Should he become president of Haiti?

Wyclef Jean is running for presidency in Haiti this autumn. Without any doubt, he is one of the most excellent artists that hip hop music has ever known, but should he engage on that platform as well? After his official announcement reactions have been mixed…

Among the most outspoken critics we noticed Sean Penn who was implicated in the relief measures through his own project and Pras Michel who shared Wyclef’s biggest success when the Fugees emerged. Pras is Haitian as well and uttered support for another candidate in the forthcoming elections.

Just to trace Wyclef’s actions in the last couple of months since the terrible earthquake that ravaged Haiti on January 12th this year: The Yele Haiti foundation that has been established long time ago immediately took action, in own relief measures but most loudly in advocating for the “Haitian patient”. Wyclef himself has been present in all major media-driven fund-raising activities in the US and used his popularity in the States to influence politics in favour if Haiti. He gained some more popularity beyond the classic hip hop clientele he was admired by even before. More and more he turned from hoody-wearing pop star to suit-wearing politician – the publicly observable preparation for his political ambitions!?

Penn’s and Pras’s critique had some interesting facettes. To give on example, Penn argued that Wyclef had not been very present on the Haitian ground in the last weeks. Other critiques stated that Wyclef quit Haiti when he was a child and his Creole and French knowledge was not very appropriate anymore. Some even pointed out the fact he was travelling to Haiti on a private charter jet when he deposited the necessary documents for his presidential campaign. Well, all the issues raised have one thing in common: They do not actually look at the question, if Wyclef has the ability to turn into a full-blood politician and, that being even more important, if he has the excellence to manage such a conflict-ridden and disaster-affected country.

I would argue to judge more on his capacities than any symbols or symptoms of his action. Unfortunately there has been no real discourse about that. Maybe because as a pop star he will not be judged according to more profound aspects? Could be a reason, but when it comes to the destiny of the Haitian people, a slightly more decent and thoughtful viewpoint should be taken.

Coming to the Haitians themselves, the reactions to all those events have not been commented at large. Some Haitian newspaper took up the topic, but big discussions did not rise. This is not very hard to understand given that most Haitians do not have so much access to media and press. Further the vital issues for Haitians remains the scarce humanitarian situation while facing a probably very strong hurricane season in the months to come.

Another point that has not been very visible these days is the actual challenge that the planned elections mean for the weak state of Haiti. Even before the cataclysm, Haitian institutions did rather exist than really function. After January 12th this statement has evolved in pure cynicism since the complete public apparatus had ceased to exist and the recovery takes so much time and resources that it will have a long way to go. Nevertheless, the deadline is clear – a poll set for November and strong pressure on the international as well as the national level. The big problem is: How to organize free and fair elections in a state that just scratched collapse? Though I still hope, I wonder if this will be achieved. For Wyclef though, it will be crucial if the young population actually does have an incentive to participate in the elections and in addition to that if possibly willing young people will have access to the poll. At the end of the day this access could be restricted by both political and infrastructural constraints. There are considerable parts of the political establishment in Haiti that are not that happy with Wyclef’s plans. And there are even more obstacles when it comes to printing election cards, censing adult population and guarantee unrigged counting.

Wyclef seems to have chosen the most difficult way to trace, at least for the months to come. Maybe as well for the next five years. I very much hope, that he thought long enough on that and found some suitable strategies for coping with the misery of Haitians. They do not merit incompetent neither corrupt leaders anymore.

Ayiti kap level, le li genyen yon prezidan ki vle bay tout ke li ka pou yon pi bel Ayiti!

Postscriptum: Right now the first campaign ad has been issued by Wyclef on YouTube:

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