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Aristide expected in SA ‘this weekend’

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will leave Jamaica for temporary asylum in South Africa this weekend, the government said on Thursday.

The former leader will leave the island with his wife and two young daughters no later than Sunday, said Aristide’s government-appointed spokesperson Huntley Medley.

A formal announcement on Aristide’s departure will be made on Friday.

”He’s definitely leaving this weekend,” Medley said, adding that Aristide was in ”good spirits” and is ”ready to go.”

Aristide, who was barred from making public statements during his stay in Jamaica, will address the media before leaving, Medley said.

Aristide fled Haiti on February 29 amid a rebel advance on the capital, Port-au-Prince. He was flown aboard a United States-supplied jet to the Central African Republic, where he accused the United States of forcibly removing him from office — a charge US officials deny.

He arrived in Jamaica on March 15 to reunite with his family.

They are staying at a tightly secured, government-owned villa in northern Jamaica.

His return angered Haiti’s new US-backed interim government, who worried his presence would further destabilise the nation.

Aristide’s departure has been delayed for days while officials tried to coordinate the schedules of South African officials who will receive him, Medley said.

The South African government agreed to give Aristide temporary asylum ”until his personal situation normalises” and he can return to Haiti. An interim government, however, has been installed and fresh elections are expected next year.

Aristide has not publicly said he intends to return to his homeland to govern.

Once in South Africa, he will live under tight security in the Pretoria at the South African government’s expense — a move that has angered opposition groups in South Africa.

The 15-member Caribbean Community, which refuses to recognise Haiti’s US-backed government, has called on the Washington-based Organisation of American States to investigate the circumstances of Aristide’s departure. – Sapa-AP

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