[News] Haiti: Mbeki's speech on the Bicentennial at the National Palace

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Tue Jan 6 08:49:53 EST 2004


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

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
marginalization.

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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