Haiti will formally become a member of the African Union at the next AU summit scheduled to take place next month in Malawi. Founded in 2001 by Muammar Gaddafi, the African Union is a body that consists of 54 African countries, excluding Morocco due to the issue of Western Sahara’s independence. It replaced the Organization of African Unity, which was formed in 1963 and disbanded in 2002. By joining the AU, Haiti will be the first nation outside the African continent to do so.

 

According to Jean Ping, Gabonese diplomat and politician and former chairperson of the AU, Africa has links to Haiti as the first black nation which “carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for black people.”  Ping once asked Haitians to repatriate to Africa during his tenure as chairperson for the union. This sentiment is echoed by the Haitian Ambassador to South Africa, Jacques Junior Baril, who stated that Haiti has earned a place in the AU.

 

 

There is no denying the links that connect Haiti to the African continent. Haiti has referred to itself as a piece of Africa in the Caribbean and to a lot of people, Haiti is strongly African. The cultural ties, similar cuisines, and religious practices, as well as the country’s history are testament to the fact. Haiti became the first black republic in 1804 after enslaved Africans overthrew the French. Upon gaining its independence, Haiti championed the decolonisation efforts of African states. For instance, Haiti criticized the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in the 1930s. Similarly, African countries showed solidarity after the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti. Senegal offered free land and a place in its universities to Haitian citizens, while collectively African countries pledged over $8 million of aid, despite their own economic problems.

 

In 2012, the Caribbean country indicated that it wanted to become a member of the AU. Prior to this, Haiti has served an observer status in the AU; now from an observer, Haiti has become a full member partner. All that is left is to formalize this decision that was made in February. By joining the AU, Haiti stands to boost its economy and benefit from debt-cancellation schemes enjoyed by other members of the AU. Haiti could also gain from China-AU investments while enjoying liberal trade with other AU members. This move is not only symbolic but could spell advantages for Haiti’s growth and recovery.

 

Haiti’s landmark move sparks conversation on the place of countries of the African Diaspora in organizations like the AU. It remains left to be seen if other Caribbean nations, wealthier than Haiti, will make similar moves.

 

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