Francois Hollande Evokes France's 'Debt' To Haiti, But Stops Short Of Reparations

Speaking at the inauguration of a memorial and cultural center in Guadeloupe devoted to the history of slavery, French President François Hollande evoked France’s “debt” toward its former slaveholding colony of Haiti but also appeared to reject the idea of monetary reparations.

“When I go to Haiti, I will, for my part, handle the debt that we have,” Hollande said to loud applause. But later in the same speech he cited a famous French Caribbean writer’s objections to financial reparations.

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French President François Hollande Vows to "Settle the Debt" France Owes to Haiti

Speaking at the inauguration of the ACTe slavery memorial in Guadeloupe on May 10 – France’s national day to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade – Hollande surprised his audience by seemingly making a promise for his upcoming visit to Haiti.

“When I come to Haiti, I will, for my part, settle the debt that we have.”

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Hollande Rejects Demand for Slavery Reparations

“What happened happened,” French president François Hollande said yesterday when he rejected demands from a black group that the French state pay reparations for almost 200 years of slavery, during which French traders deported some two million Africans. “History does not erase itself,” Mr Hollande continued. “You cannot rub it out. It cannot be the object of transactions deriving from accounting that would in any case be impossible to establish.” Mr Hollande spoke at the seventh annual commemoration of the slave trade, slavery and abolition. The Representative Council of Black Associations (Cran) had announced it would file a lawsuit yesterday against French state-owned bank Caisse des dépôts et de consignations (CDC).

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Haiti's President to Discuss Slavery Debt with French Leader

By Joe Colas (author)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haiti's President Michel Martelly and his visiting French counterpart, Francois Hollande, on Tuesday planned to discuss, among other things, the issue of the French moral debt toward the Caribbean country, which became the first black independent republic in the world after defeating, more than 211 years ago, the army of the then French monarchy, which later imposed a heavy independence debt on the former colony.

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Guadeloupe Reparations Summit - Memorial ACTe. Point a Pitre

Sunday 10th May, 2014 was inaugurated the day of commemoration of the abolition of slavery, in Pointe-à-Pitre by France President, François Hollande. The Mémorial ACTe located on the Darboussier site was a sugar factory and is culturally dedicated to the Memory and History of the Slavery Trade. Additionally, it is part of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, a global initiative to promote the rapprochement of peoples through the shared legacy of this tragedy. 

Rather than a museum, the Memorial ACTe will be a center gathering permanent and temporary exhibits and will host a wide range of art performances and conferences. The permanent multi-lingual (French, Creole, English) exhibit will feature media content organized in different sections: The Americas -Moving Towards Slave Trade – Slavery Period-Abolition Time.  The Secretary of Education will also be involved in the Memorial ACTe, throughout different workshops and educational tools available to students of all ages

The objectives of the Memorial ACTe are multiple:

  1. PARTICIPATE to the construction of a collective memory.
  2. SHOW the most extreme form of racism in order to condemn its contemporary forms.
  3. POINT OUT some persistent grey areas.
  4. TALK about colonialism and neo-colonialism around a historical, chronological and pedagogical “spinal cord”.
  5. EXPLAIN the context in which slavery started.
  6. QUESTION the world of today.
  7. RESEARCH throughout the creation of an official finding laboratory.
  8. TRANSMIT throughout different pedagogical tools.
  9. REMEMBER through the exhibit of artifacts.
  10. BUILD consciousness through art.
  11. COMMEMORATE in order to build a better future.