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,

Your Excellencies,

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 France’s 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 L’Ouverture 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 the world.

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 ago.

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency: Republic of South Africa on 1 January 2004.

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