We are possibly all looking forward to a New Year, some with a little more apprehension than others, but none with the dread of the ordinary man in the street in Haiti, unless of course, Aristide goes.

New Year, 2004, should be the most glorious day in the history of not only Haiti, but every predominantly black country in the world. Yet this is unlikely to be, under the circumstances.

It all started over 200 years ago when a group of black captives revolted against the might of France and defeated the mighty forces of Napoleon.

In Europe itself, they had to wait until the little man had become too arrogant to wait for his Waterloo. The fact is that that victory should have been the beginning of a glorious history of liberation for Africs everywhere.

While it did help in the liberation of the other captive Africans in the English, French and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and led to the independence of all Latin America, it did little for Haiti itself.

The French imposed a financial penalty on the country of approximately $21.7 billion in today?s money for depriving that European power of what it considered its property. It took 40 years to pay off that sum.

Other European powers and the United States isolated Haiti for the next 100 years, leaving it to the tradition of autocracy and assassination that has prevailed ever since, with the occasional, equally inauspicious United States intervention.

Today, Haiti is in revolt against another little man, who started out as a populist priest, but who, like others, found the smell of wealth too rich to resist, even while 80 per cent of his citizens wallow in poverty.

The recent spate of events started, it seems, when Metayer, one of Aristide?s henchmen, a loose cannon himself, was gunned down in Gonaives, a former Aristide stronghold. It was generally felt that it was the Government which had him killed.

Thereafter, the town turned against Aristide and, what is perhaps more important, two of Aristide?s favourite senators, one a former military man who became wealthy in suspiciously short order, Dany Toussaint and Pierre Sanson, both started talking about the need for democracy.

They began to support the student protest and the general outcry for the president to listen to the voice of reason out there on the street. Aristide had constantly blamed the media.

Interestingly, his ops, or armed street gangs called popular operatives, had attacked and killed a few journalists and generally terrified the media into submission or hiding. He now found that even his own were turning against him.

Over-optimistic belief

It seems that only the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) have supported Aristide in recent times, the latter out of some over-optimistic belief that the situation would change, and the former out of some sentimental belief that Haiti which brought us all emancipation should be shielded at all cost, as if Aristide were the embodiment of Haiti.

Interestingly Mr Edwin Carrington has expressed doubts as to whether CARICOM Heads would be attending the celebration of Haiti?s bicentennial because of the unrest there.

There is in fact a secondary and more important reason why they should not attend: CARICOM has become synonymous in Haiti with the betrayal of that country, by brothers who should know better. The Heads? safety can certainly not therefore be guaranteed, not only now, but not anytime in the near future.

Who is left to support Aristide?

The Black Caucus also does, much for the same reason that CARICOM leaders have. There is the notion that there is one of us out there (Aristide) who is beleaguered from all sides and that we must therefore support him.

The fact is that Aristide is not one of us. He is a great populist speaker, ineffable in Creole and marvellously convincing in English and Spanish. His major concern is to retain power, all power.

He would otherwise have solved most of the problems he now has by allowing the elections back in 2000 to run their course.

There had been instances of foul play as in the election of the Mayor of Petionville, but that may even have been overlooked

Haiti, I too am sorry. I tried desperately to make the good happen. There were other brave souls with me. In the end, I left, as did the President of the Electoral Council, an organ which Aristide and the opposition can still not get together to reorganise for elections due in January.

I am sorry that we could not all simply celebrate what was a remarkable feat by the enslaved for the enslaved 200 years ago, in the place where it all happened.