-called mass memorial tourism to the glory of the glorious slave past of the kingdom of Dahomey. The description of the publication of a report from Martinique 1ère to this effect on the official Facebook page of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Benin could not be more clumsy and revealing: “Benin, on the way to a titanic project memorial tourism. From Benin, the first departure site from the former slave coast, between 1.5 and 2 million captives left over three centuries. The Benin Government of Patrice Talon has major memorial tourism projects to complement what exists. The work has already started.” Amusement park under the cover of memory? To whose glory exactly? Total cost of the project: almost a billion euros[xvii], and several Martinicans and Guadeloupeans participating in the development of this titanic project as executives. Concerning this pharaonic project, Amnesty International unveiled a 78-page report on December 7, 2023, reporting conditions of evictions carried out within the framework of four development and planning projects. The report highlights multiple violations of the right to adequate housing, including a lack of proper consultation, the absence of sufficient and reasonable notice given to residents, evictions carried out in an unacceptable manner, insufficiency or absence of compensation, and the obstacles encountered by those affected in filing administrative and judicial appeals[xviii]. If Patrice Talon does not seem to lack political opponents, it nevertheless seems that almost no Beninese personality is opposed to his memorial policy, not even a Strasbourg resident born in France to Beninese parents originating from the kingdom of Allada. Who knows, maybe the movie The Woman King had the effect of accelerating fantasies, just as much as the famous Wakanda.

All these maneuvers tinged with negationism are not foreign to the people of Martinique, and have been for a very long time. The foundation Memory and Slavery[xix], the Slavery and Reconciliation Foundation (FER, quite funny name), and the association CM98 are all largely financed or linked to Bernard Hayot. Another little wink: one of the founding members of the Slavery and Reconciliation Foundation (FER) is none other than the late Serge Guézo, Prince of Abomey (capital of the kingdom of Fons, in Benin, formerly Dahomay)[xx]…a descendant of slave-holding nobles. It goes without saying that all these initiatives also dismiss the question of reparations out of hand. As such, Serge Romana, Afro-descendant from Guadeloupe, founding member of the FER foundation as well as founder of the CM98 association, could not have been more clear in the program Politiquement (In)Correct on Sunday September 25, 2022 at Viaatv Martinique, when ‘Eddie Marajo asked him for his opinion on the issue of reparations (brace yourself): “If slaves ask for financial reparations, I can understand that: they are the ones who experienced the catastrophe. But finally people who take their little glasses of champagne, who are calm, etc., who will tell me about financial reparations, for people who were their parents who suffered: there is something that I don’t understand.[xxi] » The transcription obviously doesn’t do justice to the guy’s speech. You will also be able to appreciate the defense of Serge Romana in the comments of the publication in question by…: Catherine Conconne. The world is small.

If it is undeniable that Martinique has produced and continues to produce many and many Martinique facilitators for the benefit of French imperialism and neocolonialism beyond our waters, what about Martinique protesters in the face of these nostalgic manias? , denialists and tinged with apologies for crimes against humanity? At first glance it would seem that the land of the slave Romain, of Lumina Sophie, of André Aliker, of Frantz Fanon, of Ojam, of Yich Telga, to name but a few among many other men and women courageous, does not seem to have said his last word on these sensitive points. A number of actions of civil disobedience took place, aimed at denouncing colonial crimes, the concealment of crimes against humanity, the apology for crimes against humanity, the denialism and revisionism practiced beyond our waters but also by our local personalities and economic actors, certain consolidated legacies of which have also allowed the perpetuation of abuse of dominant positions and the denial of justice, particularly with regard to the ecological, health, economic disaster and the political scandal of Chlordenone (commonly called Kepone in USA)[xxii]. If certain events have absolutely nothing to do with the denunciation of colonial crimes, we no longer count the acts of blockades, sabotage, damage and fires of key public buildings, plantations, businesses targets, riots or insurrectional situations that really have the basis for anti-colonialist demands since 2019. We also no longer count the collateral damage following the repression of the French state. High point: the repression of January 13, 2020[xxiii]. Another highlight: the citizen unbolting of two statues of Victor Schoelcher on May 22, 2020[xxiv] In Martinique.

For those responsible for the numerous previous attempts and the effective success of these acts, it was a question of not only denouncing colonial crimes but also the storytelling of French republican humanism tinged with a paternalism which makes humanity invisible and the aspirations of the first and the first concerned, namely: the enslaved captives themselves, massacred or having survived.

