Published On: Wed, May 13th, 2015

Haiti’s president to discuss slavery debt with French leader during visit

martelly_hollandePORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti's President Michel Martelly and his visiting French counterpart, Francois Hollande, on Tuesday planned to discuss, among other things, the issue of the French moral debt toward the Caribbean country, which became the first black independent republic in the world after defeating, more than 211 years ago, the army of the then French monarchy, which later imposed a heavy independence debt on the former colony.

The Haitian communications minister, Rotchild Francois Jr, said Martelly and Hollande would discuss about measures to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in different fields, in the context of the recognized French moral debt toward Haiti, which was forced to pay up to 150 million gold francs to indemnify former colonisers chased out and dispossessed of their assets.

"Of course, President Martelly will address the issue of the independence debt Haiti had to pay to France, as they will consider initiatives to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries," Francois told HCNN on Tuesday.

"Several agreements will be signed by both governments in the field of education, agriculture, energy and professional training," Francois stated.

Hollande -- who is the second French president, after Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, ever to set foot on Haitian soil -- was expected to arrive on Tuesday morning in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, for a visit that will last only a few hours.

During the inauguration in Guadeloupe on Sunday of the Memorial Act, a monument erected in the memory of the black slaves brought from Africa to the Caribbean region, the French president recognized that his country had a [moral] debt toward Haiti, the former colony which was obligated to pay a heavy ransom for having fought and proclaimed its independence in January 1804.

"When I come to Haiti [on Tuesday], It will be my turn to pay off our debt [toward Haiti]," said Hollande on Sunday during a ceremony in the French territory of Guadeloupe, before an audience that included Haitian President Michel Martelly.

The 150 million gold francs, imposed on Haiti in 1825 by the French monarchy of Charles X, was reduced in 1838 to an amount of 90 million gold francs, which is estimated today at 17 billion euros. Haiti finished paying off the so-called independence debt in 1883, according to official documents.

By Joe Colas

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