Aristide accuses France, US of 'political kidnap'

5th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 4 (AFP) - Ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide accused France on Thursday of colluding with the United States to remove him from office, saying the former colonial power took part in a "political kidnapping."

PARIS, March 4 (AFP) - Ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide accused France on Thursday of colluding with the United States to remove him from office, saying the former colonial power took part in a "political kidnapping."

Aristide, in a phone conversation with a French writer of which AFP obtained a recording, said he planned to go back to his impoverished Caribbean country, insisting he had not officially resigned.

"There is a document that was signed to avoid a bloodbath but there was no formal resignation," Aristide told Haiti specialist Claude Ribbe, a friend of his. "This political kidnapping was the price to pay to avoid a bloodbath."

He alleged Paris' attitude was in reaction to his demand for the restitution of Haiti's "independence debt" from its former colonial ruler, which Haiti estimates to be worth USD 21.7 billion (EUR 17.8 billion).

"It's as clear as the day. I demanded, on behalf of Haiti, the restitution of this debt, which was our right... They (the French) reacted by unkindness, resorting to persecution and a systematic campaign of disinformation, and by colluding in this political kidnapping," he said.

Aristide was speaking from the Central African Republic (CAR), from where he is reportedly expected to travel on to South Africa. But he said any trip to South Africa would only be a step on a journey back to Haiti.

"I'm not the kind of person to stay in exile... If I have to make a stopover in South Africa, I will - before going back home," he said.

After Aristide arrived in the CAR on Monday he said in an interview with CNN television he had been ousted by a coup orchestrated by Washington and then complained he was a prisoner in the capital, Bangui.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and South Africa have called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Aristide's departure from office as rebels arrived in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and the country risked descending into a bloodbath.

Pretoria said it would have been a serious breach of international law if it was proved that he had been forced to quit.But the administration of George W. Bush, which is campaigning for another term in the White House for the incumbent president, rejected calls for an inquiry.

"There is nothing to investigate, we do not encourage nor believe there is any need for an investigation," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday. "There was no kidnapping. There was no coup. There were no threats."

Aristide told Ribbe his removal from Haiti had begun at around 6:00 pm on Saturday.

"It was one of the longest nights of my life," he recalled. "I saw US soldiers at the airport with my own eyes."

"We were there (in the plane) for 20 hours without knowing where we were going. It was only 20 minutes before we arrived here that we discovered were going to land here. There were French soldiers with cameras to film it all."

He confirmed a French delegation, led by writer Regis Debray, had visited him in December 2003 to ask him to leave power.

"Absolutely." he said.

Aristide said he did not want to have direct contact with the media but authorised Ribbe to pass on his comments.

"If the truth hasn't been told (already), then people should know about it," he said.

© AFP

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