Message by President Aristide           May 18, 2003



On the occaision of the

Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Creation of the Haitian Flag

May 18, 2003, Speech by President Aristide in front of more than 10,000 people celebrating the Bicentennial of the Haitian flag. The message, punctuated by responses from the audience, is kept in its English translation as close to the original transcript as possible.


Excellency Mr. Prime Minister, Distinguished members of the Ministerial Cabinet, Mr. President of the National Assembly and, Honorable Senators of the Republic, Mr. President of the Chamber of Deputies and, Honorable Deputies of the Republic, Mr. President of the Court of Cassation, Honorable Magistrates, Mr. Mayors of Arcahaie, Mrs. And Mr. Members of the Senior Branches of the Civil Service, Excellency, Mr. Apostolic Nuncio, Distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished members of the Consular Corps, Mrs. the Delegate of the West, Mr. Director General of the Police, Dear policemen, Dear policewomen, Mr. Rector of University, Dear Academics, Mr. and Mrs. Representatives of International Organizations, Dear compatriots from the Tenth Department, Ladies and gentlemen,

United with the First Lady of the First Black Republic of the World, we are so happy and proud to give you our greetings, in the name of the Fathers of the Homeland.

Standing in the shade of our Bicolor, of which we are celebrating the Bicentennial, I kiss you all fraternally and patriotically.

To Dessalines, Christophe, Pétion, Catherine Flon,

Honor and Glory!

To our ancestors and to the heroes of the Independence,

Let us pay a vibrant tribute!

Hurray for our ancestors!

A big applaud from the bottom of our hearts for all our ancestors!

Our ancestors ask us to show happiness in dignity while we listen to what they will tell us, while we open our hearts to applaud them sincerely, peacefully and in dignity.

Let us applaud them!

To all of you sons and daughters of the City of the Flag,

To all of you sons and daughters of Arcahaie, a special greeting.

Beautiful park, beautiful road, beautiful church, beautiful monument, beautiful spending for a beautiful celebration in a more beautiful Arcahaie to have a more beautiful Haiti.

That deserves a beautiful applause!

Spending 142,429,495 gourdes, plus 2,2 million US dollars for electricity in Arcahaie, despite the embargo, that is a great salute for a beautiful flag that deserves a beautiful applause!

And to all of you dear compatriots of the Opposition, Happy Flag Day!

To you dear fellow citizens from the Tenth Department,

Sisters and brothers of Haiti who make our patriotic soul vibrate,

Happy Flag Day!

Help me wish all Haitians everywhere, all around, a Happy Flag Day, by lending me your hands, thousands of you who are here, in the back and in the front, so that your hands, together with my hands, wish all Haitians, without distinction, a Happy Flag Day with a big loud applaud and louder!

Salute to our Papa Dessalines!

Salute to Catherine Flon!

Dear compatriots,

The creation of the Bicolor marks a decisive step towards the birth of a new state. A black and independent state. The first of the big black family, the Haitian state.

Our sisters and brothers from Africa, also victims of colonization, had to wait almost a century and a half before registering the effects of a true decolonization process.

>From Ghana, in 1957, its process was going to go through Western Africa and Southern Africa, where flies since 1994, the flag of a free and independent South Africa.

Emerging from over thirty African states of which flags of freedom sing in unison,

Long live the Haitian Bicolor!

Long live the First Flag of Black People's freedom!

Hurray for the Haitian Flag!

With Angola and Mozambique's independence in 1975, 172 years after 1803, Africa, our Mother, wrote a special chapter of decolonization. Indeed, from that year 1975 to this day, 38 new states were born throughout the world. This proliferation of states seen at the end of the twentieth century is unfortunately linked to many crisis such as the burden of debt.

Where the flag of a new state symbolizes its political independence, the flag of debt implies economic dependence.

And of course, lovers of freedom cannot ignore the importance of this political and economic equation.

Dear fellow citizens,

When the flag goes up, doesn't it come down?

Unfortunately, when this flag of debt goes up, not only it doesn't come down, but it continues to go up higher.

The external debt of the 187 developing countries goes up from year to year. It was US$220,000,000,000 in 1976. Four hundred and sixty billion in 1980. One thousand billion in 1985. One thousand three hundred billion in 1990. One thousand five hundred billion in 1992. One thousand seven hundred and fourteen billion in 1994. Two thousands five hundred billion in 2002.


The more the debt increases, the more poverty climbs as well.

The higher the flag of debt goes, the higher the flag of poverty goes.

And as we know, poverty and freedom are like milk and lemon. Just like a squash doesn't give calabashes, poverty doesn't give freedom. And people who like freedom don't like poverty.

