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African Writers’ Corner

From Africa to Haiti to Gaza: Fidelity to humanity

Jacques Depelchin

2009-01-15, Issue 415

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First, not quite, but we have to start somewhere,
There were the Arawaks, the Caribs and the Amerindians
Then their land became known as Hispaniola,
As Saint Domingue, as the economic jewel
Of French overseas possessions
Thanks to Africans kidnapped, chained, shipped
Processed, codified, stamped as property
While always knowing they belonged
To no one but humanity
And through fidelity to humanity
Turned Saint Domingue into Haiti
Fraternity, equality and liberty
Their only motto
Defeating the obscurantist
Philosophers of the Enlightenment
For thirteen years, 1791–1804
Without support
From humanitarian abolitionists
Defeating the most powerful armies of the day
Spain, England, France
Fidelity to humanity
Their only prescription

Plan B was out of the question
Humanity had to prevail
But its sworn enemy had a plan B:
With lethal vengeance
Napoleon reinstated slavery
Take no prisoners, his motto
Severe, if necessary, capital punishment
Against the trespassers of
Nascent capital yet to be named
Capitalism the crusher of humanity

With exemplary brutality
Long before the birth of Gaza-upon-Mediterranean
Haiti was turned into the poorest nation
– Gaza-upon-Atlantic –
For having dared simply
To challenge and obsoletify
The Black Code of Louis XIV
Rules of engagement against/for
Slaves balancing terror, torture, fear, death
Ensuring the endurance of slavery
Beyond the monarchy
Thanks to a self-proclaimed emperor
Napoleon Bonaparte the impostor

Plan B prospered so well beyond
Napoleon’s dreams of restoring slavery
We may all ask, maybe naively
Had he known his treatment of Africans
Would later inspire Hitler’s
Holocausting of the Jews
Would he have seen Africans
As humanity and not as property?

Not every French was/is a fan of slavery’s restorer:
Taubira Law of 2001 declares
Slavery a Crime Against Humanity
Could it be that France might
Be restoring Fidelity to Humanity?

But could it be too late when
Humanity or those who pretentiously
Speak for it refuse to know
The distinction between
Might and right
Right and wrong
Charity and solidarity

Could it be too late when
Survivors and/or their descendants
Of an unthinkable crime think
The best way to stand up for humanity
Is to slaughter/bomb humanity as deliberately
And brutally smart as possible?

Could it be too late when
Slaughtering humanity
Can be done with impunity
Thanks to a genocided past
As if anything can be traded, erased,
Commodified, genetically modified
To fit a globalised paradise
Where no one will know
The difference between
Except for those who vowed
Fidelity to humanity

Can’t we see the obvious consequences of
Relentlessly violating humanity
Now Palestinians, then Africans centuries ago
Today displaced, refugees, best fodder
For humanitarian missions
The modernized version of abolitionists
On a mission which has not changed:
Violate humanity,
Eradicate it if too vocal
But Sabra, Shatila can still be heard

Palestinians are full members of humanity
Homelessed in their homeland, denied existence
By all means, constantly searching
For the ultimate way
Of getting rid of them
Their annihilation will not be called
A Crime Against Humanity because,
By definition, it has been repeated forever,
It only happens at Auschwitz, and other
Concentration camps in a World War

Palestinians are like Native Americans
Whose land was taken, whose genocide
Refuses to be called a genocide
Palestinians, Africans interchangeable destinies
Torn from their land, thrown into ships,
Refugeed in strips of land
Enslaved, imprisoned, less than property
Therefore not fit to come under
A Crime Against Humanity

Palestinians, Africans, in the same boat
When the unending story of negating humanity started
Like Africans they are being processed and branded
Fit to be fodder for humanitarian crisis because what is being done
Must not be called
A Crime Against Humanity

For fear of trespassing which taboo?

No one dares to call the slaughter of civilians
In Gaza by its proper name
A Crime Against Humanity

For fear of trespassing which taboo?

From the times of the Arawaks
Violating, torturing, liquidating
Humanity with impunity
Has led to greater and greater
Crimes against humanity
Franchised differently
Preparing the biggest holocaust
Humanity has ever known and,
When that unfolds, as before,
We shall hear the usual
Shameful lame lie
‘We did not know’.

* Jacques Depelchin is a CAPES fellow at the Universidade Federal da Bahia.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

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