Reparations issue clouds Hollande's Haiti trip

French president speaks only of moral debt and not financial compensation during visit to impoverished former colony.

    French President Francois Hollande has become the country's second sitting president to visit Haiti.

    Despite the warm welcome from Haiti's President Michel Martelly on Monday, the relationship between the two nations is uneasy.

    As Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher reports from Saint George, many Haitians see Hollande's visit as a reminder of the country's harsh colonial past.

    "If Francois Hollande wants to visit Haiti, he has to come with restitution for the independence debt and reparations for the damage from slavery," a protester told Al Jazeera.

    Like generations of French leaders before him, Hollande only spoke of a moral debt and not financial compensation. He also talked about investment in Haiti's future.

    "France today wants to help in the development of Haiti. We believe in Haiti because you have considerable opportunity," he told a crowd at a press event.

    Haitian slaves led a successful revolt against French colonial rule in 1804, but France demanded compensation to land and slave owners that many on the island believe has crippled Haiti since.

    Ira Kurzban, a civil-rights lawyer based in Miami, told Al Jazeera that France's obligation is clear: "France does owe something to Haiti given the circumstances that the Haitian people see themselves in.

    "They should have clean water, they should have infrastructure, these are the kinds of things that the French can help with right away."

    Haiti was still paying off its so-called independence debt to France in 1947.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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