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Hip hop artist Wyclef Jean arrives in Haiti in presidential bid

4 min

Hip hop artist Wyclef Jean arrived in Haiti on a private plane on Thursday to launch a bid for president amid criticism of his motives for running for office.


AFP - Musician Wyclef Jean jetted into Haiti on a private plane Thursday and officially launched a bid for president, ending weeks of speculation about whether he would run.

"The United States has Obama, here you're going to have Wyclef," Jean said in his first public comments since arriving here.

A crowd of young supporters sporting red and white t-shirts gathered in the Demas neighborhood of the capital to escort Jean as he filed his documents at the electoral council office.

He was also joined by several advisors and his wife and daughter.

"The entire world is watching us today, I represent all Haitians," he added, to applause from his supporters.

"We have to live together, work together to change Haiti, open more schools," added Jean, who encouraged the youths around him to get voting cards.

"I'm asking you not for money, but your power for change," added Jean, who told his supporters he would bring rap superstar 50 Cent to Haiti.

Jean's bid for the presidency of quake-hit nation has won support from some in Haiti, where many hail him as a hero, but has also drawn sneers from politicians skeptical of a hip-hop star in the national palace.

The Haitian-born Grammy award winner was expected to announce his campaign on CNN's "Larry King Live" show later Thursday, after resigning as chairman of his NGO Yele Haiti to make a run.

Jean, founder of the hit 1990s group The Fugees, told the Wall Street Journal Thursday that he felt he was being called upon to run for president.

"I always say that Wyclef Jean is not running for the presidency of Haiti, I'm being drafted by the people of Haiti," he said.

"My whole life since I was a kid, the country has had political turmoil. The reason why is that there's never been one person who can unite all parties and get them to work together," he said, adding that the task of rebuilding the impoverished Caribbean nation "is going to take 25-30 years."

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, reactions to the campaign were split between established party politicians and people on the street.

"What's happening now is an emotional reaction. With Wyclef, it's improvisation, it's an adventure," said opposition party leader Evans Paul.

Haitian youth appear attracted to the idea, though some seemed concern he would have to give up his music career to lead the country.

"I'll vote on one condition: if Wyclef is in the race," Emmanuelle, a 21-year-old street peddler, told AFP Thursday.

Vendors on a bustling street corner of the eastern suburb Petitionville were unanimous in their support for the rapper.

"Yes, we will vote for him," groups of them said in unison.

Current President Rene Preval, who named Jean as a Haiti goodwill ambassador in 2007, is barred by the constitution from seeking a new term in the elections scheduled for November 28.

The vote was postponed from earlier this year as the Caribbean nation struggled to emerge from a catastrophic January 12 earthquake that killed 250,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.

Jean, who told Time on Tuesday that if not for the earthquake he would "probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this," joins more than 70 political parties and coalitions standing for the national ballot.

At least five people have already registered their bids to run for president.

"I think there are issues we can start tackling -- the education, the literacy problem, the job creation problem, the agricultural component. The idea that if everything is being imported how do we get our export back," Jean told the Journal Thursday.

"These are some of the things that I feel we can start tackling. And when I say job creation, the infrastructure, the reconstruction of Haiti, should not only [involve] international contractors, but there should be local Haitian contractors too."

Jean lives in the New York area but has traveled to Haiti multiple times seeking to defuse gang violence and help the poorest Haitians.

His Yele Haiti Foundation played a prominent role in securing international aid after the January earthquake that leveled much of the capital city Port-au-Prince, but it has also faced widespread allegations of financial mismanagement.


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