Haiti's fugitive president speaks out

Haiti's ex-president has castigated his political opponents for "chopping down the peace tree" in a radio address aired soon after he arrived in the Central African Republic.

    Aristide's escape sparked a rampage of looting and killing

    Speaking from Bangui on Monday, Jean-Bertrand Aristide also thanked the leadership of the Central African Republic for welcoming him.
    He is expected to travel on to exile in South Africa, according to an official from the state protocol department in Bangui.
    "I declare that in overthrowing me, they have chopped down the peace tree, but it will grow again as its roots are Louverturian," he said, referring to Toussaint Louverture, who led the revolt of black slaves in Haiti in 1791.
    South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was holding talks on Aristide's fate, but added no formal request for exile had been presented to the government.
    Back in Haiti

    Meanwhile, US marines were arriving in Haiti in preparation for an international force to restore order.
    The military contingent took up combat positions at Port-au-Prince airport on Monday just before the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of a multinational force for up to three months.
    Canadian special forces had already secured the airport earlier to protect the evacuation of its own nationals and were still at their posts.

    French troops and gendarmes are expected to arrive within hours.
    Haitian reaction

    "We are ready to get rid of our weapons. We need an international force"

    Guy Philippe,
    an insurgency leader

    Aristide's departure sparked a rampage through the streets of Port-au-Prince by angry pro-government gangs armed with guns and machetes.

    At least 12 deaths and many more injuries were reported.
    Widespread looting targeted warehouses and banks. Some people ran through the streets carrying suitcases of banknotes. But a dusk-till-dawn curfew appeared to be holding, with just sporadic firing into the night.
    After the unanimous Security Council vote, UN chief Kofi Annan said the international community was standing by Haiti in its "hour of need".

    Aristide's constitutional successor, Supreme Court chief Boniface Alexandre, urged an end to the violence that had left scores dead.
    "Haiti, I exhort you to remain calm. No one should take justice into their own hands," Alexandre said.
    Aristide's political foes, who had refused to sign up to an internationally backed peace deal because it did not require the president's departure, said they were pleased with developments.
    And top rebel leader Guy Philippe said his forces, who have seized much of the country and surrounded Port-au-Prince, were ready to lay down their weapons after Aristide's resignation.
    "We are ready to get rid of our weapons. We need an international force," Philippe told journalists from Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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