Apart from New Year resolutions that lead to dramatic life changes, year end can spell beyond belief disaster, as is the case with Haiti, 2010, and the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 that became the terrible Tsunami. The one thing to count on is hope. Hope manifests clearly amid this punch of doom.
I remember when the Tsunami happened, I was in Zanzibar and I observed how the Ocean was behaving unnaturally. Then the news came in. Crashing waves had done enormous damage which extended from the coast of Indonesia to reach and engulf as far as the east coast of Africa. The world moved. All of us got involved to help in any way we knew how. We wrote poems of grief and death, life and hope. Encouragement. We gave money, dwelling and empathy. We distributed food, opened our hospitals for the wounded, and gave counsel to deal with the hurt, the wrongness out there. Somehow, life eventually moved on. Recovery happened. We are moved again to pray for Haiti. Prayer works and its the most natural thing to think of when such disasters happen. The spirit suddenly is lifted to pray. The people right in the heart of the catastrophe may be too shaken to pray, but others elsewhere with love in their hearts are not hindered. I’ve heard self-confessed atheists say they are praying for Haiti. Folks that are not usually classified in the general category of ‘religious’ are entering various places of worship to beseech God to remove the curse that’s broken Haiti, to release blessings and prosperity. The world has become a spiritual place. I can confidently say everyone is praying, giving, searching for answers and making a positive contribution towards healing and restoration for the Haiti people. We cannot therefore say there’s no hope in the world. The Haitian people were the first to fight and win a most fierce rebellion against slavery 1791-1804. That kind of resilience and power is what we remember in these hard times.
Senegal is now a winner, actually. The president, Abdoulaye Wade, has opened windows and doors and said, to paraphrase: Haitians are sons and daughters of Africa. Senegal therefore is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian to come live in Senegal. Mr Wade’s spokesman, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye says, “Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land – even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come.” This is truly what I call the good spirit. Giving food, clothing, medication, and any other kind of relief is okay. But someone who opens their land, homes and countries and invites you in to dwell and make a fresh start is a friend.
How I wish my country too could open wide its gates and give residence to the Haitians! Anyhow, Senegal is my country too, given the fact that it was my home for three years. It has its mess(es), but its generosity and tolerance does move me. Thumbs up, Senegal, for standing up to be counted. Given the consistent suffering that Haiti has endured over the past years, economic hardships, political chaos and scandals, social and environmental upheavals, I am led to think it might be best for remnants to leave Haiti. If they remain in Haiti, where can one begin to rebuild? What if two years later another earthquake or hurricane of similar proportions happens? If they stay in Haiti, won’t they be living from relief gifts to mouth, a different version of hand to mouth that is in itself crippling, humiliating and a dignity breaker? Here’s my decent proposal: Don’t take fish to Haiti. Fish out every Haitian for a life elsewhere. Everyone still alive in Haiti should be evacuated and the land given time to recover itself. Earth has a way of healing itself if there are no people on it. Give Haiti ten or twelve years before one can reconsider. After that we can test its habitability, again.
For now, Senegal’s action is the way to go: I pray more countries open their borders for Haitians to come in and make a fresh start. Already, some orphans have been welcomed in the USA. Haiti’s immediate neighbor, Dominican Republic (DR), should be humble too. It welcomed the Jews in 1940, and gave 26,000 acres of land for their settlements. It is recorded that about 800 German and Jewish refugees settled in DR. The DR provided them with land and resources to begin life anew. To flourish, to live. This is the time for DR to swallow its false pride and black forgetfulness, to open its borders for Haiti. Haiti’s solution, I believe, is in resettlement; relocation, not relief aid. Senegal offers land to Haitians