Wyclef Jean wants to be president

By Drum Digital
11 August 2010

FROM triple Grammy winner to head of state; from Fugees frontman to Haiti’s Obama. This may be the reality for Wyclef Jeanif he becomes the world’s first hip-hop president – and if he succeeds, he’s pledged to rebuild the devastated country of his birth.

The 37-year-old multi-millionaire jetted into the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation earlier this month, asking Haitians to elect him so he can ensure “real and meaningful change”. He told a crowd of supporters in the capital, Portau- Prince, that the United States may have Obama, but Haiti has Wyclef.

The crowd, sporting red and white T-shirts, gathered in the capital to escort him as he filed his candidacy papers in the city. Just how big his task will be if he’s elected became clear as throngs of supporters made their way through streets that still bear the scars of the devastating 12 January earthquake that killed at least 230 000 people and injured 300 000.

“This is the only president who will dance when Creole hip-hop is played,” Wyclef said after formally declaring his intention to stand in the November 28 presidential election. He then called on the youth around him to register to vote to ensure victory.

“We have to live together, work together to change Haiti, open more schools,” he told them. “I’m asking you not for money, but your power for change.”

The star will be a candidate for the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) political party – and not since former populist president Jean- Bertrand Aristide ran for the country’s top job in 1990 has there been such an outpouring of public support.

It was an extraordinary homecoming for Wyclef as he flew into Haiti with his wife and daughter on a private jet from their home in the United States.

Singer/songwriter Jean has never held political office, but is widely admired in Haiti and credited with never having forgotten his roots. He’s long been active in raising money for his homeland through his Yéle Haiti Foundation and has led appeals for international aid since the earthquake. (Yéle is a word coined by Wyclef as a cry for freedom.)

But rebuilding the country has been seriously delayed by differences in opinion about where to start rebuilding and by difficulties in getting the pledged money to Haiti. Only four countries – Australia, Brazil, Estonia and Norway – have so far given anything at all, according to the United Nations.

Two of the biggest promised contributions, $1,15 billion (R8,4 billion) and $1,32 billion (R9,6 billion) from the United States and Venezuela respectively, have been held up by political red tape. “We need to start rebuilding my country – NOW,” has been Wyclef’s central message. “People around the world made lots of promises, and we want those promises to be kept.”

Wyclef, a Creole, told his supporters he was not “a Diaspora candidate”. He ended his speech with the phrase, “Mwen pale Kreyol”. The phrase has a double meaning in Haiti: that a person speaks Creole and that he means what he says.

For the full article see DRUM of 19 August 2010

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