The Duguay-Trouin was one of the ships that arrived in January 1802 to try to put down the revolution in Saint-Domingue

Following the unbolting of the Schoelcher statues and the resulting panic, during his speech on Sunday June 14, 2020 to the French people, Emmanuel Macron declared: “This noble fight is misused when it transforms into communitarianism, a hateful or false rewriting of the past. This fight is unacceptable when it is taken over by the separatists. I tell you very clearly this evening, my dear compatriots: the Republic will not erase any trace or name from its history, it will not forget any of its works, it will not demolish any statues.[xxv] »’ Some Martinicans took it as an additional offense. Following the beating of young Keziah Nuissier by French law enforcement on July 16, 2020[xxvi] in Fort-de-France, the statues of Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc and Joséphine de Beauharnais were both unbolted spontaneously on July 26, 2020[xxvii].

We therefore know very well the nostalgia of the colonist and the noble, their strong attachment to symbolism, their almost indelible affection for what they consider to be a glorious past.

It is therefore not surprising for us to note that the French nuclear submarine stopping at Fort-de-France from March 3 to 9, without our officially knowing its trajectory, is called: Duguay-Trouin . The Duguay-Trouin was one of the ships that arrived in January 1802 to try to put down the revolution in Saint-Domingue[xxviii]. At the microphone of Cécille Marre at Martinique the first on March 5, the captain Jean-Baptiste Grossin declared that one of the elements of the Duguay-Trouin’s mission consists of cooperation with our primary ally, the Americans[xxix].

After the zeal displayed by Patrice Talon and the public display here in Martinique of his foreign, cultural and memorial policy, we are also not surprised to note the presence of representatives of Benin in the imposition of a any approach to Haitian civil society by Caricom under the aegis, among others, of the USA, France and Canada[xxx].

No, we are not surprised by the denialist attempts to destroy the demands linked to reparations.

In view of the global and regional geopolitical context, what on the other hand has begun to capture our attention is the arrival on March 12 in our Bay of Fort-de-France of the Jeanne D’Arc mission, which has not happened since 2010: Tonnerre helicopter carrier, Guépratte frigate. 800 soldiers, including 640 sailors, more than 160 student officers, as well as an embarked tactical group of 150 Army soldiers[xxxi]. Annual deployment with the objective of sailing and training future Navy officers far, long, and crewed, in an operational context, a certain type of training was added to this mission for the first time: a protest component of isolated islets will take place with resumption by force, jointly with regiments from countries from the Caribbean and South America regions. The Jeanne D’Arc mission immediately stationed at the port of Fort-de-France, then came a press release, stipulating among other things: “The Armed Forces in the Antilles remain vigilant regarding the deterioration of the security context in Haiti. They are able to adapt their system according to potential changes in the situation. »

Are the people of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyanese aware of the current issues and the implications?

An Antonov-124 subsequently arrived on the tarmac of Aimé Césaire du Lamentin airport on Wednesday March 13. With news traveling very quickly in Martinique, a small territory, it didn’t take long for captures of images of visitors to the airport to begin circulating on social networks: military equipment, helicopters.

The next day, March 14, there was a two-day visit by Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories, and Marie Guévenoux, Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, a visit officially announced publicly on March 8[xxxii]for official reasons, and very probably unofficial ones too but kept secret, for the moment.

Let things be clear to everyone: this upcoming mission in Haiti, proclaimed here and there to be a peacekeeping mission, is not one. If this were the case, it would have been carried under the banner of the UN, but this is not the case: it is carried by foreign powers, and this in an official and assumed manner for those who know how to read well. between the lines, beyond the big declarations and press releases. This is what we call: an invasion.

In a report read to UN security members on August 15, 2023, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, stated the prerogatives of the mission as well as the realities to be faced: “The current context of Haiti is not conducive to maintaining peace”adding that public order had to be restored, gangs disarmed, strategic installations and roads secured, and a state presence reestablished to provide basic services. “Nothing but a robust use of force, supplemented by a series of non-kinetic measures, by a specialized and competent multinational police force, equipped with military assets and coordinated with the national police, would be able to achieve these objectives”he added[xxxiii]. This means collateral damage and consequent loss of human life.

