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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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