In 2004, when then president Thabo Mbeki was the only African head of state to attend the bicentenary celebrations of Haiti’s slave revolt against France, many South African observers missed the historical significance of the leader of the last black republic to gain independence paying tribute to the first black republic in a 200-year diasporic struggle. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. More than half of its 10-million population are malnourished. Having survived slavery and French colonialism, Haiti endured American occupation from 1915 to 1934, followed by the brutal dictatorship of the Duvalier family from 1957 to 1986. Last month saw Hurricane Matthew wreak havoc on the country’s southwestern peninsula, a major food-producing region, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and 175,000 living in shelters. The United Nations estimates 1.4-million people need water, food, and shelter and a quarter of southern Haiti’s health infrastructure was destroyed. Cities a...

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