Dear fellow citizens,

If dying for the flag, for the homeland is beautiful, then it is fair and good to declare, for our flag and for our dignity that to die in this sub-human misery is unacceptable!

Yes, we refuse to die as slaves of sub-human misery. So we have chosen to look at the future of our Haiti and the stakes of that debt, chronic source of misery. From 1970 to 2001, this external debt of the developing countries have multiplied thirty-five times, a breathtaking progression, but proportional to the growth of poverty on the world scale.

In this context, we must ask ourselves what will be the Haiti of tomorrow? What does the future hold for our brave and courageous youth, standing in the shade of this bicolor?

Since empty bags can't stand up, how long will we be able to stand up with our empty stomachs under the flag of freedom?

And the 800,000,000 hungry people of the world? When will they share the bread of freedom and the daily bread or "peace in the stomachs, peace in the heads."

These nagging questions bring us back to the debt crisis of which disastrous consequences affect our freedom and that of developing countries where 85 % of the world's population live. Indeed, between 1983 and 2001, developing countries have repaid $368,000,000,000 more than what they have received.

In good Creole, late Father Antoine Adrien and late Brother Enel Clérismé would be as one to say:

"The bull who crushes sugar cane is not the one who drinks the syrup!"

And how sweet the syrup of independence is!

Whether it is the economic syrup, or the democratic syrup, they both are so sweet!

Going from one to another, is to go from one sweet thing to another!

Since during 200 years, the bull who crushed the sugar cane was not the one to drink the syrup, Papa Dessalines asks me to tell all Haitians: Rest! Rest!

Rest under the flag!

Rest under the flag of freedom!

Rest under the flag of unity!

Rest under the flag of fraternity!

Rest under the flag so that we trace a "vèvè" that is very sweet in order for Haiti to become more beautiful!

Under that flag, after 200 years of freedom, our Mother, Haiti, cannot have one breast that is as sweet as honey and another one that is as sour as the gallbladder!

That is why today, we declare in a Dessalines way that all Haitians are Haitians, all children are children. The syrup must flow in the right breast as well as in the left breast!

-Do you agree with that?

-Are all Haitians Haitians?

-Are all children children?

-Are there children outside and children inside?

-Aren't we all equal?

-Aren't we all brothers and sisters?

-Aren't all Haitians Haitians?

To show that in a sincere way, applaud. All the people who want all Haitians to live as brothers and sisters put your hands up with your flags!

The flag of all Haitians, because all Haitians are Haitians!

Shake the flags again for all Haitians!

Look how beautiful that is!

Look at that wonder!

When hunger gets in your stomach, it burns like hot pepper in the eye. So, the syrup must sweeten both the skin of the hot pepper and its seeds. That is the responsibility of all of us. It is Haitians' debt to Haiti. That is exactly why Papa Dessalines says that there are different kinds of debt!

There is the debt of money.

There are moral debts.

There are patriotic debts.

Since the flag symbolizes the patriotic will for us to be as one, shake the flag once again for all our ancestors who want us to be as one.

Shake the flag, shake our beautiful flag on the 200th anniversary of the flag, to show how we agree to be as one. Because that is what our ancestors want.

All Haitians have a moral debt to our mother, Haiti. To pay that debt, we will not ask what Haiti will do for Haitians, but what Haitians will do for Haiti.

To make peace,

To make alphabetization,

To make economic alpha,

To make alpha restaurants,

To make solidarity,

To make security,

Is to pay a great part of the patriotic debt we have towards Haiti, our mother.

Just the same, to organize plots to make Haiti move backwards is to make it so that the debt of money cannot be paid. The murder and sabotage in Peligre is to make it so that the debt of money cannot be paid.

To make a blockade so that we don't get money to make more roads, more schools, more hospitals, is to make it so that the debt of money cannot be paid.

To make a blockade so that we don't get money in order for justice to have more means, for policemen to have more means to give more justice and security, is to make it so that the debt of money cannot be paid.

To make a blockade in order to make the people become angrier is to make it so that the debt of money cannot be paid.

Too often, too many people forget that the embargo is a cigar lit at both ends.

To reach an agreement to put out that cigar is to pay the people a part of what we owe them. And the earlier the better.

There, that is not a game. It is a debt. It is not a small debt. It is a big debt.

When a good citizen cannot pay his or her debt, he or she feels embarrassed. He or she feels awkward. He or she is ashamed. And we know that a small spoon of shame is heavier than a barrel full of salt. When he or she can pay back the debt, he or she feels better, he or she is happy.

