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Abuse of Haitians an African priority – Gonsalves

Abuse of Haitians an African priority – Gonsalves


by George Alleyne

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said that the inhumane treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic must take centre stage in discussions on closer Caribbean ties with Africa.

Gonsalves insisted on this position last Thursday night in Barbados, while contributing to a panel discussion session of the Inaugural Pan African Colloquium on the role of the African Union (AU) and people of African descent{{more}} across the world.

The Prime Minister also spoke of his vision for a permanent Caribbean-Africa Commission that must involve Cuba, and eventually expand to cover Latin America.

The three-day colloquium, which ended Friday, was held in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. It brought together African and African descendent representatives from other Caribbean countries, Sub-Saharan Africa, North America and Europe.

Moderator for Thursday night’s panel Dr Tennyson Joseph said that the AU suggested the discussion topic so that the gathering could examine relations between that body and Africans outside of the continent.

But Gonsalves said that the Caribbean needs to get its own house in order as it seeks closer ties with Africans on the continent and across the world.

“We cannot talk about African Union links with the Caribbean without all of us talking about the extraordinary international human rights abuse of persons of Haitian descent, who are denied their citizenship in the Dominican Republic.”

The Dominican Republic, with whom CARICOM has trading links, last year began rounding up and summarily expelling persons born in the country between 1929 and 2010 to undocumented Haitian parents.

“In the 21st century we cannot allow in our Caribbean civilization our citizenship to be determined on the basis of ethnicity,” Gonsalves said, and added, “In South Africa, apartheid sought to determine citizenship on the basis of race, and ethnicity. That, at least in a formal sense, has been overthrown and we have it returning in the Dominican Republic.”

Among panellists, along with the SVG Prime Minister, was representative of the Pan African Strategy Policy Research Group, General Ishola Williams, who took a different swing at togetherness of Africans born on the continent and African descendants by asking how serious could African and Caribbean leaders be about coming together, when they hardly speak while gathered at United Nations headquarters for meetings.

Talking from four and a half years experience as a team member of the Nigerian mission to the UN, the General said, “the Caribbean CARICOM and the AU, they rarely meet to discuss issues.”

He pointed out that representatives of these two organizations are, however, part of monthly UN world meetings, and queried the reason that continental African representatives and descendants of African representatives cannot organize their own meetings at those world gatherings.

Williams spoke of an AU sub-group, Department of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations, that is tasked with organizing meetings of continental Africans and those across the globe, but said it has been difficult owing to lack of solidarity and trust.

He cited situations in the US where “African Americans do not talk to the Africans [immigrants]”.

He said that the situation is likewise in New York among the Caribbean and Africans immigrants. “They are doing their own thing.”

“Therefore, the solid platform that should be there, that can tell the whole world that we exist, doesn’t exist. We have not built that yet.”