- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

JOHANNESBURG — Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was expected in Johannesburg today for what the South African government has described as “an extended visit.”

Reports in South African newspapers said Mr. Aristide, who has been living in Jamaica, had refused to travel on a commercial flight and that the South African government sent a special plane to transport him from Kingston.

The former president fled Haiti after a coup on Feb. 29, following days of unrest that claimed the lives of more than 300 people.

He moved briefly to the Central Africa Republic and, on March 15, was granted temporary asylum in Jamaica on the condition that he refrain from public comment. No such restriction has been announced in South Africa.

The coup came only weeks after Mr. Aristide led celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of his country’s independence from France. Amid claims of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings, world leaders boycotted the ceremony. South African President Thabo Mbeki was the only head of state to attend.

Days before Mr. Aristide’s removal, South Africa sent a cargo of weapons to help his security forces retain control of the island.

In an honor usually reserved for leaders in office, Mr. Mbeki was to personally meet the plane carrying Mr. Aristide; his wife, Mildred; and their two daughters, ages 5 and 7.

As he left Kingston yesterday, Mr. Aristide told the Associated Press he still hoped to return to Haiti and urged his supporters not to resort to violence.

South Africa, he said, “will now be our temporary home until we are back in Haiti.”

“The Haitian situation must be normal. Peace must be restored through democratic order,” he said.

He also said he was writing a book in which he would give his own account of his overthrow. The Caribbean Community and the African Union both called for an investigation after Mr. Aristide claimed to have been kidnapped by American agents. The United States denies any hand in the change of government.

Mr. Aristide’s attorney, Ira Kurzban, said last week that his client wanted to use his time in South Africa to communicate with world leaders, claiming that the United States had waged a war of disinformation since the coup.

The new Haitian government of interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has yet to comment on Mr. Aristide’s move to South Africa, but Mr. Aristide told reporters yesterday that he still considered himself the “elected president of Haiti.”

In South Africa, Mr. Aristide will be accommodated in a government guest house and the state will pay for his security.

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