Haiti owes 1.5 billion US dollars. We are working to pay that back. I can guess how Papa Dessalines was happy to see here, under the flag, that unity will allow him to pay back a patriotic debt with an independence check!

Before the birth of the flag, Dessalines and Pétion were always having arguments, like two fighting cocks back then. So, in that time of slavery, because of prejudices and complexes, the rich White man thought he was superior to the White man in the middle class. The White man in the middle class thought he was superior to the poor White man. The poor White man thought he was superior to the mulatto man. The mulatto man thought he was superior to the African Black man. And since the colonists always needed to take advantage of people, they always stirred up ill-feelings between Papa Dessalines and Pétion, who was a mulatto man. And up to that day, it is always: divide to reign.

However, for the delivery of the flag, Pétion behaved like an intelligent man. When Papa Dessalines took the colonists' flag and tore the white color from it, that meant that the Haitian flag had a caesarian birth and if there hadn't been unity, there would never have been a flag nor victory on victory.

Fortunately, the flag was created and it was created forever!

That is the victory of working together!

That is "together, we stand"!

That is "a finger alone cannot eat okra!"

That is "many hands make the load easier to carry!"

-Do you truly believe that together, we stand?

-Do you agree that the flag is the flag of "together, we stand?"

Let's repeat with all our hearts:


That flag is our dignity's passport, it is our visa. That flag is us. We, who don't believe that every firefly makes light for its own eyes only, or that a goat's business is none of a sheep's business. The birth of that flag is the result of Lavalas working together!

Yes, by this miracle of unity, on this May 18, 1803, the impossible became possible! That's how it will be for the restitution of our US$21,687,135,571.48!

About this, it is good to remember that, already, in the 17th century, continental Europe made the hearts vibrate when Emperor Ferdinand II, in 1629, with the Edict of Restitution, demanded the restitution of the ecclesiastical fiefs usurped since the peace in Ausbourg in 1555. In 1938 and 1945, the Nazis took hold of the gold owned by the Jews everywhere in Europe. In 1946, after World War II, the three-party commission charged with repatriating the gold seized by the Nazis disposed of 337 tons of gold. With that, about 8 countries got compensation.

Ah! That is good news!

The restitution and reparation machine may be slow, but it brings good messages!

And good counts make good friends!

We must get to an agreement!

When Dessalines used to talk with the people, he also used to listen to them. While I am talking with you in the name of Dessalines, you just chanted clear and loud: "You must pay back the 21 billion dollars!" I hear you!

Dear compatriots, dear fellow citizens,

13 years ago, in December 1990, in Lagos, Nigeria, the world conference on the reparations to Africa and Africans from the Diaspora had estimated 25 billion dollars the amount of reparations, a symbolic amount, of course. The conference had also suggested that the cancellation of the African debt be considered as part of these reparations.

Two years before, in 1988, the first reductions of the public debt was mentioned in Toronto, by the G7 who had proposed to cancel one-third of the debt of the poorest and biggest debtor countries.

There, once again, the reparation machine works slowly, but its engine doesn't stop.

What needs to stop is not the restitution and reparation machine. It is the machine of misery. And in order to not only stop the machine of misery, but in order to destroy it and throw it away, how much money do you think we need?

Is that amount of money so great that it is impossible to count it, or to find it?

No, no. Remember, the amount of money we paid in interest is more than the original amount that was lent to us. If in 18 years, we, in the developing world, have paid 368 billion dollars, an amount greater than what they lent us, why wouldn't we be able to find a small 80 billion to eliminate poverty on earth?

What is missing is not the money.

It is the political will to put the money there on the path that will bring it to us.

According to the United Nations, with an investment of 80 billion dollars a year, in ten years, we would be able to eradicate poverty on a world scale.

Of this sum, we, Haitians, already have, with the 21 billion, a considerable part to obtain with the restitution!

To get there, let us walk united!

To eradicate despicable misery, let us walk united!

For the opening of the roses of justice and peace, let us walk united!

For the construction of the new Haiti, let us walk united!

For the flag and for the Homeland, let us walk united!

Dear sisters and brothers, in 1492, dazzled with the beauty and the wealth of our land, Christopher Columbus exclaimed: "Que maravilla! What a wonder!"

Today, let us walk united so that tomorrow we can tenderly kiss our mother and also tell her: "Que marvilla! Haiti mi amor, te quiero!"

Our ancestors wrote the independence in red, the color of their blood. Today, let us write Haiti in blue and red, the colors of our bicolor.

Thank you.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Catherine Flon Park, Arcahaie