Aristide quits African exile

The former Haitian president is understood to have left for the Caribbean island nation in the early hours of the morning.

A delegation of African-American and Jamaican officials arrived on a chartered jet to escort Mr Aristide, but were delayed while CAR President Francois Bozize decided whether or not to allow him to leave.

That was surprising since both the US and France had denied Mr Aristide’s claim he was being held prisoner in CAR, where he was flown on a US-chartered aircraft when he fled Haiti on February 29 amid a rebellion and US and French pressure to resign.

Mr Aristide said he believed President Bozize had to consult with the three countries that had organised his temporary asylum – the United States, France and Gabon.

The deposed leader was also accompanied on the plane by his wife Mildred and a personal aide.

Jamaican Foreign Minister Sharon Hay Webster arrived in CAR on Sunday and met the ousted president.

She said she had come to “get him out of this situation,” adding that Jamaica, as president of the community of Caribbean states, Caricom, was intervening for purely humanitarian reasons.

She said Caricom was seeking a solution that would enable Mr Aristide to leave Bangui and go somewhere where he could see his two daughters, now in the United States.

The return of Mr Aristide to the Caribbean has provoked unease in Washington, which fears it could rekindle violence in Haiti, where the US, as the head of a 2,600-strong multinational force, is spearheading a process of political transition.

Jamaica lies less than 200 kilometres to the west of Haiti.

Jamaican President Percival Patterson last week said that Mr Aristide’s visit, which reports said would last for up to 10 weeks, should not be regarded as the granting of political asylum.

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