Haiti Needs Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Molefi Kete Asante
January 17, 2010
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the one contemporary Haitian who brings the heroic legacies of L'Ouverture, Dessalines, Christophe, and Petion, the four horsemen of Haitian political history, to the current crisis. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest and Haiti’s first democratically elected leader was President of Haiti in l991, and was overthrown by a military coup in September l991. However, he was once again President from l994 to l996, and President from 2001 to 2004. In February 2004, after he disbanded the army because of corruption and its attacks on civilians, a criminal band of less than one hundred men terrorized the nation and Aristide was physically removed from the palace, supposedly for his safety. The American government was complicit in this action and flew the President to Africa. The democratically elected President of Haiti has been forced to live in exile in South Africa.
Yet Haiti has always been on his mind. He is a child of the soil, the most distinguished image of a fighting Haiti, and at this time of natural disaster, political instability, and governmental weakness, however much Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to shore up President Rene Preval, the country needs its most potent political figure. Aristide has always been ready to inspire and rally his nation; this time is no different. At this moment when one considers the grim realities of death, destruction, and the enormous need for reconstruction, Aristide, the healer, teacher, philosopher, orator, leader, and the first truly democratically elected president of Haiti should be called upon by the international community. I believe that he is the only Haitian who can command both national and international respect at this time. President Rene Preval, by all accounts, is a good public servant, but he has not been able to grasp the immensity of the situation in Haiti. Furthermore, he has been unable to convey a vision for the future. This has to be done by Haitians.
President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and General Colin Powell are not Haitians, however grand their objectives; they do not have the credibility and the ability to rally Haitians like Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They know it, the Haitians know it, and the world knows it. Before President Aristide was exiled to South Africa from his own nation, he had received more votes than any president in Haiti's history, and just a gang of thugs supported by the enemies of a progressive Haiti were allowed to threaten the peaceful democracy. In spite of the apocalyptic scope of the earthquake, this is an opportune time for the country to make social, medical, economic, and political progress.
However, we are confronted with what appears to be a leadership vacuum. Therefore, I call for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I am asking that the UN Head, Ban Ki Moon and the US President, Barack Obama guarantee the safe and secure return of President Aristide. I believe that President Rene Preval will grow in stature if he agrees to this return. In fact, Preval was once the second in command to Aristide. Perhaps nature has given the politicians what they could not have envisioned themselves, that is, a way to resolve the constitutional issue of two elected presidents. Why can't President Preval now form a joint presidency as Sekou Toure and Kwame Nkrumah formed in Guinea? This is an African solution to the political crisis and to the moral and psychological issues facing the country. President Aristide, one of the most generous, intelligent, and consistent leaders Haiti will certainly use his powers to rally the Haitian people once again to resilience and victory. I know President Aristide and I know that he is in pain about the conditions in Haiti. Let the international community call for his return to help minister to and rally his people.
Molefi Kete Asante is the author of The History of Africa, and the editor of Journal of Black Studies.