Democracy Now! Special Report –
Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has decided to return to Haiti this week ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff election. Aristide has lived in exile in South Africa since 2004, when he was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup. Despite U.S. pressure on the governments of Haiti and South Africa not to allow him to return, Aristide and his family are planning to leave on Thursday. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is in South Africa to cover Aristide’s return trip to Haiti. She is reporting from Johannesburg, where she also talks with K.K., an award-winning filmmaker and a personal friend of Aristide.
For the transcript and the Democracy Now! Haiti News Archive, which includes exclusive reporting from the 2004 U.S.-backed coup that ousted Aristide from power:
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former haitian president jean-bertrand Aristide has decided to return to Haiti this week ahead of Sunday's presidential run-off election iris teen has lived in exile in South Africa since 2004 when he was ousted in a us-backed coup Amy Goodman is in South Africa to cover iris teens return to Haiti she joins us now from Johannesburg welcome Amy taiwan taiwan it's great to be with you and quite amazing what is going to be taking place here in this historic country South Africa to do with the history of another historic country Haiti we flew in from New York earlier today to oliver tambo airport and just that is amazing in itself right he was the former president of the ANC the late president of the African National Congress one of the great anti-apartheid leaders when we came in from the plane the first image was that of Nelson Mandela the former president of South Africa and on all the wings of the planes are the flag of the new country of South Africa you know in 1994 not so new but the symbol of peaceful revolution that took place in this country now the reason we are here though is because president aristide as you said is returning to South Africa before is returning to Haiti before the sunday elections that will be taking place for a new president in haiti this is truly historic regular listeners and viewers to Democracy Now may remember back to two thousand four to the second coup against our steed the first was in 1991 unfortunately a us-backed coup that through the democratically elected president out of office the second was in 1994 when he was reelected again eh us Baku democracy now was on the plane to the Central African Republic to bangee where he was flown into exile by US military and US security we went in a small delegation that was led by maxine waters the Los Angeles Congress member Randall Robinson the founder of trans Africa and others to return the Harris our steeds to the western hemisphere amidst at the time Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and colin powell Secretary of State at the time warning the eris deeds they were ranaut to return to the western hemisphere to which Randall Robinson responded when we were on the flight whose hemisphere are they talking about and now they returned to Jamaica ultimately in exile in South Africa where they had been for the last seven years now the eris deeds are attempting to return to their country to Haiti I'm joined right now by katie kayne we will both be on the plane though last-minute negotiations are taking place between well the government of South Africa the US which is putting tremendous pressure on the government of South Africa not to return the eris deeds to Haiti and putting pressure on the Haitian government as I was on that plane and kk cane was as well the renowned filmmaker has made many films on Haiti most recently called raises stalls covered the coup in 1991 and has done many films since we are going to hopefully return on this plane again with the eris deeds to chronicle this historic journey of the our steeds and there are two daughters to their country to haiti kk as you join us now talk about the significance of this return of the our steeds though last-minute negotiations are taking place even as we speak with a tremendous pressure that's being brought to bear on the our steeds and the South African and Asian governments by the u.s. okay thank you Amy and it's a pleasure to be here and it's certainly a pleasure to be part of this long-awaited return which we hope will actually take place this time the eris thieves have been in exile here in South Africa for seven years always wanting to go always looking for an opportunity at this point they've been given a passports by the Haitian government so according to the Haitian government is fine for them to return however there's an election next Sunday and no matter what happens the Haitian government will change and we're far less secure of the new Haitian government whether they will allow our state to return or not so this is the reason that it's a small window of opportunity which era steed and his friends are trying to take opportunity of well amy and kk on monday the US State Department urged former president iris need to postpone his trip however former president aristide has chosen to remain outside of Haiti for seven years to return this week can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Hades elections we would urge former President aresty to delay his return until after the electoral processes has concluded to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere return prior to the election may potentially be destabilizing to the political process that was State Department spokesperson Mark Toner on Monday we asked our Steve's attorney I Wreckers ban to respond president Harris T's desire to return home is unrelated to the election but to a desire to be in Haiti to carry on his educational work however he is genuinely concerned that a change in the Haitian government may result in his remaining in South Africa the Department of State has previously said that this is a decision for the Haitian government they should leave the decision to the democratically elected government instead of seeking to dictate the terms under which a Haitian citizen may return to his country the State Department statement today is full of misinformation the claim that president aristide voluntarily left Haiti and could have returned the past seven years is belied by the US government's active involvement in his removal as the democratically elected president of haiti and their active role in ensure ring that he remained and apparently remains in South Africa that was our curse band of President arrestees longtime lawyer Amy your sense of why so important at this critical time just before the election for President Irish Dean ought to return well you know it's very interesting to hear the wording of Mark Toner statement before that well now the resigned PJ Crowley the State Department spokesperson who had actually tweeted out at an earlier earlier time that the eris deeds should not be returning era steed is a Haitian citizen he was the president of haiti but he will return as a resident of haiti and you know right now i have just seen a letter that's being circulated to lawyers and law professors around the united states where they are calling on Cheryl Mills the chief of staff of the Department of State to criticizing the State Department statement saying that he has every right to return also the significance of who is in the State Department people who understand that well like Harold Koh used to head the human rights clinic at Yale University like Michael Posner the assistant secretary Michael Posner who used to be head of the lawyers Committee for Human Rights which is now called human rights first the issue of the human rights and the right of freedom of expression and the Haitian citizen to return home of a Haitian family to return home this is a critical moment right now the negotiations are taking place behind the scenes the safety of this trip is extremely important and the pressure that the US has continually brought to bear on president aristide is one that is very important to highlight the u.s. can change its role in the troubled relationship as it has had in haiti since the very beginning i mean in 1804 haiti was the first black Republic born of a slave uprising the only country the world and the US government would not recognize the Republic of Haiti for decades because congressman at that time were afraid that the slave uprising would inspire slaves in the United States so you go back to that time and you see the history again in 1991 and 2000 for the u.s. role in the coup is against the democratically elected leader president our steed so to change that troubled history especially in a country that is undergoing so much right now we're looking at the earthquake in Japan so horrific let's remember also the earthquake in Haiti that killed so many hundreds of thousands of people then the cholera outbreak Haiti needs a break hey he needs to be able to assert itself not with the intervention of other countries but aiding the rebuilding of Haiti and president aristide has always been a part of that one last thing Juan I just wanted to bring k KN you know she has been here seven years in South Africa documenting the eris deeds stay here in fact documented when President our Steve got his doctorate another doctorate here in in South Africa that is I've made seven trips to South Africa I haven't been here for seven years but yes president aristide was honored by own ISA the one of the largest universities in the world he was given a doctorate in philosophy and African languages and I documented that and also filmed him talking about his thesis which was called umayyah AMA gamma which means the spirit of the words and talks about similarities in Creole and African languages and his meeting with Nelson Mandela he had a meeting with Nelson oh yeah but Becky was a president at that Simon was present at the ceremony yeah and it was this film was shown on Haitian television which was very important at time