Aristide to visit Jamaica

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is planning a visit to Jamaica amid vociferous calls for his return.

    Protesters gather to rally support for their ex-leader

    More than 1000 of his supporters demonstrated in Port-au-Prince demanding his return on a day when the Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson announced Aristide would visit his country early next week for a 10-week stay.

    Angered by Aristide's departure from the country, his supporters marched from a tense neighbourhood in the city centre to the presidential palace on Thursday. Aristide has accused the United States and France of kidnapping him from Haiti.

    Demonstrators shouted "Aristide must return" and "arrest
    (US ambassador) Jim Foley for kidnapping" and "Bush terrorist." 

    "Aristide is our father, our dream. We don’t need the US or French army. We need Aristide back in Haiti. He is the leader of the poor people," said Pierre Jean-Louis.

    Significant visit

    Jamaica is Haiti's neighbour and Aristide's visit to the country would be his first to the Caribbean since being ousted from power.

    Last week, the Caribbean Community called for an international inquiry into the circumstances of Aristide's departure from Haiti.

    "Mr Aristide has expressed a wish to return temporarily to the Caribbean with his wife and to be reunited with their two young children who are currently in the United States," Patterson said.

    The Jamaican prime minister,however clarified the ousted Haitian leader was not seeking political asylum.

    "I want to emphasise that Mr Aristide is not seeking political asylum in Jamaica. He is engaged in finalising arrangements for permanent residence outside of the region," he said.

    "Aristide is our father, our dream. We don’t need the US or French army. We need Aristide back in Haiti"

    Aristide supporter

    Aristide resigned and left the country in the face of a mounting rebellion. An international security force is now in Haiti seeking to re-establish order. US troops at the presidential palace kept a low profile.

    Unclear future

    Meanwhile, Central African Republic President Francois Bozize said Aristide would stay there "for a while", in his first speech on Aristide's presence in the country.

    "We are a hospitable country, which is why Jean-Bertrand Aristide is here. And he will stay here for a while," Bozize said on national radio.

    Officials said when Aristide arrived on 1 March he was only passing through on his way to exile elsewhere, probably in South Africa.

    But South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said on Wednesday, after holding talks there with Aristide, it was "not sure" the ex-leader would be given asylum in South Africa. No possible date had been mentioned for his arrival there.

    Central African junior foreign minister Guy Moskit, who also held talks with Pahad and other South African envoys, said Aristide's eventual departure for South Africa was "a hypothesis being strongly considered."

    Last week, an African diplomat in Bangui said the ex-leader of Haiti would more likely not remain in the Central African Republic until after South Africa's 14 April elections.

    "We are not going to rush him into leaving," said Bozize.

    "On the contrary, we should be proud of ourselves because, in spite of our poverty, we took him in while developed countries rejected him," said the Central African leader.



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