Haiti news

The Times

February 22, 2006

Aristide says ally's victory was a vote for his return
 From Jonathan Clayton, in Pretoria

THE ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide vowed yesterday that he would return to Haiti, but maintained that his days as a politician in his troubled homeland were over for good.

“I will be back. Yes, I will be back,’ he told The Times in his first interview since René Préval, his former protégé, was declared President last week. “I will continue to teach as I did before my first election as President,’ declared the controversial priest turned politician who has been living in exile in South Africa for almost two years.

M Aristide, 52, who fled Haiti in February 2004 amid a popular revolt, avoided giving any hint of a possible time for his return. He said: “The date will emerge. It is a process of negotiation. One way to show respect is to listen, so I am listening.’

He said that Haiti´s oppressed poor, who have long been his powerbase, had voted for M Préval to ensure his return. “It was a vote for me, of course. The people said it clearly, people voted the way they did because they want me back.’

Analysts believe that a return by M Aristide would be deeply destabilising and polarising, and would destroy M Préval´s hopes of reaching out to Haiti´s business elite — who orchestrated the ousting of the former President — the masses and the international community.

M Aristide, whose rule was blighted by accusations of drug peddling and human rights violations, praised his supporters, who poured out of shantytowns to vote for M Préval. “The Haitian people saw the vote as a non-violent way to have me back. The result must now be respected,’ he said.

His said that his expulsion from the country, which he maintains was the result of a French and American plot, had simply increased unrest in Haiti.

He added that only his return could provide stability. “It is a matter of dignity. A citizen has the right to go back to his own country, especially when he has been the victim of a coup d´état.’

However, he emphasised several times that he would not seek a political role. “I always knew that when I was elected my mandate would come to an end. My mandate ended and that is that,’ he said.

He added that his return had the backing of the South African Government, and said that he had been in touch with the new President, who served as Prime Minister under M Aristide, but declined to give any details of the discussions.

M Aristide said that it was his dream to serve the people in a capacity other than that of President, and that his time in South Africa had allowed him to reflect on the role played by Nelson Mandela after he left office.

“Serving people is a dream, even when not in office,’ he said. He added that his only goal now was to teach Haitians about their roots and history. “If you are not at peace with yourself, how can you be at peace with others?’ he added.

Copyright © 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.


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