- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2004

Jamaican officials reportedly said yesterday that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will take up permanent asylum in South Africa next month, but the Pretoria government said no such decision has been made.

“The South African government has not received an official or formal communication or request from President Aristide seeking asylum in South Africa,” said Tshepo Mazibuko, spokesman for the South African Embassy in Washington, yesterday.

Likewise, Ira Kurzban, a lawyer who represented Mr. Aristide in the United States, said the report from Jamaica was false.

“South Africa has not offered asylum. President Aristide has not accepted an offer of asylum,” Mr. Kurzban said from his office in Miami.

The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed Jamaican official, reported yesterday that Mr. Aristide will take permanent asylum in South Africa after it holds general elections next month.

The officials said South African President Thabo Mbeki’s government demanded the delay in Mr. Aristide’s arrival because it could be “politically unsettling” before the election, the report said.

It was widely reported that Mr. Mbeki, who is expected to easily win a second term in the April 14 elections, offered Mr. Aristide asylum shortly after he was deposed and run out of Haiti. But South African opposition politicians criticized the offer, and it was withdrawn.

Mr. Aristide left Haiti on a U.S. plane and landed in the Central African Republic last month. He moved to Jamaica for a lengthy stay to meet with his U.S.-based family.

Mr. Mbeki, who is thought to be on good terms with Mr. Aristide, was one of only a few international leaders who attended the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence celebrations earlier this year.

Yesterday Caribbean leaders meeting in Jamaica discussed suspending Haiti and its new government from their regional bloc in protest of the U.S. role in Mr. Aristide’s departure.

The State Department says Mr. Aristide signed a resignation letter and voluntarily left Haiti, when it became clear that the United States would not offer him protection from rebels approaching Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Mr. Kurzban yesterday reiterated the claim that Mr. Aristide never resigned.

“If you read the letter in Creole, it is clear that he was not resigning. It was much more conditional and nuanced than that,” he said.

Bryant Freeman, the director of Kansas University’s Institute of Haitian Studies and author of a 55,000-word Creole dictionary, did a more recent translation for the State Department, and he seems to agree.

Mr. Aristide’s letter never said “I am resigning,” Mr. Freeman is quoted as saying in the Lawrence Journal World in Lawrence, Kan.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti translated the letter: “Tonight, I am resigning in order to avoid a bloodbath.”

According to Mr. Freeman’s translation the passage said: “Thus, if this evening it is my resignation which can prevent a bloodbath, I agree to leave. …”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide