KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide left for exile in South Africa on Sunday, but insisted his stay there will only be temporary.
Shortly before departing Jamaica, Aristide insisted he remains Haiti’s “elected president.” He did not say how soon he hoped to return to Haiti, but urged his supporters not to resort to violence in the meantime.
Aristide fled Haiti on Feb. 29 amid a rebel advance on the capital, Port-au-Prince. Aristide, who was flown aboard a U.S.-supplied jet to the Central African Republic, accused the United States of forcibly removing him from office – a charge U.S. officials deny. He arrived in Jamaica on March 15.
Aristide, his U.S.-born wife Mildred, their two daughters, a brother-in-law and a bodyguard left on a South African government jet.
“It will now be our temporary home until we are back in Haiti,” Aristide told a news conference in which he was accompanied by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and staunch supporter, Miami lawyer Ira Kurzban and several South African diplomats.
“The Haitian situation must be normalized. Peace must be restored through democratic order,” he said.
South Africa has said it will provide a refuge for Aristide until his personal situation “normalizes” and he can return to Haiti.
But South Africa’s main opposition party protested Aristide’s refuge in the country where he will live under tight security in the capital, Pretoria, at the South African government’s expense.
“Ordinary South Africans cannot fathom why they must pay to put up the former Haitian leader,” said opposition leader Douglas Gibson. “Mr. Aristide should go home.”