The African Union is denying that Haiti will become the organization’s first non-African member, stating that “only African States can join the African Union.”
“Haiti will not be admitted as a member state of the African Union at its next summit to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, as erroneously reported by several media outlets,” the organization said in a prepared statement.
Rumor of the change stemmed from a report by South Africa’s Morning Live, which was then picked up by media outlets in the United States, Haiti and its diaspora. The report even featured an interview with Haiti’s high commissioner to South Africa, Jacques Junior Baril.
“It’s not something we decided, it’s a place that we earned after we fought for our independence 212 years ago,” he said. “We paved the way for every other African nation to be free today, so historically speaking Haiti should have been in the AU already.”
Haiti is unique from the rest of the Caribbean. Much of its culture and history is still directly linked to countries like Benin, Sierra Leone and Togo. Toussaint Louverture, who led Haiti’s rebellion against the French in 1791, was of Beninese descent. Haiti established itself as a symbol of black independence, and as an advocate for the liberation of Africa from colonial rule after becoming the first black country to join the United Nations in 1945.
But despite the Caribbean nation’s strong ties to the continent, it will instead remain an observing member in the African Union. Haiti has held an observer status since 2012 but petitioned to be an associate member that same year. The petition has never been ratified. Instead, the African Union may vote to establish what it calls a “6th region,” comprised of delegates from all over the world representing the African diaspora.