In a dramatic move to put to rest last week rumors surrounding the hip-hop super star, Wyclef Jean has declared that he will formerly announce his candidacy for the next Haiti’s presidential election on Friday. It is not clear how Jean intends to do this, for he still holds an American passport. But the critically acclaimed hip-pop artist has long been considered himself a champion of the poor in Haiti, and he is extremely popular among them, especially in the Port-au-Prince area.
Wyclef Jean confirmed his presidential bid to Time Magazine yesterday, and his confirmation was relayed by several news organizations. Raymond Joseph, who is the current Haitian Ambassador to Washington and who is Wyclef’s uncle, has reportedly received the news of Jean’s possible running with great worry, for he himself, according to political insiders, anticipates a possible run for the Haiti’s crippled national palace. But “Clef” who has long been considered “a modern-day Moses, destined to return and lead his people out of bondage,” strongly feels his time has come, and the apocalyptic earthquake that killed more than half a million people on the island was the “biblical event that sealed his calling,” wrote the Time.
Wyclef Jean gained fame as an activist shortly after the earthquake last January, when Haiti sadly became an instant celebrity and Wyclef was seeing on television footages time after time carrying corpses with his bare hands under the Port-au-Prince’s piercing sun ray. “If not for the earthquake, I probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this,” Jean says. “The quake drove home to me that Haiti can’t wait another 10 years for us to bring it into the 21st century.” Jean sees no contradiction between his life as an artist and his ambitions as a politician. “If I can’t take five years out to serve my country as President,” he argues, “then everything I’ve been singing about, like equal rights, doesn’t mean anything.”
Wyclef Jean, who is extremely popular among the youth both in Haiti and in the Haitian Diaspora, stands a chance at creating a huge impact on the event—win or lose, confirmed the Time. Critics say it is not the first time a celebrity is running for higher office, and “the last time [we] looked, an action hero was still running California.” What might very well play for Wyclef is that half the population of about 9 million is under the age of 25. So, it is huge political asset as golden as a rapper’s chains that Haitian-American star will not hesitate to use it in his favor. Wyclef’s genuine patriotism clearly displayed in the aftermath of the earthquake has earned him a lot of praises. He is now far more popular among the youth “than their chronically corrupt and inept mainstream politicians are, and he’ll likely galvanize youth participation in the election.”
Can he really govern?
It’s hard to imagine that Wyclef, a well known artist who has been living in the United States since he was 9, does have the political savvy to lead Haiti to social, economic and political salvation. Haiti, a country so complex where poverty is so entrenched and corruption is so blatant, requires more than just a hip-hop star to help it crawl out of poverty. He has yet to put forward a political platform, and he will certainly be challenged by Haiti’s recalcitrant bourgeoisie which will capitalize on Wyclef’s lack of fluency in Creole, his rusty French and more importantly lack of understanding with regards to Haiti’s laws and its shady state bureaucracy. But some people see it just the opposite.“A lot of Haitians are excited about this,” says Marvel Dandin, a popular Port-au-Prince radio broadcaster. “Given the awful situation in Haiti right now,” he says, “most people don’t care if the President speaks fluent Creole.” We’ll just have to wait.