France President Francois Hollande made an official visit Haiti on Tuesday, part of a wider tour that included stops in St Barth, St Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Cuba.
Hollande became only the second sitting French President to visit the country’s onetime colony, following a visit by former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande’s visit included talks with Haiti President Michel Martelly and the signing of a joint declaration on cooperation in areas including education, vocational training and research.
Several other agreements were also signed in the context of the visit, including one between Electricite de France and L’Électricité d’Haïti, the country’s energy utilities, and between France’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Haiti’s National Office of Civil Aviation, among others.
Hollande pointed to the often tense history between the two countries; after Haiti’s revolution, France forced the young country in 1825 to pay 150 million gold francs in a debt of independence; while it was later reduced, it was a sum that was not paid in full until nearly 125 years later.
“Of course, there is history,” Hollande said, met by a group of protestors demanding restitution for the debt. “We cannot change history, but we can change the future. That’s what I came to tell you.”