Yesterday in the article titled Wyclef Jean running for president?, we stated that Wyclef “still holds a US passport.” But on CNN Larry king’s Live last night, Wyclef denied ever to have held a US passport. To prove his point, he referred to his former role as “good will” ambassador appointed by Haitian president René Préval, and that he had voted in the last presidential election in Haiti. Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, the former hip-hop star claimed to “have been drafted” to lead his fellow countrymen out of entrenched misery. Although he did not say who drafted him, we got the sense that he was referring to God and implicitly suggesting that he was/is the messianic leader on a mission to rid his country from the venom of outright neglect.
“What makes you qualified to be president of Haiti?” Blitzer asked him. Clef stumbled a bit while trying to find the carefully chosen words to respond. “After the earthquake, I realize that this country [Haiti] can no longer wait, and that the majority of eligible voters are fairly young,” he answered. He is right that Haiti can no longer wait, and any solution to Haiti’s seemingly endless misery must come from within, not elsewhere.
Also, Wyclef seems wanted to put to rest, once and for all, all the ambiguities surrounding his residency. In order for a Haitian to be qualified to be president of Haiti, he or she must have resided in the country for at least five years. Wyclef has long been vacillating between Haiti and the US, and he marries New York fashion designer, Haitian-American, Marie Claudinette with whom he was seen walking down the Port-au-Prince airport escorted by an army of journalists.
But even if Wyclef has not been living in Haiti for the last 5 years, will there be serious political ground to reject him? His enemies will use this issue as a flashpoint for a new battleground against him at a time when Haiti needs all of its children to come to its rescue no matter where they live. When was the state bureaucracy the true guarantor of the law of the land? Radio Métropole, the mouthpiece of the Haitian elite attempted several times to portray Wiclef as well as other Haitian celebrities living abroad as foreigners of Haitian ancestry, as it was the case during the flood disaster in Gonaives back in 2008 when hundreds died, and Wiclef, Luc Mirville and others were trying to raise money for flood victims.
A political novice?
If one wants to seriously assess Wyclef’s ability to lead Haiti out this deplorable situation, it is not from these pity assertions or sleazily vulgar remarks filled with deep-seated prejudices that he should do it. Wyclef’s political motives which still remain an enigma should be the focus point by which he should be judged, not from his whereabouts for the last five years. Wyclef’s credentials as an anti-establishment hip-hop artist are well documented. The lyrics of his music can speak for themselves. But that’s all we know. Last night, Wyclef vehemently denied that he is a political novice, and that he is not about to play “the naive idealist.” The former star turned politician claimed he got much of his platform “right out of the playbook” of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. “I’m the only man who can stand in the middle and get the Diaspora and Haiti’s elite to cooperate that same way,” Wyclef said. By choosing Bill Clinton as a role model, he may be trying to salvage old rhetoric in order to deal a preemptive strike against neoconservatives in Washington. If that were to be the case, Wyclef could hardly be the change agent that he wholeheartedly wants to be. It is not clear how he intends to run for the presidency as “neutral” candidate standing high above the fray. Haiti’s political landscape does not offer such option. Either you are a button-down conformist bent on safeguarding imperial, strategic interests or you are the rebel. There is no middle ground. No one can successfully govern Haiti while standing in neutral ground. The last time someone tried to do that, he was overthrown seven months after he took office, and he was permitted to return only after he swore to conform with the established norm, which he did blindly.
Despite the crippled conditions in which Haiti still wallows, seven months after the devastating earthquake, the bourgeoisie in Haiti still believes it can dictate who can or cannot be president of Haiti. The masses of Haiti have so long been neglected because of the vexing, but strategic, issue of class antagonisms. Wyclef will soon learn his lesson. Haiti’s recalcitrant upper class has never had any desire to play its historical role. To its members, who are Haitians in name only, the dirty feet from the shantytowns must always be kept at bay. Wiclef will soon realize that he will have to fight if he wants things to change for the better for the vast majority who live in daily precariousness.
Wyclef candidacy will be played on two fronts, it seems. In other words, it will be a two-pronged fight: One that will be on the ground, betting mainly on Wyclef grassroots support among the young people. The other will be in the US media to help salvage Clef image in the eyes of policy makers in the US capital. Wyclef Jean, the hip-pop artist, had always been a voice for the voiceless, and his flamboyant style has stolen the hearts of some of the most influential figures in Hollywood, in both the movie and the music industries. It was Quincy Jones himself who first mentioned the idea of Wyclef for president of Haiti while on CNN during the historic fundraiser on behalf of Haiti shortly after the earthquake, and all indications point to those words of encouragement that finally catapulted Wyclef to this presidential run. If that is the case, we can only hold our breath.