- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2010

HIP-HOP HAITI

International hip-hop/reggae artist Wyclef Jean this week ended months of rumors and declared his candidacy for president of Haiti, setting up a possible family feud with his uncle, the former Haitian ambassador to the United States who also is planning to run for president.

Mr. Jean announced his candidacy in a number of American newspaper interviews on Wednesday and on a Miami radio program on Thursday.

“I’m not running for president so much as I’m being drafted” by the youth of Haiti, he told the New York Times in an interview from his New Jersey home.

“The decision is made,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

On Radio Tropic’s “Bonjour Haiti” show on Thursday, he said he feels compelled to run to change the political climate in Haiti and help the millions of Haitians left homeless by a massive earthquake in January.

“For the 250,000 people who died in the earthquake, that’s the reason we ought to see a change in the system,” he said.

In the Journal interview, he expressed his belief that he could be a force to unify Haiti’s squabbling political factions and give hope to the nation’s youth, who suffer extremely high rates of illiteracy in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“I’m someone who can connect the parties together and basically be a leader for the youth for what they’ve been crying for for years,” he said.

However, his uncle, Ambassador Raymond Joseph, warned Mr. Jean that a tough campaign lies ahead.

Mr. Joseph told the Christian Science Monitor last week that a race between him and his nephew would present voters a choice of “popularity versus experience.”

Mr. Joseph, ambassador in Washington since August 2005, submitted his resignation this week to President Rene Preval, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Meanwhile, one obstacle remains to a Wyclef Jean candidacy. Haiti’s constitution requires presidential candidates to meet a residency requirement of five years before the election. Mr. Jean, 37, carries a Haitian passport but has not lived in Haiti since his family left the country when he was 9 years old.

NO APOLOGIES

The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe refused to apologize for walking out of the funeral of the sister of President Robert Mugabe on Sunday, after Mr. Mugabe used the ceremony to denounce Western countries for criticizing widespread human rights abuses in his southern African nation.

“When America is treated in the manner it was treated on Sunday, I will react,” Ambassador Charles Ray told reporters in the capital, Harare.

After Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi demanded an apology, Mr. Ray released a letter to the minister, accusing him of “exacerbating” the situation.

“I regret that you have chosen to make matters worse by exacerbating a problem created by the Zimbabwean side, rather than attempting to put it behind us,” the ambassador said in his letter.

Mr. Ray, joined by German Ambassador Albrecht Conze and European Union diplomat Barbara Plinkert, walked out of the funeral after Mr. Mugabe told Western critics to “go to hell” because of their criticism of human rights abuses.

In May, Zimbabwe’s ambassador in Washington tried to shout down Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, after he criticized human rights abuses under Mr. Mugabe.

“You are talking like a good house slave,” Ambassador Machivenyika Mapuranga bellowed at Mr. Carson, who is black, at the Africa Day celebration at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.