- South Africa added its voice last night to a growing
international chorus questioning the circumstances surrounding Jean-Bertrand
Aristide's departure from Haiti and demanded an investigation into allegations
that the US forcibly removed a democratically elected president from office.
- In a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration,
South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said that
if Mr Aristide had been prised from power against his will, it would have
"serious consequences and ramifications for the respect of the rule
of law and democracy the world over".
- The issue, fuelled by direct accusations by Mr Aristide
that he was, in effect, kidnapped and hustled into exile in the Central
African Republic under conditions that he likened to imprisonment, has
once again thrust a spotlight on the Bush administration's conduct of foreign
policy and risks becoming a liability for President Bush as he begins his
- The Bush administration has denied kidnapping or forcing
Mr Aristide from office at gunpoint, claiming he sought safe passage out
of the country under US escort. But the appearance of at least some degree
of coercion, has prompted angry responses from President Bush's domestic
critics and some international bodies.
- The 15-nation Caribbean Community, Caricom, has refused
to contribute troops to the peace-keeping force taking up positions in
Haiti. It called for an investigation into Mr Aristide's removal from power
to be conducted by the United Nations or other similar international body.
- Ms Zuma stood full-square behind the Caricom position.
In a statement issued from Pretoria, she said: "South Africa stands
ready to support all efforts by Caricom to help bring stability and security
- South Africa was one of Mr Aristide's closest allies
while he was in power, drawing criticism because of the Haitian government's
deteriorating record on human rights, economic development and democracy.
- The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, was one of
the few world leaders to attend celebrations in Haiti on New Year's Day,
to mark the 200th anniversary of its independence. And according to South
African news reports, the country recently sent weapons, ammunition and
bulletproof vests to help Mr Aristide defend himself against an armed rebellion
led by former army commanders and paramilitary death squad leaders from
the 1980s and early 1990s. But the shipment did not arrive before Mr Aristide's
departure last weekend and its exact whereabouts are unknown.
- South Africa has said it would offer Mr Aristide asylum
if it was asked. The Central African Republic made a similar offer yesterday,
but said it was in no position to pay for his upkeep in the long term.
- Meanwhile, the Haitian consul general in New York has
taken the position that Mr Aristide is still the country's legitimate president.
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd