(Photo by Ben Depp – www.bendepp.com)
Just over a week ago, Wyclef Jean was denied the chance to run for President of Haiti by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) because he hasn’t lived in Haiti for the past five-years consecutively, a clear constitutional requirement. Wyclef conceded defeat the next day, writing a letter accepting the CEP’s decision, and moving on: “Though I disagree with the ruling,” he said in a statement posted on his blog, “I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same.”
‘WOW!’ I thought to myself, ‘What a stand-up guy!’ Not only did he respect his country’s constitution, but he also asked everyone to not protest in an effort to stop violence! This was a perfect example of how someone should act, a clear model for how things could be done here in a safe and respectful way.
As if he wanted to hammer the final nail into his own coffin, Wyclef released this song to Haitian radio stations, entitled “Prison for the CEP”, as a (somewhat stupid) last-ditch effort to appeal his exclusion from the race. The song is in Kreyol, and throws accusations at both the CEP and President Preval (you can read the English translation, courtesy of Newsweek, by clicking on “Continue Reading” below). In it he claims that the CEP is controlled by Preval, and that Preval is the devil, so as a child of God he cannot be excluded (duh…):
The CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] disqualified me.
Don’t forget my father was a pastor. The God who is with me is stronger than Lucifer.
Lucifer is in control of the CEP. The Satan disqualified me. The children of God cannot be barred.
He also calls his supporters to mobilize, to continue the fight against the CEP and Preval, as if we need more social, and/or political, unrest in Haiti. I’m not sure what Wyclef thought he could achieve with this song, because I can tell you for sure that Preval is not going to all-of-a-sudden hear it on the radio and change his mind (if it’s even his mind to change). The people of Haiti already don’t trust the government, and this song disempowers an already floundering system.
Before this whole song debacle I had drank a little bit of the Wyclef koolaid, thinking maybe an outsider might be the right thing for Haiti, but now it’s blatantly clear that this rapper from the United States does not belong running this country. In the song, he defends his ability to speak Kreyol, a criticism that has been cast upon him since he announced his intention to run for office.
While there are conflicting reports about whether he actually can speak Kreyol or not, it is 100% true that he does not speak French, which is the official language of the government. Imagine a new President Wyclef Jean, meeting with the Haitian Senate to discuss the rebuilding effort…and he needs a translator. Give me a break!
But the bottom line is that Wyclef wants the government to bend the rules of the constitution so that he can become president of Haiti. That doesn’t set a very good precedent, if you ask me. If you think the constitutional rule that’s barring you from running is unimportant, then what stops you from ignoring the rest of the constitution once you’re in office. Haiti needs someone who is going to respect those rules, from start to finish.
But don’t take my word for it. If you haven’t already, watch the interview he did with Wolf Blitzer to announce his candidacy to the world (yes, he announced his candidacy for president of Haiti to an American news show):
After 8 minutes of listening to Wyclef refer to himself in the third person, I pretty much decided to throw out the rest of the Wyclef koolaid we had in the fridge, and focus on more important things…like Olie. It pisses me off that what seemed at first to be a really great way to keep the spotlight on Haiti turned out to be yet another circus making the country look woefully inadequate.
The CEP has no mechanism to appeal their decision, so for Wyclef, this is the end of the road. While the government has dropped the ball in almost every conceivable way after the earthquake, this is not one of those instances, and Wyclef needs to realize that. If he decided to write a song about how the government has yet to address land tenure issues, or has continued to allow land owners to forcibly remove those living in tents on private land, I would be all for it. But this song seems so self-centered, so petty. Haiti needed someone to say “we can be better”, not “look how bad we are.” And unfortunately for Wyclef, he’s taken himself off the list of those attempting to prop this country up, and instead is now doing his best to bring it down.