In a recent radio interview, the leader of the Haitian gang that kidnapped ten Catholic congregants including two French nationals, said the European abductees are “important” to them because France owes the Caribbean nation a lot of money, The Haitian Times reported.
Wilson Joseph, who goes by the moniker “Lanmò San Jou” (Death Without Days), also blamed their former colonizers for Haiti’s current state. “The French people are important to us,” he said. “They’re the ones who got the country to where it’s at now. They owe Haiti a lot of money.”
Though Haiti declared its independence from France on January 1, 1804, after a 13-year campaign led by military leader General Toussaint Louverture, their former colonial masters demanded the Caribbean nation pay them 150 million francs (about $21 billion today) to compensate former slaveholders for their loss of property during the Haitian Revolution. It would take the first independent Black country 122 years to pay the amount.
The French nationals are among eight other Catholic members including priests and nuns that were kidnapped by the “400 Mawozo” gang last week. Reports from local media say one of the abductees – the mother of a priest – was released last Thursday after the gang was paid $50,000. Wilson is threatening to starve the remaining abductees if their demands are not met.
In what is now the African diaspora’s oldest country, Haiti is in political crisis again, with protesters demanding new democratic elections and the resignation of current President Jovenel Moïse following years of corruption claims.
For about half a century, the Caribbean nation has struggled to overcome the problems of poverty and inequality. It is a country that has also seen the worst of brutal dictatorships in the hands of the Duvalier family. The country has also suffered both natural and Western-ensured tragedies. Kidnapping for ransom has been on the rise in recent months.