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Free Aristide ‘won’t organise armed struggle’

Ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is not a refugee in South Africa, but a free person and a guest of the government, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday.

She told reporters in Pretoria that Aristide will be allowed to make political speeches while in the country.

”I am sure he is not going to be organising an armed struggle from here,” she said. ”He can talk to anyone, he’s a free man.”

She would not divulge where he is housed, except that it is in Gauteng.

The minister would not say how much has been budgeted for Aristide’s stay. She said no extra expenditure will be required for his housing, security guards or transport as these are paid for by the government as a matter of course.

”A guest does not pay rent,” she added.

Whatever else he will need still has to be worked out. This will include schooling for Aristide’s two small daughters.

Asked if the ousted president will be allowed to stay in South Africa indefinitely should his own country not decide to welcome him back, Dlamini-Zuma said: ”We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Aristide arrived in South Africa on Monday — welcomed by President Thabo Mbeki and an array of government ministers and diplomats. South Africa is hosting him at the request of the Caribbean Community and the African Union.

Aristide resigned in February and flew to the Central African Republic after a months-long uprising against his rule and claims of corruption.

Dlamini-Zuma said Aristide had faced the prospect of a blood bath in his country if he did not leave.

”I am sure no person who loves his people would want to see them slaughtered, and so he left.”

The minister expressed confidence that Haiti will eventually return to normality. She was convinced everybody is doing their utmost to have order restored.

Aristide will address the media shortly, Dlamini-Zuma added.

United Nations peacekeepers are currently in Haiti to disarm rebels and militia loyal to Aristide and provide security while a transitional government organises elections. — Sapa

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Mariette Le Roux
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