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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Wyclef Jean: Haiti presidential bid denied

CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

News Analysis

Wyclef’s hope of becoming the messianic leader of Haiti was dashed yesterday with the announcement of his disqualification by election officials. Reports out of Port-au-Prince confirmed that the former Fugees lead-man knew of his rejection ahead of the announcement. He was reportedly to have left his headquarters at a hotel in uptown Port-au-Prince without answering questions to an army of journalists that was waiting for him to speak. Later, the Haitian-American hip-hop star expressed disappointment at the late Friday ruling, but called on his followers to behave within the law. “Though I disagree with the ruling, I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same,” he said. He went on to say that “I want to assure my countrymen that I will continue to work for Haiti’s renewal; though the board has determined that I am not a resident of Haiti, home is where the heart is — and my heart has and will always be in Haiti.”

It was reported that Wyclef attended a church service in his mother’s hometown. No public statement was made, and rumors circulated that he was ready to return New York to join his wife and daughter. No one knows for sure if Wyclef will remain engaged in Haitian politics or if he will return to showbiz, something most observers believe that he should do instead of trying to be president of a country they claim Wyclef is ill-equipped to deal with the humongous task that awaits the next president of Haiti. Election is set for next November.

The electoral commission approved 19 out of the 34 presidential hopefuls, including former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis and Yvon Neptune, who was the last prime minister under ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Neptune is said to have been very active in helping to coordinate reconstruction efforts. If Wyclef is rejected, Michel Martelly, whose nickname is “Sweet Mickey”, a Haitian singer well known for his vulgar lyrics was allowed to run. What an irony!

Victim of his origins  

Although it did not say, the electoral commission’s rejection of Wyclef clearly confirmed serious doubts that were casted over Wyclef’s not only his ability to govern, but also over his residency in the United States. He has not lived in Haiti for the past five years as required. Here, if the motive is to respect the law, it is also far from being the only reason why Wyclef was disqualified. In Haiti, no political decision is taken without a bias connotation. It isn’t the first time someone from the Haitian Diaspora returns to try to lead the country. In fact, expatriates who sought political blessings either from Washington or from Paris or from Ottawa usually get parachuted to the Haitian presidential palace without any problems.

Remember Marc Bazin endorsed by both Paris and Washington to first help salvage the then discredited Baby Doc regime in the early 1980s and second to help whiten the blood out of the hands of the military coup leaders in the early 1990s? Recently, Gerard Latortue, who spent years living in Boca Raton, Florida, was called to head the temporary government after deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was bundled out of the country after bands of former military officers controlled by Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblin overthrew him.          

Haitian historian and professor at Duke University, Laurent Dubois, has weighed on this issue. “His candidacy certainly did shake things up,” he said. And he went on to say that “it’s still a very important election whether Wyclef is in it or not.” We’re not sure if the forthcoming election will be very “important,” as professor Dubois would like us to believe. No president that will be issued out of the November election will have the wherewithal, the logistics, the patriotic devotion, and the gut to start anew in the road to retrieving Haiti from the brink of extinction as a country.

Notwithstanding his patriotic devotion, Wyclef Jean clearly could hardly have the qualifications to lead, as we already mentioned last week in one of our editorials. (see https://csmsmagazine.org/errata-on-wiclef/) There was a great fear among Haitians both in Haiti and in the Haitian Diaspora that Wyclef might turn out to be just another Aristide—a messianic, populous leader who totally lacks what it is needed to get the job done. The devastation, coupled with frustration over a weak government response, created an opening for a messianic outsider like Jean, said Robert Fatton Jr., professor at the University of Virginia. “The very fact that he is taken seriously when … he has no preparation to be president, is an indication that the whole country, in particular the youth, looks at the typical Haitian population as a bankrupt kind of species,” Fatton said.  

Fatton went on to suggest that the mere fact there was such a delay in announcing the candidate list, which was supposed to be released Tuesday, “owed to a struggle among the political elite, with some trying to keep Jean from running.” So the next few weeks will be very intriguing. Election fever will swamp the country. But one can rest assured that Haiti’s seemingly endless problems will not be solved through an election guided by those whose interests are totally at odds with that of the Haitian people. We’ll be watching.

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