Address by the President
of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the Celebrations of
the Bicentenary of the Independence of Haiti: Port-AU-Prince,
01 January 2004
Your Excellency, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The people of Haiti:
Thank you very much for allowing us this opportunity
to celebrate the Bicentenary of one of the greatest
revolutions in history.
We bring you warm greetings and messages of support
and solidarity from millions of your brothers and sisters
in the vast expanse of the African continent. All of
them, without exception, are with you in spirit as we
celebrate a revolution that established the first black
republic in the world, and the second independent state
in the Americas and the Caribbean.
Indeed, all African people, wherever they may be, on
the continent or in the Diaspora, view the Bicentenary
of the Haitian Revolution as an inspiring occasion that
communicates an important message to all of us that
the poor of the world can and must act together decisively
to confront the common challenges they face - poverty,
underdevelopment, discrimination and marginalisation.
As we know, as a French slave colony, this country
contributed two third of French overseas trade, was
Frances greatest colony in the world and an envy
of other colonial powers.
Yet, as the coincidence of circumstances would have
it, the San Domingo masses began their heroic revolt
when the Paris masses carried out their historic revolution,
which transformed France into a modern democracy, inspired
by the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity.
Accordingly, we celebrate the heroic deeds of these
Africans who single-mindedly struggled for their freedom
and inspired many of us to understand that none but
ourselves can defeat those who subject us to tyranny,
oppression and exploitation.
We celebrate the Haitian Revolution because it dealt
a deadly blow to the slave traders who had scoured the
coasts of West and East Africa for slaves and ruined
the lives of millions of Africans.
As we meet today, on the occasion of this Bicentenary,
we are mindful of the fact that there are many problems
that confront all Africans, here in Haiti, others Africans
in the Diaspora and on the mother continent of Africa.
These are challenges that we must urgently overcome.
Together we have a duty to join hands in mutually beneficial
solidarity, to work in partnership to defeat poverty,
underdevelopment, conflict and instability.
For far too long have Africans been incapacitated by
the debilitating scourge of poverty!
For too long have the unbroken cries of the African
child failed to sooth the pangs of hunger!
For too long has our underdevelopment stifled the potential
of our people, condemning the energetic and the creative
to be perpetual beggars!
For too long have Africans been victim to the indecencies
of conflict and war.
For too long have some of us worked and acted outside
the African spirit of humanism that teaches all to be
guided by the ethos of respect for the human being,
democracy, tolerance, solidarity, sharing, sacrifice
and service to all our people.
Today we celebrate because from 1791 to 1803, our heroes,
led by the revolutionary Toussaint LOuverture
and others, dared to challenge those who had trampled
on these sacred things that define our being as Africans
and as human beings.
Today, we are engaged in an historic struggle for the
victory of the African Renaissance because we are inspired
by among others, the Haitian Revolution.
We are engaged in struggle for the regeneration of
all Africans, in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa
and everywhere, because we want to ensure that the struggle
of our people here in Haiti, in the Caribbean, in the
Americas, Europe and Africa must never be in vain.
Accordingly, together with the leadership and people
of Haiti, we are determined to work together to address
the problems facing this inspirational home of African
freedom and achieve stability and prosperity in this
important site of African heroism and wherever Africans
are to be found.
We trust and are confident that in both the leadership
and people of Haiti we will find equally determined
partners, so that together we can here, help to recreate
a model country, informed by the wise words of the 1805
constitution of Haiti that we have "an opportunity
of breaking our fetters, and of constituting ourselves
as a people, free, civilized and independent".
In this way, we will contribute to the renaissance
of Africans everywhere in the world and ensure that
we are no longer an object of ridicule and pity, nor
a tool of exploitation to be discarded at the fancy
of the powerful, but that we become what we really and
truly are: proud and confident human beings who occupy
their pride of place as equals among the peoples of
We wish the people of Haiti, all Africans and people
of goodwill throughout the world, joyful Bicentenary
Celebrations of the great Haitian Revolution whose victory
was proudly proclaimed this day, January 1st, 200 years
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency: Republic of South Africa
on 1 January 2004.