Rapper Wyclef Jean to stand for Haiti presidency
Ready or not, here he comes: New York-based rapper Wyclef Jean, of Fugees fame, has announced his intention to stand for president in Haiti’s November 28 election.
“If I was president, I'd get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, and buried on Sunday,” sang Wyclef Jean in his 2004 song “If I were president” (see video below).
Six years on, at least part of his prophecy could come true – the former Fugees front man on Thursday confirmed on CNN that he would stand in the November 28 Haitian presidential election, saying he wanted to be the “voice of the youth” in a country that has been “suffering for 200 years”.
The New York-based rapper is hugely popular in the Caribbean country where half the population is under the age of 21.
Ahead of the interview with CNN’s Larry King, Jean told Time Magazine the January 12 earthquake, which killed up to 300,000 people, galvanised him into standing for the job: "If I can't take five years out to serve my country as president, then everything I've been singing about, like equal rights, doesn't mean anything.
"The quake drove home to me that Haiti can't wait another 10 years for us to bring it into the 21st century."
Born in Croix-les-Bouquets near the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, Jean immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, but has maintained his Haitian citizenship, a requirement for running for the presidency.
Following huge success as a musician – the 1996 album “The Score” by hip-hop combo The Fugees sold a record 15 million copies – the rapper has become more involved in his country of birth.
In 2005 he founded the Yele Haiti Foundation (Help Haiti) and after the earthquake Jean used his notoriety to raise almost 10 million dollars.
Jean has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti since 2007.
Mobilising the young
But despite this apparent benevolence toward his native country, Jean as president is by no means a fait accompli.
On top of allegations of financial mismanagement at Yele Haiti, from which he has stood down as chairman, his weakness in French or Creole (the country’s official languages) could yet hold him back.
“Many Haitians perceive Jean as just a singer who doesn’t really have the aptitude to govern,” says Carel Pedre, a radio DJ in Port-au-Prince told FRANCE 24. “But his followers see a lot of potential in his ability to mobilise young people and bring worldwide attention to the country.
“Beyond this, there are only two candidates who can get the popular vote, Jean and Michel Marthely [another singer].”
A further 20 candidates have registered as candidates; ahead of an August 7 deadline, among them Jean’s uncle Raymond Joseph, who has been Haiti's ambassador to the United States since 2005.
Current president Rene Preval is barred under the constitution from standing for another term.
A last hurdle for the rapper is to get a waiver of the country’s electoral law that states that a candidate must have spent the previous five years living in the country.