Already holding the distinction of being the world’s first free Black republic, Haiti has made another first as it prepares to become the African Union's first member state that is not actually on the physical continent of Africa.
Haiti attended the most recent African Union International Conference of Heads of State and Government, held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, as a member observer, but surprised delegates with the announcement that Haiti would seek full associate membership with the 54-member bloc.
"...The African continent occupies a place increasingly important in the diplomatic action of the Haitian government ... to this end, a process of participation of Haiti in the African Union was engaged with the President of the regional institution, for the grant to Haiti, of a status of associate member and of the accreditation of a diplomatic mission with that organization," Haitian prime minister Dr. Garry Conille said, according to Haiti Libre.
The head of the Haitian delegation at the A.U. conference, Ady Jean Gardy, said that the move was an attempt to “establish exchanges at all levels of the business diplomacy with African states,” and he pledged Haiti’s support with technical assistance to help countries then re-negotiate donor aid agreements with the goal of debt cancellation.
The African Union is the modern incarnation of the Organization of African Unity, started in 1963, and its vision today is to build “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”
Although this is the first time an outside state has requested membership with the A.U., Haiti has long maintained positive relationships with many African nations. In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, several African states urged each other to provide naturalized citizenship to all Haitians that sought refuge in Africa, with Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade proposing a plan for the mass adoption of orphaned Haitian children across the continent.
Wade said the history of Haitians as descendants of African slaves gave them the right to a new life on the continent, according to Reuters.
"We have attachment and links to that country," former A.U. Chairman Jean Ping said of Haiti in 2010, according to Reuters. "The first black republic in 1804, that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for the black people."
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(Photo: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)