While the rallies crowded the streets of Port-au-Prince to demand his return, elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide granted an exceptional interview to writer Claude Ribbe, which we publish completely. Aristide was kidnapped on February 29, 2004 by American Special Forces after being threatened by French emissaries. First detained in the Central African Republic, he is currently exiled in South Africa. 67 African and Caribbean states recognize him as the only legitimate leader of Haiti and denounce the puppet government of Gerard Latortue.
- Jean-Bertrand Aristide, constitutional president of Haiti
- Image: Agnès Caporal
«After a long journey that took him from Port-au-Prince to Bangui (capital city of the Central African Republic) and then to Jamaica, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is finally here, in Pretoria, where he was received as head of state with his whole family by the Republic of South Africa and the 53 members of the African Unity.
Despite the fact that he was overthrown by a coup d’état in Haiti on February 29, 2004, his term in office ends on February 7, 2006. Currently, talks with Port-au-Prince and the UN are taking place.
Under the protection of South African security services and accompanied by his wife Mildred, Jean-Bertrand Aristide agreed to receive us and answered all our questions.»
Question: Sir. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is it true that the French emissaries asked you to resign several weeks before your departure from Haiti?
JBA: That is already known. I have said it before! It was Mr. Régis Debray! He was accompanied by Mrs. Véronique de Villepin. These two French personalities came to the National Palace and asked me so. That is already known. The threats were groundless, they were evident and direct. As good Haitians, we are respectful but we demand to be respected and we replied with respect and dignity. The threats were evident and direct: «you resign or you might be dead!»
Q: Did Mrs. Véronique Albanel, Mr. Dominique de Villepin’s sister, then Minister of Foreign Relations, and Mr. Régis Debary actually say such words?
JBA: Yes! Both of them! The predecessor of the French Ambassador clearly said that there would be a “storm” in Haiti. His successor just followed his steps and we could feel the «storm». Therefore, he had his role in the «storm». I am still alive but this was not his purpose; what happened proves that the worst could have happened.
Q: You said you were kidnapped. What happened exactly?
JBA: I have described every single detail in a book that is already written, everything is there. It just needs to be published and it will be in the right moment. The readers will know what happened, how everything happened that night I do not want to remember. And yes, it was a kidnapping. The details will be in the book and you will all read it.
Q: It is said the «rebels» were just a few mercenaries...
JBA: There was no rebellion, it had all been made up! Money was used to finance a kidnapping preceded by misinformation, crimes, and systematic murders. After the kidnapping, the Haitian people were seen en masse peacefully demanding our return. And that shows loyalty. But not loyalty to me, just loyalty to the person they had chosen.
Q: What was your reaction when the press accused you of being a drug dealer, a delinquent, even a criminal?
JBA: That is absolutely false! We are used to that kind of maneuver in which the responsible usually lie to hide themselves, as if a tree could cover the whole forest! So, we knew it and we know it. And we do not care because it is false!
JBA (continuation) ... It is so sad to see what is happening in Haiti. There are murders every day, people imprisoned, people joining guerillas or going into exile. Based on what some human rights organizations have said, and it must be said, it is genocide! Some affirm that more than 10 000 people have been murdered in less than year.
Q: Every time there are problems or demonstrations in Haiti, it is said that you are behind them ...
JBA: That is absolutely false! We have been using the same pacific discourse we used in year 2000 elections, after the elections, before last February 29’s kidnapping and after the kidnapping. It is the same one. It is a pacific discourse about a peaceful demonstration to demand respect for human rights.
- Claude Ribbe (left), Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Mildred Aristide
- Image: Agnès Caporal
JBA (continuation)... Certainly, despite our efforts to calm everybody down, the bicentenary provoked some fear. It was not about revenge or violence for we really oppose revenge and violence, we have always been against them. It was about celebrating freedom as a universal value. But we did not see good faith, political will or a comprehension effort on the other side.
Q: 200 years later France has sent soldiers to Haiti...
JBA: In 1802 Napoleon wanted to reestablish slavery and today it is about neocolonialism. But that is untenable! That is pathological politics and political pathology at the same time. That is untenable! For the will of the Haitian people is irreversible ...Were we free in 1804? We want to remain free! Do you want to put the chains on our feet again? Maybe because you have them on the brain? We do not have them on the brain and we will not have them on the feet! You may kill us but we will not get down on our knees as if we were slaves accepting slavery.
Q: Do you see any hidden will behind all the events, as to have Haiti under tutelage?
JBA: The have said it! And they have said openly! Even when I was trying to make them understand that such a project was anachronical and untenable they kept it. When somebody is racist that person thinks that the Black is not as capable as the White. And that is a mistake. We had shown them the truth. And they can see it if they are reasonable. But they did not want to see it!
Q: Who support you today?
JBA: The Caribbean States do not recognize the de facto government that has been imposed despite the popular will and sovereignty, despite the democratic vote of the Haitian people. Along with the Caribbean bloc, 53 African states support me too. These 53 states showed their position clearly when CARICOM asked them to receive us here and they agreed to. They defend democracy. They defend the respect of the popular sovereignty expressed through the vote of the Haitian people. Therefore, it is not only the Haitian people, it is not only CARICOM, it is the African countries. Are we going to say, by any chance, «No, it is just a continent»? If that were the case, it would be a racist reaction. Perhaps we should say: «It is the black continent, it is the continent of the blacks!». Just to show racism more clearly.
Q: Would you run again for Haiti’s presidential election?
JBA: On that, the Constitution is quite clear. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, the presidential term is for five years and, after that, the president shall terminate his term: I did it in 1996. I retired democratically. Then the President can return and I returned democratically in year 2000. Therefore, my term ends this year, 2005, through elections and then I transfer the post to the next elected president through free, honest and democratic elections on February 7, 2006. Unfortunately, I have been exiled for about a year, and even if...
...I want to take this opportunity to thank the South African Republic for receiving us as guests of honor and not as exiles. Its contribution to UN should be acting in favor of peace and the restoration of the democratic order. In the right moment I will be in Haiti. However, will there be elections where I can run for? No, if we follow the Constitution, I am the President of Haiti, even if I am not in Haiti. I finish my term. I want to return to my country before time goes by on the basis of a negotiated agreement or a dialogue so that free, honest and democratic elections could be held, as stated by the Constitution.
Click here to watch the interview of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
(French Language, Windows Media Video format, 11 min.)
Other articles about Haiti published in Voltaire :
« La CIA déstabilise Haïti », Voltaire, January 14th, 2004 (French language).
« Coup d’État in Haïti », Voltaire, March 1st, 2004 (English language).
« Paris relâche le président haïtien », Voltaire, March 16th, 2004 (French language).