By BERT WILKINSON, Associated Press Writer
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – South Africa will be the permanent home in exile for Haiti’s ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Jamaican officials said Thursday on condition of anonymity.
The officials said Aristide would not go to South Africa until after that country’s general elections April 14, because President Thabo Mbeki’s government believes it would be “politically unsettling.”
There was no immediate response from South Africa, where opposition leaders have said the government should not support Aristide, once hailed as a champion of democracy but now accused of corruption and violence against his opponents.
Mbeki was among few international leaders to attend Haiti’s bicentennial independence celebrations this year, and is known to get on well with Aristide.
The 53-member African Union earlier this month criticized “the unconstitutional way” Aristide was forced from power and urged its members to help him. The Africa Union pledged “full support to the country that will agree to grant such asylum.”
Until South Africa has its elections, Aristide will remain in Jamaica, two high-ranking officials of that country said on condition of anonymity.
Many countries have been reluctant to host Aristide, fearing damage from the diplomatic fallout of his charges that he was forced out of power by a U.S. coup as rebels were threatening to attack Port-au-Prince, the capital.
U.S. officials say they acted at Aristide’s request and probably saved his life when they put him on a chartered plane to the remote Central African Republic. Aristide says he was kidnapped and never was told where he was being taken.
A delegation of African-American and Caribbean officials flew to the African state and escorted Aristide to Jamaica on March 14, over protests from the United States and Haiti’s new interim government, which said his presence on the neighboring island exacerbated tensions as a multinational peacekeeping force was trying to stabilize Haiti.
The Jamaican officials, who spoke outside a Caribbean summit that is to discuss the exiled leader’s plans, said Aristide would not be taking up offers for permanent sanctuary from Venezuela and temporary asylum from Nigeria.