In what is said to be his first public statement since one-time nemesis Jean-Claude Duvalier surprisingly returned to Haiti, another former Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said he, too, is “ready”’ to return to his impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean homeland.
Aristide, 57, a two-time head-of-state, made his interest known in a letter he wrote from his exile in South Africa, according to his former foreign press liaison, Michelle Karshan.
Karshan told reporters in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, on Jan. 19, that she received the letter “directly” from Aristide and his spokeswoman Maryse Narcisse.
“The purpose is very clear: To contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education,”’ wrote Aristide in the letter, dated Jan. 19.
“The return is indispensable, too, for medical reasons: It is strongly recommended that I not spend the coming winter in South Africa’s because in six years I have undergone six eye surgeries,” he added.
Seven months after he was democratically elected in 1990 for his first term, Aristide, a priest-turned-president who fought the Duvalier regime in the mid-1980s, was ousted by a military junta. Three years later, a U.S. invasion restored him to power.
But he went into exile a second time in 2004 amid a violent rebellion.
Since he was last ousted, Aristide has been a research fellow at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, where he has been teaching and presenting research papers, such as “Why African descendants are still facing poverty in Haiti.”
Aristide’s desire to return to Haiti on Wednesday comes just days after Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” made a surprise visit to his native country.
It was his first trip since nationwide unrest led to the end of a brutal 29-year dynasty that ran the country until 1986.
Duvalier, the son of medical doctor-turned-dictator, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, traveled back to Haiti on an expired diplomatic passport.
He spent his years in exile in France. On Jan.18, Haitian authorities filed embezzlement and corruption charges against him.
That Duvalier was able to enter Haiti without proper travel documents raises questions about Aristide’s own ability to return. Aristide doesn’t have a diplomatic passport, Kurzban said, adding that it’s been no secret that he has yearned to return home.
“The hope is that if [Aristide] gets a passport, the South African government will work in a cooperative way with the United States and other governments to make sure [he] can return to Haiti,” Kurzban said.
“Let us hope that the Haitian and South African governments will enter into communication in order to make that happen in the next coming days,” she added.