“I am being drafted to serve my country,” says Wyclef Jean on Thursday, August 5, 2010, when he publically announced his bid for the Haitian presidency. The aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake that claimed the lives of over 220,000 and injured 300,000 is the motivating incident for his political ambitions. However, the international pop star and Haiti’s own ambassador-at-large presidential bid is met with some complication. First, will the board of elections approve him? Secondly, does he have the Haitian support to win? Third, is he the best candidate to rebuild the country?
The first problem that is highly likely to impede on Jean’s recent political aspirations includes time actually lived in Haiti and age. The Haitian Constitution states that the any presidential candidate must live in Haiti 5 years leading to the election. The other issue is the discrepancy with his age. Prior to running for office, Jean was known to be 37 years old, but according to his application, he is 40, the minimum requirement for presidential candidates. The board of elections will review all candidates by August 17th.
Secondly, does Jean have the support from Haiti to win? Fellow Fugee, Pras, does not agree, therefore, he supports opponent Michel Martelly. Another opponent is Haiti’s Ambassador to the US and Wyclef’s uncle, Raymond Joseph. Jean’s iconic status can work for or against him. In all actuality, pinning classic socially conscious songs for The Score, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and various other albums is not enough to warrant acquiring the chief executive’s office, especially a country in dire need of extreme instant and long term plans.
Talk of a lack of experience is at the forefront of the debate. However, supporters question the accomplishments, or lack thereof, of those experienced politicians in office. Could support of a presidential campaign by Jean galvanize the youth to actively participate in the political process? If so, that one thing could do far more for a people than most legislation. But, is this symbolism enough meet Haiti’s immediate needs?
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that as many as 3 million people had been affected by the quake and over 1 million left homeless. As of July, 98% of the debris remain, thousands of bodies remain in rubble, population of those in tent cities reach 1.6 million. These tent cities have no electricity, running water, nor sewage disposal. Twenty-three of the major charities collected $1.1 billion and released 2% of those funds. Wyclef’s Yele Foundation has reported collecting $9 million and issuing $1.5 million.
So what does Haiti need and which candidate can deliver? President Préval stated that the highest priorities in Haiti’s recovery were establishing a working government, clearing roads, and ensuring the streets were cleared of bodies to improve sanitary conditions. In the long run, Haiti will have to end government corruption, overhaul the education system, health care, create jobs, attract foreign aid, increase favorable trading, public works, and the list goes on. How will Jean and Martelly address these issues will be the focus for the next months to come.
What are your thoughts of Wyclef’s presidential bid for Haiti? What should be the focus of Haiti’s recovery?