Aristide wants to return

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Haitian president who was ousted in a 2004 coup and now lives in exile in South Africa, says he wants to return to his country: ”As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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574419_aristide2.jpg
Former President of the Republic of Haiti Dr Jean-Betrand Aristide (R) reads a statement as his wife Mildred Aristide looks on in Johannesburg on January 15, 2010. Aristide said he was ready to leave immediately to be with the people in their time of suffering and to help re-build the country, after a 7.0 earthquake devastated the Island nation, leaving tens of thousands dead. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Haitian president who was ousted in a 2004 coup and now lives in exile in South Africa, says he wants to return to his country:

''As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity,'' said Aristide, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief.

Aristide spoke in a hotel meeting room reserved by the South African foreign affairs ministry. A ministry official told reporters Aristide would make the statement and not answer questions, and the former president didn't.

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Haitian president who was ousted in a 2004 coup and now lives in exile in South Africa, says he wants to return to his country:

”As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity,” said Aristide, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief.

Aristide spoke in a hotel meeting room reserved by the South African foreign affairs ministry. A ministry official told reporters Aristide would make the statement and not answer questions, and the former president didn’t.

Aristide, a former slum preacher, was beloved by many of Haiti’s majority poor but opposition to his rule grew during his second presidential term after he was accused of masterminding assaults on opponents, allowing drug-fueled corruption and breaking promises to help the poor. Still, was a deafening clamor for Aristide’s return during food riots in Haiti in 2008, showing he remains hugely popular.

Speaking briefly in Creole, Aristide told Haitians: ”If one suffers we all suffer. Togetherness is strength. Courage. Hold on, hold on.”

If Aristide does return, political instability in an impoverished nation struggling to dig itself out from the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake could result.

 It’s a bit hard to imagine the situation could get much more politically unstable. Whatever Aristide’s faults as a leader, and they were many, if this popular figure could find a way to work with Haiti’s current leaders, it could be helpful in the weeks ahead.  

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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