Wyclef Jean’s candidacy for Haiti’s presidency ends before beginning
International hip-hop star Wyclef Jean has been excluded from Haiti’s November presidential election following a long deliberation by the country’s electoral council.
The decision, which was announced late Friday by council spokesman Richard Dumel, was immediately accepted by the candidate, who reaffirmed his commitment to the rule of law.
“Though I disagree with the ruling, I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same,” Jean said in a statement released after the ruling was announced.
Jean said he had been inspired to run for president because he knew Haiti and believed it could become a great country with the right leadership.
“But, ultimately, we must respect the rule of law in order for our island to become the great nation we all aspire for it to be,” he said.
He assured his countrymen he would continue to work for Haiti’s renewal.
“Though the board has determined that I am not a resident of Haiti, home is where the heart is — and my heart has and will always be in Haiti,” Jean said.
Jean was among 34 presidential candidates who faced challenges to their bids. A total of 15 have been disqualified. Other prominent names eliminated from the electoral process included Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States.
The council did not formally explain its decision, there have been concerns Jean might not meet residency requirements. He also faces questions about US back taxes.
The Grammy Award-winning musician lives in the New York area but spent his first nine years of life in Haiti. He traveled back to his homeland multiple times before the catastrophic January 12 earthquake, in a bid to help defuse violence in gang-infested slums and help the most disadvantaged Haitians.
Haiti’s November 28 election is still uncertain in the aftermath of a powerful January 12 earthquake that killed at least 250,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.
In an open letter made public before the ruling, Jean said that whatever his own political fate, the world needed to do more to help Haiti, whose already serious woes were multiplied by the catastrophic earthquake.
But critics say that Jean’s track record at helping Haiti has been spotty at best.
US actor Sean Penn, who runs a 55,000-person tent camp for the homeless in Haiti, and others have accused Jean of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised after the earthquake for a charity he ran.
“He has been virtually silent for those of us in Haiti; he has been a non-presence,” Penn told CNN in an interview earlier this month.
In a report Tuesday, The New York Times spotlighted a history of poor financial management at Jean’s Yele Haiti charity, including a 250,000-dollar payment it made to a television station that the singer and a cousin had recently acquired.
In an earlier statement, Jean acknowledged “missteps” at the charity before the earthquake but said claims of misappropriated funds were an “outright falsity.”
Jean is hugely popular among Haiti’s youth, and some 300 of his supporters marched in heavy rain outside the country’s electoral office Thursday.
“We are here to defend a just cause — Wyclef Jean is a Haitian native, he is the candidate of the people, and we want him as our president. He should be in the electoral race,” said one young demonstrator.
Jean met on Thursday with President Rene Preval, but said the meeting “was not about stepping down.”
In a Friday interview with The Miami Herald, Jean said Preval was concerned about alleged death threats against him and asked if he needed more security.
Jean said the president, during the meeting, arranged a call with his presidential pick, Jude Celestin, as a way of showing he did not want any “ugliness” in the upcoming election.