On the quiet afternoon of Sunday, January 16, 2010, as I was at my desk in front of my desktop computer putting the
final touch to the transcript of my radio talk show to be aired at 10 PM that night, as I was multitasking navigating between that and answering to comments from people reacting to my Facebook statuses, I kept reading on Facebook the feeds about the unconfirmed news of Jean Claude Duvalier’s return to Haiti after 25 years living in exile in France. I did not want to be bought into what I instantly called the biggest hoax and joke for this new decade because, so cynical and nonsensical it sounded to me, I just could not believe my eyes.
When the news I considered to be the biggest hoax and joke of the new decade was finally confirmed by the Associated Press and Agence France Press, I automatically found myself in a state of shock, speechlessness, disbelief and confusion. I literally got up and walked around as a way to check myself to make sure that I was conscious and that I was not dreaming. Well, it was real; Jean Claude Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti who ruled the country ferociously for 15 years, has returned to the island.
Ever since the news of Duvalier’s return broke out, we all have been asking all types of questions just to try to get this new development of reality to make sense to us, for the Preval administration could not even come forth to address the nation and shed some light on the nature and significance of his return to the country. This is another piece of evidence added to many of Preval’s politics of nonchalance and absenteeism. The entire nation is left desperate for information and isolated in a vast ocean of confusion to swim its way out to the safety field of accurate and timely information.
In politics, nothing happens in isolation, meaning there is a reason for and a motive behind everything. Though our long list of questions, unfortunately, has been disregarded and dismissed by the Haitian authorities, one thing we all can agree upon is that the determination of the return of the former dictator at this juncture in the country’s political life and after 25 years of exile has got to have the seal of approval of some powerful invisible hands outside the know of the leadership inside the country.
We have been starkly divided on what to do with Duvalier physically inside the country. Some argue that he must be kicked out, many want him released and not to face prosecution, a large group wants him to take over the leadership of the country, and others just want him trialed. I am going to address each and every single position to the best of my ability.
- Exile for our former heads of state is not the solution, and I am against seeing them being dragged out of power and trashed in the dumpster of exile. Let’s be clear on that. Jean Claude Duvalier is in his country, how can you kick him out? Let’s assume he is being accused of many wrongdoings. You do not kick the accused out of the legal space where the legal offense was committed; you trial him there. If President Obama is being charged of any wrongdoing while he is in office, for example, he is not going to be asked to leave the country; he will, rather, be held and trialed in the United States. So the notion that Duvalier must be kicked out of the country simply because we do not have a working justice system to trial him is extrapolation at its best.
- We cannot be saying that he must not be arrested and trialed IF there are charges against him. It’s either we want a democracy or an anarchy. Democracy is all about allowing the democratic institutions to breathe on their own. Duvalier cannot be above the law. I am for his return to his country. Haiti is his homeland –not France, not the United States, not Canada; therefore, he has all the right to stay in his native land. However, if there are legal charges held against him, they MUST be addressed in court. That is how it should be. Otherwise, how can you hold our elected officials accountable for their mismanagement of the nation’s business during their terms in office if we don’t have a functioning justice system to give them a clean bill of service? If we want to enjoy the beauty of democracy, we need to strengthen our institutions. That’s what we ought to be doing. We need to let the institution of justice in the country decide on his fate. That’s how democracy works. Well, I hope I am not mistaken; democracy is the system of government we claim having in Haiti.
- Should he be arrested and trialed, demagoguery or not, that must be within the realm of application of justice. If there is a warrant issued for his arrest, he must appear in court with his lawyer to answer to the charges; he deserves a fair trial. It’s a matter of principle. He could be in custody, but that would not mean he is guilty of anything. He is innocent until proven otherwise. However, justice MUST pursue its course.
- Many of you are so naïve calling for a takeover of the country by him -someone who cannot even speak clearly, walk around with a steady gait, and raise his hands. In other words, you need a sick man, who is in no shape or form to lead, to be on the wheel driving us to safety. Other than the same old politics of the past, what new if anything would he bring to move the country forward? His politics is just as archaic as he looks aged. We must not be turning back the clock, and we must certainly not be living this new millennium with a mindset buried in the past. We need to retire all these old-timers and embrace the emergence of a new generation of leaders to lead this nation in this 21st century. So the notion that he must return in politics to lead the country again is just retarded and ridiculous.
In conclusion, Duvalier’s return to the country has surprised all of us; we did not see it coming. It took most of us by surprise. One thing we all can agree upon, regardless our politics, is that it did not occur in isolation; there is a reason why it happened when it happened. I see it as a political card used exactly to achieve a political end. It will be exploited by some political powers on the country’s political playing field to capitalize on. However one wants to look at it, the reception the former dictator received upon his arrival at Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port–au-Prince and beyond testifies of the failure of our political class and its repudiation by the people. So we need a new way with a class of new generation of leaders to turn things around in this country. To call for a takeover of the country by Duvalier is to turn the clock three decades back, and that is not smart politics. I am against exile for our heads of state. As far as I am concerned, all of them –from Raoul Cedras to Jean Bertrand Aristide –currently living in exile have their full irrefutable and inalienable right to return to their home country. As Haitian citizens, no one can take that right away from them. However, if there are charges held against them, they need to answer to them in court, and they do deserve a fair trial. As of yet, they are all innocent until otherwise can be proven. In the meantime, let me sit back with my popcorn watching how interesting this political circus in Haiti is going to be with this new clown added to the mix. I hope you too will have fun watching it.