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Awaiting Aristide’s return

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Awaiting Aristide’s return

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PRETORIA, South Africa – Ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide planned to return his homeland today, a senior South African official has been quoted as saying.
“The president is due to take a flight out Thursday afternoon,” the official told the international news agency, AFP.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aristide was expected to give a news briefing before his departure.
“The details of the route will be given at the briefing,” the official added.
Aristide’s return to Haiti, comes as the impoverished French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country is preparing for the second and final round of presidential elections on Sunday.
His political party, Lavalas, is not participating in the polls and there are fears that his return could spark violence ahead of the polls in a country still battling to overcome the effects of a powerful earthquake in January last year that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than one million others homeless.
In addition, the authorities in Haiti are also dealing with a deadly outbreak of cholera that has killed more than 4,000 people since last October.
Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since he was forcibly removed from office in 2004. He blamed the United States and France for his removal.
Washington has since called on South Africa to delay Aristide’s return with a US embassy spokeswoman, Elizabeth Trudeau saying that Aristide’s return “can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s electoral process”.
Aristide’s US lawyer Ira Kurzban said the former leader feared a new Haitian government might try to block his return if he waited until after the polls.
“He is genuinely concerned that a change in the Haitian government may result in his remaining in South Africa,” Kurzban said.
The presidential election will be contested by former first lady Mirlande Manigat and pop singer Michel Martelly. (CMC)