In what capacity and in the name of what people do Catherine Conconne and Victorin Lurel intend to speak out regarding the Haitian issue? Are the people of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyanese aware of the current issues and the implications? Are we collectively ready to have deaths on our conscience because some of our elected officials will have, once again, chosen to be the dark toy in the carnival of others without consulting us?

It seems obvious that Haiti once again bears the burden of the immense challenges linked to reparations for a more just and equitable world, and it seems that France, its allies and its facilitators find it less onerous and less risky to try to silence a once again these legitimate demands with armed contingents in an attempt to preserve the status quo.

Haiti, alone, against everyone, so as not to change.

That being said, in the context of an imminent invasion of Haiti, renewed geopolitical tensions between Russia and France regarding the Ukrainian issue, tensions between Venezuela and Guyana defi endured by Caricom and the USA regarding the resources of the Essequibo: do we really think that the use of the infrastructure of our small territories for imperialist purposes goes unnoticed by the enemies of France and its ally the United States ? Are we collectively prepared to suffer the possible consequences?

I doubt that this macabre game of pyromaniac firefighters will be worth the effort as far as we are concerned.


*Rodhney Robert, antichlordecone activist, Martinican.

Notes

[i] https://www.nytimes.com/fr/interactive/2022/05/20/world/americas/haiti-france-dette-reparations.html

[ii] https://www.dw.com/fr/envoi-contingents-b%C3%A9ninois-en-ha%C3%AFti/a-68441833

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QMBOiIgTfY

[iv] https://la1ere.francetvinfo.fr/martinique/crise-aigue-en-haiti-la-senatrice-catherine-conconne-demande-une-plus-grande-implication-de-la-france-1389498.html

[v] https://shorturl.at/almvH

[vi] https://www.senat.fr/groupe-interparlementaire-amitie/ami_642.html

[vii] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/311694/politique/dix-choses-a-savoir-patrice-talon-futur-president-benin/

[viii] https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/03/18/benin-les-nombreuses-casseroles-du-candidat-talon_4885830_3212.html

[ix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N0OS2f4xVg

[x] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxOGAAON7hY&ab_channel=ORTB

[xi] https://la1ere.francetvinfo.fr/martinique/le-president-de-republique-du-benin-de-passage-en-martinique-pour-une-visite-de-travail-1450181.html

[xii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL-IPKLpb9o&ab_channel=Pr%C3%A9sidenceB%C3%A9nin

[xiii] https://www.martinique.franceantilles.fr/actualite/insolite/georges-emmanuel-germany-intronise-prince-au-benin-595197.php

[xiv] https://shorturl.at/imEN0

[xv] https://la1ere.francetvinfo.fr/martinique/il-y-a-beaucoup-a-faire-parce-que-rien-n-existe-entre-nous-patrice-talon-president-de-republique-du-benin-1451084.html

[xvi] https://rci.fm/deuxiles/infos/Politique/En-visite-en-Martinique-le-president-du-Benin-annonce-une-liaison-aerienne-avec

[xvii] https://shorturl.at/bptv5

[xviii] https://www.amnesty.org/fr/documents/afr14/7383/2023/fr/

[xix] https://la1ere.francetvinfo.fr/martinique/le-groupe-bernard-hayot-renouvelle-son-mecenat-avec-la-fondation-pour-la-memoire-de-l-esclavage-1399994.html

[xx] https://www.fondation-fer.org/membres-et-comite/

[xxi] https://shorturl.at/ktUX6

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9wBM4y-0l8&ab_channel=D%C3%A9colonisonsl%27%C3%A9cologie

[xxiii] https://www.facebook.com/share/v/LpwrL3mFHGEs9Rqi/?mibextid=KsPBc6

[xxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7amTUOQgA

[xxv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dcM_SHR3Kg

[xxvi] https://loopsider.com/fr/video/keziah-nuissier-militant-anti-chlordecone-victime-de-violences-policieres-en-martinique

[xxvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln1IBNXvGtw

[xxviii] https://shorturl.at/jTUZ1

[xxix] https://x.com/la1ere/status/1764999306652823831?s=46

[xxx] https://shorturl.at/HLMO8

[xxxi] https://shorturl.at/qwHV7

[xxxii] https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/actualites/communiques-de-presse/deplacement-en-martinique-de-gerald-darmanin-et-marie-guevenoux

[xxxiii] https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/un-chief-says-robust-force-needed-disarm-haitis-gangs-2023-08-15/

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Rodhney Robert