The last two elections in Haiti have been a dull affair. Few outside the country cared too much about the results. This was in sharp contrast from 1990 when Haitians, new to the democratic process took to the polls en masse to vote for Jean Bertrand Aristide.
For various reasons, the former priest- who is now in exile in South Africa- never lived up to his expectations. But one thing Aristide did was to remain at the center of Haiti’s political life. It appears that his position may be usurped soon. Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop star is expected to officially announce this week that he is going to be a candidate for president of his politically and socially troubled homeland.
Last week when word begin to seep out that Jean might run for president, I wrote a piece basically outlining the reasons why he shouldn’t get involved in the macabre world that is Haitian politics. I still have some misgivings about his decision.
But that article generated perhaps the most feedback than any piece that I have written in recent years and it got me thinking that perhaps there are some good to this news. The seminal question is that what would Jean bring to Haiti. Here are ten things to consider:
1. His international fame would ensure that Haiti commands steady media attention
2. He can be a spokesman for the country, despite his poor French and Creole language skills
3. He can lure investors into Haiti where missionaries and aid workers run roughshod over everyone.
4. He can be a catalyst to get the international community to see the virtue in getting competent Haitians living abroad to come back to Haiti.
5. He can inspire youth from around the world to come to Haiti
6. He can deliver on his promises if he keeps them real
7. He can galvanize the population that has grown cynical about the political process
8. He will not be as tempted to corruption
9. He will help develop art and culture institutions in a country with none but brimming with talent.
**10.**He will stop the five decade old brain drain
To be sure, this is purely speculative there are no guarantees that Wyclef will qualify for Haiti’s byzantine election laws nor that he will be able to move the population to vote for him. Still no other candidate is commanding the attention that he is and that is a good sign. In a country that has seen a string of natural and man-made disasters, whatever can get the narrative moving on another direction is positive.
But with Haiti reeling from the catastrophic earthquake in January, the country can ill afford celebrity politicians, unless that person is ready to lead and surround him or herself with fresh mind. Officials have lamented the depth of corruption in Haiti. I believe Haiti is not as corrupt as they think. The problem is that the Haitians they’re dealing with for the most part, don’t speak the language of business and are prone to gaffes which can be misinterpreted as corrupt. There are no more than a handful of people in the government or in the private sector that has been involved in an Initial Public Offering to understand the complexity of that transaction.
The Haitian Times which I edit and publish, has had a hard time finding a competent photo journalist who can differentiate between snapping a shot and composing a picture that tells a story. As soon as we begin training one, he or she leaves for better pasture outside of Haiti. That brain drain needs to be plugged immediately and I’m hoping Jean can do that.
I’m not privy to Jean’s inner circle, but his celebrity makes him a viable candidate and he needs to surround himself with the best minds available, which there are many. In his career, Jean has tamed many audiences the world over. Now he is about to enter his biggest stage yet. Let’s hope he is up to the task.